House of Commons Hansard #42 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was energy.

Topics

The House resumed from January 31 consideration of the motion that Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When the House last debated the bill now before us, the hon. member for British Columbia Southern Interior had the floor and there are 17 minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks.

I therefore call on the hon. member for British Columbia Southern Interior.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I was at the point where I was discussing the biofuel example in Manitoba. Manitoba wants to get concrete results for farmers. The introduction of co-ops is also being considered, which is the way to go. If farmers can somehow get involved in the whole aspect of the industry, not just as suppliers, that is the way to go.

Both the federal and Manitoba governments have a subsidy for blenders. Federally, it is 10¢ per litre for ethanol and 20¢ per litre for biodiesel, guaranteed for three years. A $20 million biofuels opportunities for the producers initiative program runs from April 1 of this year until the March 31, 2017. In Manitoba, subsidies to the blenders will start at 20¢ a litre but will decrease by 5¢ every two years so that by 2016 there will be no subsidy to the industry.

This seems a more reasonable approach. In other words, by this time if this industry is not making a profit and there is a downturn in biofuels consumption, then government should not be injecting new funds into this enterprise.

It is important to look at the politics of the whole biofuel industry, not only in North America but in the world. While we were in Washington, the agriculture committee was told that the U.S. government's ethanol corn initiative was there to fulfill its need for increased consumption of fuel. In other words, the U.S. does not want to import any more oil as its consumption goes up. This increase is to be met by the production of corn and other commodities to make ethanol.

What we are seeing is a dangerous precedent. Instead of encouraging a decrease in oil consumption on fossil fuels, the U.S. government is encouraging an increase by growing corn. As we have seen from the research, corn is not an efficient energy input-output commodity. For every one unit of energy of corn, we may get 1.5 units of fuel, if that.

If we look at all of the input from fertilizer for fuel for machinery and transportation, we need to question the efficiency of corn ethanol production. This is why I advocate and my party is saying that we must discuss this bill in committee as part of an overall discussion in our country on the whole aspect of biofuels.

Today the reality is that big agriculture, big oil and big biotech are in the biofuels driver's seat. It is Husky Oil that has opened the ethanol refineries in Manitoba, which is a good idea and it is helping farmers, but it is the big corporations that are in the driver's seat. Our challenge and the challenge of governments is to work with them and ensure the benefits of this industry go to the producers and Canadians who always strive to meet their obligation to reduce greenhouse gases.

For example, of the 119 ethanol plants in the U.S., currently 49 are still owned by farmers. However, of the 90 plants currently under construction in the U.S., about 90% are corporate owned. By having the biofuel industry firmly in control by the major multinationals, the role of the farmer is reduced solely to that of supplier. If refineries then are allowed to import feedstock from underdeveloped countries or even from heavily subsidized U.S. farmers, our primary producers will once again be left out in the cold and at the mercy of these multinationals.

There is also the question of genetically modified foods. When major corporations step up biological research, we will be faced with the issue of GMOs. For example, there is the contamination of other crops, the debate in Europe about Monsanto corn, and so on.

Biofuels have a role to play in a comprehensive renewable energy strategy, but we have to continue to keep a close eye on them to avoid problems like the ones that have occurred in the south.

If taxpayers are to assume the burden of funding this industry, then we must make sure that our ability to ensure food safety is not threatened or diminished. We also have to make sure our policies do not threaten another country's food safety, that we get real results when we reduce greenhouse gas emissions and that the industry is not subsidized once it is established, as is the case in Manitoba.

Finally, we must continue to encourage a decrease in fuel consumption. In the long term, this is the most important factor in a fuel-based economy.

As we begin debating the idea of biofuels as a possible solution to part of our energy needs, we must not forget food.

For the first time we are seeing the emergence of a truly global agricultural market driven by the underlying force of all economic activity. The scarcity of goods, wheat supplies for example, have reached a 30 year low. In only one year, inventories in the European Union have dropped from 14 million tonnes to only 1 million tonnes.

We need to ask ourselves how humankind will be able to feed itself in the future and at what price. How can agriculture feed the world that grows by 80 million people each year? When we take land out of food production to produce fuel, we obviously complicate this matter and we need to find a balance.

