Clean Fuel Standard could be a huge opportunity for canola — if the policy is right

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

Farmers across Canada are beginning to hear more and more about the Clean Fuel Standard (CFS) being proposed by the federal government. But what on earth is it?

The government is aiming to reward low carbon fuel in the Canadian fuel system, potentially offering a lot of opportunity for biofuels — fuels made from things such as canola or soybean oil, or ethanol from corn and wheat.

Brian Innes, vice president of public affairs with the Canola Council of Canada (CCC), recently joined RealAg Radio host Shaun Haney to talk details about the program that has been in development for a number of months now.

As someone who deals with public affairs, Innes has been heavily involved in the process with the government. Although many are hesitant — or feel they have a lack of knowledge on the topic — Innes says this really could be a good news story for canola. However, there are a few things that the government would have to come through on to make this the case.

“What we’ve seen in the canola sector is that Clean Fuel Standards — whether they are in Canada, the United States, or Europe — are really driving up the demand for our crop. What we’ve seen so far is that roughly around two million tonnes of our canola every year goes for biofuel, with most of it being sent to Europe,” he explains. “And that’s driven by their policy/framework for clean fuel. We are seeing a lot of growth in the United States as well — both for traditional biodiesel as well as for the renewable diesel, which is made from a newer process, and that’s really a driving force here in North America. So when we look at our Clean Fuel Standard development here in Canada, the details are not yet defined, and how the details work is really important to determine if and how much of a benefit there is for Canadian canola.” (Story continues below video)

Currently, about 2 per cent of diesel in the world is biodiesel. If the CFS development is done correctly, Innes could see that number reaching upwards of 5 per cent.

We are exporting a lot more Canadian canola to the European Union (EU) for biodiesel as they’ve struggled for a few years with their canola crop. As Haney notes, it’s been a bit of a saviour as we’ve continued to face many struggles with the Chinese market. In order to participate in the export to the EU for biodiesel, there are land-use sustainability requirements that need to be signed. So many are asking the question — will the framework be the same idea here in Canada? As Innes explains, there are some pieces of framework being discussed in Canada that are similar.

“The discussion here in Canada is really about how our crop respects the laws at the local level, provincial level, and national level. So putting additional requirements on our growers — over and above what they are already doing to comply with those multiple levels of regulation — would seem to be unnecessary to meet the environmental expectations of Canadians,” Innes notes, adding that if they get the policy right, this is an opportunity for Canadian farmers to be able to implement wihtout having a lot of additional costs imposed on them.

Although it is not exactly clear when the land-use agreements will be announced, Inness says the CCC is expecting a draft will be released in the Canada Gazette in the upcoming weeks and months. The CCC is hopeful this program will end up turning into a success, as they have been working on biofuels at the Council for over a decade.

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