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