If we come back to our local agricultural industry, we have seen that the demand for biofuels has driven up the price for corn, which is good if one is a corn producer but not so good if one is raising cattle and already competing with the high Canadian dollar, the rising cost of inputs and other factors that are driving the cost production up.

Only yesterday we heard once again from representatives of the pork and cattle industry saying that their industry was in crisis. Some producers in Ontario are saying that they are losing at least $300 for every steer sold. We are seeing that they are not getting any immediate assistance from the loan program that they asked for. Small communities are going under. Part of this is because of the rise in prices of corn that they must use in that industry.

Somehow we must get a balance and also assist those in parts of the agriculture industry who are suffering because of this demand for biofuels. The government still has not been able to address the fundamental needs of these producers who are struggling to survive.

We are seeing more critics in the world speaking out against the biofuels industry and we need to take that into account. For example, the verdict of the OECD, consumer organizations like FoodWatch and even major food corporations like Nestlé, is devastating.

According to the OECD, expanded biofuels production will lead to untenable strains on the commodities markets without yielding significant benefits for the environment. FoodWatch is convinced that the strategy, while benefiting farmers, will do nothing to protect the climate. Germany's environmental expert counsel says that the industry raises expectations that fly in the face of acceptable science. Nestlé's CEO bluntly characterized biofuels production as environmental lunacy.

That does not mean we need to stop the whole aspect of moving forward in this industry. What this means is that we must undertake a very logical approach. We must see that as this industry moves forward we help the primary producer. We have seen that this has given the primary producer a stimulus to at least start making some money but at the same time we have a responsibility to feed not only ourselves but the world.

We must ensure that we do not get on the band wagon that we see happening south of the border where the American ethanol industry is creating what I would say in many respects havoc in other parts of the world where countries are scrambling to supply this growing demand for fuels.

As I said before, instead of the growing demand for fuels, we should be concentrating on decreasing our demand for fuels and fossil fuels in particular.

Much of what the energy farmers produce is offset by the amount of energy that goes into producing the plants in the first place. They consume fossil fuels to harvest plants, for shipping, for storage and for drying, not to mention the energy required to produce pesticides and fertilizers. The economic possibilities are also limited.

Even in the U.S., if the entire corn crop were converted into fuel, it would satisfy only about 12% of the demand for gasoline. For example, to fill a 100 litre tank of an SUV, an ethanol producer has to process about one-quarter tonne of wheat. This is enough wheat for a baker to bake about 460 kilograms of bread which has a total nutritional value of about one million kilo-calories, enough to feed one person for a year.

I would like us to take this debate forward and to look at biofuels from the aspects of the environment, of food security and from our ability as a nation to assist our primary producers, who are basically the best in the world, to continue producing food with help from us here in Parliament and, at the same time, not to make life more difficult for people in countries like Malaysia, Brazil and other places where family farmers are being forced from their farm to finance the big plantations for palm oil and ethanol from sugar.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the member and I believe he had a number of good points in his remarks on Bill C-33 and its positive implications on some sectors of agriculture and negative implications on others.

Given that the ethanol and biodiesel industry is subsidized, which naturally forces greater demands for some of the crops that go into ethanol and biodiesel and, as a result, does inflate the cost of feed for the beef and hog sectors which are suffering substantially right now, does the member believe that the government's policy is forcing prices up? Does he believe that the Government of Canada has an obligation to support the livestock industry in some fashion because it is partly responsible for the high cost of feed?

We certainly believe that the grain and oilseeds sector needs to receive good and profitable returns, but it is in part because of the inflationary impact, the push up in prices as a result of government policy, that is forcing prices up even more for the hog and beef sector. Is there an obligation on the part of government to bring some balance to the livestock sector by supporting that sector which it absolutely has not done?

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his insight and knowledge into what is happening in the industry. As I mentioned earlier, we see that the push in biofuels is helping our grain and oilseeds sector, and that is good, but at the same time we see that this is one reason that the pork and cattle industry is going through such hard times. I must reiterate that some in that industry are calling today “black Friday”. They are saying that there has not been any help. They came before committee before Christmas and we made recommendations. However, nothing has happened. There has been no immediate aid to offset all of the factors that are contributing to their downward slide.

