New alliance pushes for bio-energy in national strategy

The New Economy Alliance wants Canada’s energy ministers to come up with a national energy plan that builds on Canada’s global advantage in agricultural, oil and gas, mineral and forest resources.

July 18, 2011   by PLANT STAFF

KANANASKIS, Alta.: A new alliance of associations promoting the advancement of a bio-economy are calling on the federal, provincial and territorial governments to come up with a national energy strategy that builds on Canada’s global advantage in agricultural, oil and gas, mineral and forest resources.

The New Economy Alliance, representing forestry, chemicals, agriculture, renewable fuels and biotechnology, intends to get the attention of federal and provincial energy ministers meeting in Kananaskis, Alta. over the next two days to begin the process of developing a national energy strategy.

The group is challenging the ministers to develop a national vision that includes “clean, renewable bio-energy from a broad range of natural resources.” Ultimately, the idea is for plants to integrate new processing technologies to produce bio-alternative solvents, plastics, paints, adhesives, insulation, textiles and consumer products.

“Making full use of the biomass waste stream from the forest industry could produce the equivalent energy output of nine nuclear reactors,” says Avrim Lazar, president and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada, an alliance member. “Producing clean energy from trees presents a remarkable opportunity for Canada.”

Finding consensus on a national strategy won’t be easy. Quebec Natural Resources Minister Nathalie Normandeau has already ripped into the idea of a national energy strategy, telling the Canadian Press she believes Ottawa is trying to find ways to impose its energy policies on the provinces.

During the election campaign earlier this year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised to help back a loan guarantee or provide equivalent financial support for the Lower Churchill hydroelectricity project.

Quebec argues that such support encroaches upon provincial jurisdiction and amounts to an unfair subsidy.

While it’s in Canada’s interest to come up with a policy that will boost the value of its resources, it will be an “incredible challenge” to come up with a vision all provinces can get behind, said Andrew Leach, a business professor at the University of Alberta.

“Everybody wants a national energy strategy that advances their own interests, but they may not be willing to give up anything to get it,” he said.

For instance, rules that benefit the oil sands may not have the same upside in Ontario they would in Alberta. A slice of employment and tax revenues may not cut it for those outside the oil-rich province.

“We’re going to want to share in the rest of it as well. And Alberta will have to make a decision about what’s worth it to them,” Leach said.

Members of the New Economy Alliance include BIOTECanada, Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Canadian Renewable Fuels Association, Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, CropLife Canada, Forest Products Association of Canada, and the Sustainable Chemistry Alliance.

With files from the Canadian Press

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