mike watkins dot ca : Summertime + Ethanol = More Smog

Summertime + Ethanol = More Smog

By now most have seen the faux person on the street interviews promoting both the agenda of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association – a consortium of large agri-businesses including ADM, Cargil and others, and the Harper government (a brief video clip of a Harper speech is featured in the commercial). The Red Tory blog discusses this commercial in more detail, Big City Liberal Fights Back adds the connection between Brian Mulroney and ADM into the mix for further context.

The advertisement also promotes a fallacy – that Canada must import its fuel, and that bio-fuels would allow Canada to “grow its own” fuels and end the so-called foreign fuel reliance. Nothing could be further from the truth.

While certain regions of the country do in fact import fuel from the U.S., this is only because supply lines in certain parts of the country make it more efficient and less costly to do so.

In fact, Canada is by far a net petroleum fuel exporter. The U.S. on the other hand is a net petroleum importer and has been since the 70’s.

Ethanol fuels are actually more costly to transport than petroleum fuels. Due to the corrosive nature of ethanol, it can’t be shipped over long distances via pipeline (an extremely efficient method), so most transport is via truck and train, both of which are far less efficient than pipeline transport.

The commercial avoids discussing such troubling facts.

Bottom line: the CFRA commercial is spin aimed at promoting their industrial agenda, helping sell policy changes that will benefit ADM and its ilk, and as a by product helping to remake Harper as the next “greenest” prime minister. Anyone who has watched Harper and his behaviour over the years knows otherwise… but that constitutes a minority of Canadian voters.

Plugging ethanol is a vote buying grab and little more.

If the so-called ecoENERGY policies were to have meaning, they would first look at reduction of consumption (requiring civic re-engineering and retooling of the personal and corporate fleet of vehicles in the country). A green renewable energy policy wouldn’t be sold to corn and wheat producers (vote buying) but would first identify holistic use of biosource—its entirely possible to design an ethanol program which pollutes as much as fossil fuels in the growing, refining and waste disposal stages. Instead the government is plugging the every-grower for herself strategy.

Secondly, burning ethanol blended fuels is not “clean” and not necessarily “cleaner”. Witness some politicians in California, driven by necessity and unburdened by personal political IOU‘s to the corn belt of the U.S., who are trying to limit the use of ethanol.

Why? Because ethanol blends are believed to be increasing ozone and smog in California’s already smog choked cities.

[The] switch to ethanol-blended gasoline is considered one of the main culprits in increased ozone. Since ethanol’s volatility increases smog, particularly in the summer, I believe we need to look carefully at its impact on air quality. Senator Diane Feinstein, Western Farm Press

However the U.S. federal government has been an impediment. Bush controls that government, and keeps shovelling out hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to corn growers in the so-called “red states”, for its this block of farm votes the Republican Party must rely upon to avoid annihilation in the 2008 U.S. presidential, House and Senate races.

Here in Canada we have similar challenges. No one is willing to do the right thing for people and planet. Its only your vote that counts, and as we’ve seen here locally, your vote matters not one bit only seconds after its cast and counted.

Wouldn’t it be nice if facts, not corporate or political agenda, dominated our
discussions?