I agree with the fact that the government has the responsibility to assist the pork and cattle industry to get through these hard times, which in part has been caused by biofuels. We can do it. Why can we not do it? Other countries do this. Why can we not be good to our farmers and why can we not help all sectors of the agriculture industry?

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from British Columbia Southern Interior has been a tireless advocate for farmers. In British Columbia food security has become a pressing issue where we are seeing the loss of some of our very precious agricultural land.

I paid very close attention to the member's speech and I wonder if he could comment on some of the concerns that have been raised around biofuels and genetically modified organisms. It is very disappointing that Canada has not taken a lead on putting a moratorium on GMOs, nor has it taken a lead on mandatory labelling of genetically modified food products.

One of the concerns that has been raised with this increasing push around biofuels is that it will encourage and support further growth in an industry that, in many of our views, is poorly regulated. We are certainly seeing some concerns raised under the security and prosperity partnership talks going on with this increasing look at harmonization. Many of us in Canada are very concerned around the fact that our food supplies do not have the protection that is required.

Could the member comment specifically on GMOs and what he sees needs to be done in order to prevent the creep into biofuels?

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for sharing her comments and the concern of many in our country in regard to food security and GMOs.

One of the problems in having the big biotech industries involved in the push for biofuels is that there is more pressure to produce crops, to produce strains of weeds and corn that are genetically modified, in order to increase the harvest. But at the same time, if we introduce this into our environment, there is a very strong probability of contamination.

This is one of the reasons why we do not have genetically modified wheat in Canada. There was a very strong push to say no to this. Genetically modified crops can and do contaminate fields in their vicinity. As we have seen, there is the whole case of Mr. Schmeiser, who has been fighting against Monsanto and is still continuing to fight against this.

Also on the point of GMOs, research has been done. I met personally with Dr. Seralini from France, who has been doing extensive research on the negative aspects of GMO crops in regard to human health. The president of France has been very supportive and has put a stop to one type of Monsanto 810 corn, because studies have proven its negative aspects in regard to human health.

Therefore, as we start the debate on biofuels and GMOs, and I must emphasize that we are just starting, we have to take that into consideration. One of my tasks in Parliament at this time is to continue to push to eventually convince Parliament and the Government of Canada to put a moratorium on genetically modified food and seeds in Canada.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for British Columbia Southern Interior. I am one of those who was here last night and heard the first part of his speech, and I made sure that I was here this morning to hear the conclusion. I certainly found it very stimulating and informative.

I know that he comes from the southern interior of British Columbia, a very environmentally pristine part of Canada with the Kootenays and the beautiful mountains and rivers. I know that it is a very environmentally conscious area.

One of the issues that I suspect is not in this bill because it is a bigger issue, and this is more of a housekeeping type of bill, and one of the things that troubles me, is about the Environmental Protection Act and the way it is applied with respect to the oil sands, for example.

Under the act and under the mandate of the Canadian Environmental Protection Agency, the agency is meant to look at projects incrementally, but the way I see it, many projects are coming on stream and I am not sure that the agency is actually looking at the cumulative impacts of these particular projects. I am not sure that the agency is actually looking at their impacts on the water resources and the Athabasca River basin, at the cumulative impact of CO2 emissions, which will grow and grow over the next little while, and at the impacts of the use, or the misuse, if I might put it that way, of natural gas to bring up the bitumen that has to be upgraded considerably to feed into the U.S. market.

While I understand the need for our U.S. colleagues and neighbours to the south to try to diversify their energy sources, it seems to me they need to understand that there are some environmental issues here, which we need to deal with.

There was an interesting announcement the other day, I thought, with the industry or some agency recommending the need for carbon capture and sequestration. Of course that is what we need to be doing, but it needs to be accelerated. I think there is a role for the federal government, but as for the industry saying that the federal government should bankroll $2 billion to accelerate the development and deployment of carbon sequestration technologies, first of all it is obviously an opening gambit, but I think we should be putting some of these projects on hold until we have solved, at least significantly, the problems of carbon capture and sequestration and also the impact on water resources.

I wonder if the member could comment on that.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

He will do so ever so briefly. There are about 30 seconds left in the time for questions and comments, but we will hear from the hon. member for British Columbia Southern Interior.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Briefly, Mr. Speaker, energy policy in Canada has to be good for Canadians. We have to look at our needs first. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. We know that with the whole locking in of energy and what we have to export to the Americans, we have locked ourselves in under NAFTA.

