Exploring the sustainability question in the proposed Clean Fuel Standard

The news cycle has picked up on the Clean Fuel Standard (CFS) issue recently, but the topic isn’t all that new. The policy has been developed over the past couple of years — since about 2016 — according to the CFS website under the government of Canada’s environment and natural resources arm.

“I think the more that these growers and producers that we work with understand the potential here of the policy and what it is being proposed, the better,” says Andrea Kent, past president of Renewable Industries Canada. “It’s been a real roll-up-your-sleeves exercise for a lot of people in the industry, oil and gas producers, renewable fuel producers, consumer groups, experts, government, we’ve all been sitting around a table for years now, coming at this and looking at how to meet the needs of jurisdictions,” she adds.

Growing the biofuels markets is key for not only reducing GHG emissions but also ensuring longevity in the broader energy sector, she says. The CFS is a complicated policy, but with the proper work being done, Kent believes it can benefit energy producers and farmers, if it’s done well.

Current regulations just look at volume of alternative fuels blended into the entire fuel pool, but implementing the CFS will factor in the GHG emission reduction potential of each alternative. The average federally-mandated blend rate of ethanol into the fuel pool is five per cent, and under the CFS proposal, the blend rate could be closer to 11 per cent for biodiesel, and up to 15 per cent by 2030 for ethanol. (Story continues below player)

There is some concern by the agriculture industry over the final policy wording of aspects of the proposal, including the land use requirements. The government’s proposal includes measures aimed at preventing the loss of biodiversity from biofuel feedstock production. This could include not allowing feedstock grown on land that’s been converted out of wetland, forest, or grassland since a certain date (in this case, 2008), as well as requiring riparian zones along waterways. Producers would also be required to manage invasive species. However, details on these requirements have not been finalized.

“We should take great pride in Canada’s sustainable agriculture practices, they are well established, we have data to back them up at Agriculture Agri-Food Canada,” says Kent. “It’s certainly something that our farmers, that I’ve spoken to, and growers across the country have always really known that important connection between protecting our natural resources, and ensuring good quality farm practices,” she adds.

The next question Canadian agriculture will have to address is making sure that the sustainability practices that exist in Canada are understood, that they’re well documented in the CFS, and that the sustainability of the crops that we do have are not ignored by a policy, says Kent.

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