Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Ottawa was warned of biofuel problems

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Vancouver Sun

Using the Access to Information Act, the original briefing notes sent to former environment minister Rona Ambrose now reveal that despite knowing that fuel produce from corn and wheat was not worthwhile the Conservative Government on Ottawa pressed ahead anyway and mandated

that gasoline contain an average renewable fuel content of five per cent and that diesel contain an average renewable fuel content of two per cent by 2010. The government has also offered $1.5 billion in subsidies mainly to support farmers, agricultural and energy companies which produce ethanol from corn or wheat.

The briefing notes look at a wide range of issues (as they should) but the point it that this legislation is supposed to reduce ghg emissions and this programme actually increases them!. Not only that, but we – the taxpayers – are actually subsidizing people to make matters worse!

Corn based ethanol is a scam – and it has been known to be a scam for a long time. In the US it is really difficult to do much about it since Iowa with its caucuses dominates the early rounds of the presidential primaries, so every candidate has to take the “ethanol pledge” just to get a chance to stay in the running. In Canada the political advantage of supporting farmers is somewhat greater. For one thing, votes have always been more valuable in low density rural areas. Which of course tend to be small c conservative. But this is much more about funelling money to companies who spend huge amounts of money lobbying. The job of the civil servants is to provide objective and well reasoned arguments. The lobbyists, of course, are under no such constraint. And what seems to be happening across federal government is that qualified, professional people in the public service are being ignored.

I hope that Sheila Fraser is picking up this story. Wasting government money is one thing. Spending it at these volumes on a programme which is known to be perverse is something else.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 12, 2008 at 10:54 am

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