Clearly the federal government does have a role. It does have a role in looking very closely at the cumulative impacts on water resources and the misuse of natural gas. We can do it. We are a nation of innovators. We can have a balanced approach whereby we support business and we support development for Canadians first, and at the same time we can look at the environment, shift over to a greener energy and look at, for example, carbon sequestration. We have the ability to do it, but the government must have a role in this.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be following my colleague from British Columbia Southern Interior, our agriculture critic, who has spoken on Bill C-33, which is being directed through the agriculture committee. It is being run under the auspices of an being an agricultural bill, and in reality it is that, because it is a bill that directs $2 billion of the government's future spending toward the interests of farmers, not particularly toward the interest of the environment or the interests of Canada in how we are dealing with energy.

It is a response to a perceived need to support farmers. In the United States, it was perceived in that fashion. I think cooler heads are prevailing across the world, but biofuels will be a large part of the energy structure across the world.

Recently I had the opportunity to visit Brazil, where I talked with experts in the biofuels industry there. Brazil's biofuels industry is ramping up quickly. It has signed major contracts with Japan. The pressure on the biofuels industry is going to drive up the price of biofuels. There is no question about it. It is going to make a big difference across the world in what happens with this.

Some of the concerns expressed by my colleague about the degradation of farmland, pristine rainforest and jungle in Brazil are apt. That has taken place. Brazilians recognize that, but they have yet to deal with it.

One of the issues the Brazilians talked about was the opportunity to spread the development of biofuel technology into third world countries in marginal agricultural areas to promote the developing world. In some respects, we can see that it would be a very useful endeavour, whereby marginal land would be taken up in the proper fashion, with proper environmental concerns attached to it. But in most cases as we ramp up the price of biological products for energy, this will go to the best land.

If a farmer can produce corn and sell it for ethanol at a higher price than he can get when he produces corn for food, that is where he is going to go. If a farmer or an agricultural operation in Brazil or west Africa produces sugar cane, they are going to take the best land they can to produce the most sugar cane and to produce the biggest amount of ethanol.

Therefore, we are moving ourselves in a direction that really does not have a lot of hope for the world in the long term. In the short term, Canada needs to establish clear guidelines on how to deal with this industry. Problems are going to be created all over the world, but our country can be a leader in dealing with them correctly here.

I am the party's energy critic and tend to speak to these issues in a holistic sense. I try to look at how every energy transfer affects other things. Let us talk about biomass. When we put the expansion of energy into the biomass area, the pulp and paper industry gets quite concerned about it, because of course its product is now being valued more for energy than it is for pulp and paper.

Once again, when we look at energy in every form, we have to look at how it impacts everything else. It is not simply about establishing a special interest in the country. It is not simply about establishing a need in one sector and saying that this is the direction we should go in. We are investing $2 billion in this endeavour. That is more than we are putting into any other part of our greenhouse gas strategy at this time.

What are we going to do? We are going to require a 5% average renewable content in gasoline by 2010. Other regulations will require a 2% average renewable content in diesel and heating oil by 2012, once we show successfully that we can use this in diesel in Canadian environmental conditions. What does this actually mean?

When the minister spoke on this issue the other day, he said this would take the equivalent of one million cars off the road. I looked at those numbers and asked him what the percentage would be. He replied that it would be a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions. Therefore, if 5% is put into gasoline, we are going to get a 2% reduction in CO2 emissions.

Canadian vehicles produce about 100 million tonnes of CO2 every year. Two per cent of that is two million tonnes. The minister said four million tonnes. He is inflating those figures. Literature indicates that a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions is about the best we can get. Many people say it would only be 20%. Also, if every one of the 26 million drivers in this country has a car, only 500,000 cars would be reduced by this measure, not one million.

Therefore, we have a bit of rhetoric going on around this subject. I think this should be clarified. I hope that this subject and the issues around it will be discussed fully in committee.

What I really want to talk about here today is the need to put this in terms of a national energy strategy. Where does it fit? How does it work?

