Conservatives need to offer an alternative if they’re going to dump the “second carbon tax”

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

The Conservative Party of Canada and leader Pierre Poilievre have clearly made the Clean Fuel Regulation (CFR) a target in political messaging, tagging it as the “second carbon tax.” For advocates of biofuels in farm country and Ottawa this should be a wake-up call for the longer term development of the biofuel sector in Canada.

The complexity of the CFR and whether it will achieve its goals of lowering the carbon intensity of fuels and greenhouse gas emissions is worth a debate. Are there simpler ways to get to the end goal through a pro-biofuel policy in Canada? I would think so, but I do have concerns on the lack of attention to the nuance of Conservative messaging.

As I see it, the Conservatives are in danger of making a Liberal mistake.

The Liberals have done everything possible to tie carbon pricing to being serious about fighting climate change. In Liberal terms this means that if you are against the carbon tax you are a climate change denier. This is extremely one dimensional and was done on purpose, I think, to make the Conservatives look unappealing to Canadians concerned about climate change.

If the Conservatives proceed like they are in messaging, Canadians will not be able to separate good biofuel policy from bad and therefore see support for the sector as nothing more than a second carbon tax as Poilievre has been pushing.

Premier Scott Moe has also been caught up in this confused messaging. In spring, he joined Atlantic Canada’s premiers in pushing back against the July 1, 2023 implementation date of CFR without recognition of what biofuel development means to his own province. In Saskatchewan, Viterra, Cargill, FCL and Richardson have all committed hundreds of millions in capital investment to boost domestic canola crush capacity for renewable diesel.

Farmers’ position on biofuels is one of the big differences in Canada and the U.S., from my experience. Farm groups in the U.S. are critical of the EPA and biofuel policy, but only when current or future volumes are threatened or not supported. In Canada, biofuels are not as big a part of the culture, but as the federal Conservatives rolled out the “second carbon tax” messaging, most farmers and groups have been rather quiet.

If Conservatives decide to be pro biofuels in Canada, they best say so and roll out their version of a policy before Canadians and investment capital walk.

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