Tag Archives: biofuels

Shrinking “bioproducts” sector a worrisome trend in Canada, but Ontario is holding its own

My Clean Break column this week reports on a new study out of the Richard Ivey School of Business, which takes a look at the state of the bioproducts industry in Canada. The researchers behind the report analyzed Statistics Canada data between 2003 and 2009 and what they found was a disturbing negative trend — the industry is shrinking, not growing, at a time when bioproducts are desperately needed as part of a strategy to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels; also at a time when the United States and other regions are showing a strong commitment to bioproducts and are enjoying the associated growth.

What’s going on? Well, for one the bulk of bioproducts made in Canada are first-generation biofuels, such as corn ethanol, or other forms of bioenergy. We don’t give enough support to biochemistry research and product development, or higher value non-fuel markets such as alternative plastics, which in my view are much more exportable down the road. We are throwing money at corn ethanol and not doing enough to support and help commercialize next-generation biofuels produced from algae or cellulosic conversion technologies.

I’m pasting my column below, though before you read there are some caveats here. The data analyzed doesn’t cover the past two years, so there may be some positive signs not accounted for in this report. Also, Ontario appears to be doing much better than the rest of Canada, though this is not to suggest there’s enough being done in Ontario. Anyway, I think this report is an important wake-up call for Canada. Sure, we’re blessed with forestry and agricultural resources, but are we satisfied just growing and selling commodities? Are we going to continue down the path of selling our raw natural resources to other countries, only to purchase it all back in the form of higher-value products? Once again, Canada lacks a vision and has no real plan to lead the world on bioproduct development, even though it has the capacity to do so. Click below to read the full column: Continue reading Shrinking “bioproducts” sector a worrisome trend in Canada, but Ontario is holding its own

Is this the future after peak oil grounds the airline industry? (or, just a wonky idea)

Okay, my headline was intentionally designed to bring some kind of energy angle to this post, but really I just wanted to bring attention to this really intriguing idea of turning old Jumbo Jets into on-site accommodations for air travellers. The picture to the left is a “Honeymoon Suite” inside a cockpit of a Jumbo Jet based at an airport in Sweden. The plane has been converted into a hostel/hotel. They call it the Jumbo Hostel. You can watch a CNN News report here on YouTube or check out pictures at the company’s website.

On the topic of the future of air travel, you might be interested in this presentation from the World Bank’s top air transport expert. There is information about peak oil and the role of efficiency and biofuels near the end. (Hat tip to Ontario Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller for the link).

Aviation should be main focus of biofuels development

Perhaps this is a naive opinion — I’m open to that criticism. But if you believe, as I do, that the future of clean, efficient ground transportation is electrification, and that such a solution doesn’t exist for aviation, then you may support the idea that the bulk of research, development and commercialization around biofuels should be focused on replacing our use of jet fuel, not gasoline. It’s not that I don’t think there’s value in using biofuels for vehicles, particularly as the fuel component of a plug-in hybrid. It’s just that biofuels, in my view, represent the only realistic clean-fuel option for long-distance jet travel. Continue reading Aviation should be main focus of biofuels development