Interestingly, Saturday is the national day of action on energy, sponsored by the Council of Canadians. The council is joining with many groups, chief executive officers and people all over the country who are crying out for direction on the overall energy strategy of this country.

Are we getting good leadership from the government on this issue? No, we are not. We are getting the opposite. We are getting the kind of leadership that says “here is a special interest and let us push this one forward” in the absence of a debate that would cover all the issues around energy. This is a failure of leadership on the part of the government. People are crying out to the government to correct this problem.

Why is that? Why have the Liberals and now the Conservatives not provided us with leadership on energy issues or energy security issues? The answer is that over the past number of years both governments have entered into arrangements through NAFTA, through the North American energy working group and through the security and prosperity partnership to link us directly with American energy security and American energy plans.

The Alberta government does not send an ambassador on energy to Washington without a reason. There is no Alberta government ambassador here in Ottawa to lobby us on energy concerns. The Alberta ambassador is down in Washington where the action is. This is a clear indication of where our energy policy is being made. This is a clear indication of where the key decisions around energy are being made right now for Canada.

This energy situation needs to be returned to Parliament, where we can take hold of it ourselves. We need to put Canada first in energy policy and energy security. Within that perspective, we should be looking at all the things that we are doing, whether it is biofuels, whether it is the importation of liquefied natural gas, or whether it is the export of bitumen. Whatever we are doing in energy needs to have a “Canada first” label attached to it.

Without a clear and defined direction, with this ad hoc approach, the Prime Minister is not only supporting the American energy plan but is also helping big American agribusiness and the massive American biotech industry.

However, when it comes to the needs of Canadians, energy is very important, of course. We live in a cold climate. Everybody today understands the need for heating oil or natural gas in their homes. They do not question this today, because these things are fundamental requirements for Canadians. We have a fundamental need for a supply of energy that is available when we need it. Our energy supply should not be impacted by world crises of the kind that are going to be created as the energy situation in the world becomes even more dire.

The U.S. has a policy that new energy supplies will be handled internally. That is not simply about economics. That is about security. The United States has a strategic petroleum reserve, a quite large one. That is used to ensure that American citizens are protected at all times.

The Canadian model is to take convention oil, export it into the United States, and import into eastern Canada an equivalent amount. We have really moved away from any semblance of energy security.

Right now in Quebec we are arguing over liquefied natural gas terminals in Rabaska where we will be replacing natural gas that is flowing now from western Canada into the Montreal area with a foreign source of liquefied natural gas. It is coming in tankers from such stable areas as Russia, Qatar and Iran. How is this energy security in this country? How is this working for people in that regard?

When we say we need energy security, it applies to biofuels, it applies to natural gas, it applies to oil, and it means that we have to come together on those issues in this Parliament. It is not a partisan issue. This is an issue that speaks to every Canadian. It speaks to our industry. It speaks to our consumers. We should wake up and deal with it in that fashion.

Biofuels could be a boon to farmers and could help Canada tremendously if they are done well. However, what exactly are we trying to do with biofuels? We are trying to create ethanol. One of the more simpler ways to use biofuels is simply to use them in space heating right across this country.

When I go to Yellowknife, I see that the new correctional facility, a very large correctional facility, is now run on biomass energy at half the cost of the fuel oil it was replacing. This is a simple and direct way to use biomass energy. There is no conversion required into ethanol. The greenhouse gas reductions that are achieved through this process are far superior to that of ethanol in fuel for cars. Why are we not putting some effort into that area?

As well, what are we doing with the bill that will support the development of biological material on marginal lands, whether it is in northern Ontario, New Brunswick or wherever it is in this country where we have farmland that is not useful and is not competitive with agri-businesses in producing food? Those are the areas where we can enhance the use of biological energy, where we can make a big difference to Canadians right now in a variety of industries and which would make a tremendous amount of sense if it is handled in this program.

Many problems with biofuels have been presented, but the core of these problems is caused by lack of leadership that will look at the larger picture and quantify what we are doing rather than insisting that we put forward programs of this magnitude that simply deal with special interests.

The fact that the bill comes through the agricultural committee speaks to that in spades. This is an environmental energy issue. This is an issue that fits much stronger in the natural resources and the environment committees, but it is not there.

