RealAg LIVE! with Don O'Connor — Biofuel opportunities and the Clean Fuel Standard


The growth of biofuels, the focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and the Clean Fuel Standard could cost farmers more, but could also provide farmers with an opportunity to cash in on off-sets and expand markets for some crops.

But the entire industry, regulations, and predicting the winners and losers is complex. To help navigate the topic, LIVE! host Shaun Haney is joined by Don O’Connor of S&T Consultants Inc.

Don’t miss RealAg LIVE! weekdays at 3 pm E!


  • O’Connor’s background: mechanical engineer by trade, and got involved in biofuels in 1981. Joined Mohawk Oil before they built the ethanol facility at Minnedosa, Man. Up ’til 1998 was VP of production
  • He’s been consulting for a long time on biofuel production GHG emission reduction calculations, across multiple sectors
  • Clean Fuel Standard hit the gazette in December, what’s O’Connor’s perception of the CFS up til now?
  • Targets get tougher and tougher to meet as the program continues
  • The California, Oregon, B.C. examples
  • Electric vehicles and compressed natural gas can also generate credits
  • Life cycle assessment. Biofuels: grow crop > process fuels > gasoline. Includes the pesticides, the fuel involved in growing the crop, transporting the crop, the conversion from biofuel into the gasoline, and transporting that fuel
  • GHGenius program is used to figure out carbon intensity (that’s O’Connor’s program) which has both U.S. and Canadian data
  • The federal model (which is more of a database) can be used, too
  • Farming data would be generic
  • How resilient are these efforts to reduce carbon emissions to the price of oil?
  • Fines… huge.
  • There’s a very healthy market right now with trades being made every day
  • Government involvement is a bit necessary
  • Concern that fuel price and CFS is a double taxation. Is the rise in fuel prices a big concern? Rise isn’t necessarily due to the addition of biofuels.
  • Long-run for transport fuel elasticity is small
  • Transportation emissions probably make up one-third of our GHG in Canada
  • Biofuels, better for GHG? Growing the crop in the first place draws carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere…
  • Easier to measure what’s coming out of the tailpipe than it is to add up all the emissions during growing the biofuel
  • Will Canada just end up importing more ethanol from the U.S.? There’s room for production expansion in Canada
  • Renewable diesel is coming on strong with a lot of plants being announced in the U.S. The nice thing about it is it’s easy to mix, can be produced with good cold weather properties
  • Canola oil currently doesn’t qualify under the U.S. renewable fuel standard. O’Connor thinks the evaluation was done incorrectly
  • Renewable Identification Numbers?
  • Are biofuels a transition point? They can be used in existing engines.
  • Where does the electricity come from — double the amount of electricity — to power electric cars.
  • EV performance and planning issues, the planning isn’t holistic
  • For ethanol: wheat works for western Canada, corn for the east; For ethanol: canola oil, soybean oil
  • What’s the difference between the natural gas going in the grain dryer and the diesel in the fuel tank? O’Connor doesn’t agree with the reasoning behind taxing natural gas
  • What about lignocellulose (wood waste) for ethanol production?

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