If the Prime Minister and the government wanted to show leadership by first thinking how to meet the energy needs of working Canadians, we would be supporting more small scale initiatives around biofuels. The large scale initiatives will help the large scale industry. We can do much better right across this country with biomass energy in so many ways with proper incentives. Where in this program is that available?

We need all areas in this country to be producing correctly for the future following principles that are outlined very carefully. The Dutch buy biomass products from Canada to run in coal plants in Holland. They are one of the biggest purchasers of wood pellets from Canada. The pellets are shipped to Holland and used in coal plants. It is sold as clean energy to customers.

Holland follows a 100-point program of environmental care for that product. It follows it right from where the product is harvested in the forest through the whole process the product follows to the market to ensure it meets the green standards that it has set.

This is the kind of approach that would be very valuable to a biofuels industry right now. It would bring surety to everyone in the industry and in the country that what we are doing is correct. This bill does not list the regulations. It gives the government the opportunity to put in place regulations. That is the heart of the matter for the success of this bill.

This is a very important piece of legislation. This is a very important industry. It needs the utmost attention. We need to do this right. We do not need to do it wrong by following a model that does not work in this world. We can be smarter than that. Let us make sure that when this bill leaves Parliament, it is the finest product we can deliver for Canadians and their future.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know the member for Western Arctic has been very instrumental in many of the energy policies in the part of the world he comes from. Having worked with him on the natural resources committee, I know he is very qualified in matters of energy and energy policy.

One of the aspects he talked about was marginal farmland. I know that our government undertook measures with respect to marginal farmland. Working with organizations like Ducks Unlimited, we wanted to promote the idea that transfers of marginal farmland to trusts or conservation agencies could be done without triggering a capital gains tax, which was inhibiting some of the breakup of farmland into more manageable pieces, so that good farmland could be managed appropriately and marginal farmland could be offloaded to other uses.

The constraint at the time was that this would trigger a capital gain and farmers did not want to face that, so measures were introduced that brought down the capital gains inclusion rate.

The member makes an excellent point with respect to biofuels and their application to marginal farmland. I hope the government is listening to that. The point the member raises with respect to the unintended consequences of promoting biofuels is very valid. We have seen the impact on the pricing of corn and products like that.

When we look at biofuels and the different sources of the materials, one could make an argument that when converting corn to biofuels or other sources like that, it is perhaps not the most energy efficient or environmentally appropriate way to proceed because on a net energy basis it takes a lot of energy to convert corn into biofuel.

While it may be good agricultural policy in a sense for the farmers, it may not be good for consumers when the price of corn rises to a certain point. The idea of moving that to marginal farmland makes some sense.

I would like the member to comment, if he could. He made a point with respect to biofuels and the forestry industry. I know the forestry industry has been promoting very heavily the need for government policies at the federal level to encourage the use of biofuels in its operations because it faces enormous energy costs. Energy used to be a comparative advantage for the forestry industry in Canada and now it is a comparative disadvantage. It would like to use these biofuels.

Are we then faced with a situation that we will support, let us say, the sawmilling sector of the forestry industry at the risk of creating problems for the pulping industry, because that is the source of a lot of their raw material? Or, do we have to make those choices? Can we deal with the question of the better use of biofuels in the forestry industry without necessarily causing problems to the pulp and paper sector?

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
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10:50 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am very interested in the use of biological product for energy. It is there in this country. Within the forestry industry we still have large amounts of biomass that is being simply wasted.

We have not got to the point where the industry is completely converting all of its waste into viable energy product. I think incentives could help a lot. We need also to look at some of the opportunities that are presenting themselves for the use of bioenergy in the forests of British Columbia with the incredible damage that has been caused there by the pine beetle kill.

As I pointed out in my speech, right now wood pellet energy is replacing fuel oil at about 50% of the cost in northern Canada and that is also trucking the pellets a very long way.

When we look at northern Ontario and New Brunswick, we can see multitudes of opportunities for the conversion of buildings and homes to a cheaper source of energy that is readily available there.

It will impact on the forestry industry as the price of oil rises and we can be sure this is going to happen. The major multinationals are not buying back their shares in a record fashion because they feel that the value of oil is going to go down.

Therefore, we are going to see marked increases in the price of oil. Biomass energy will be productive here. If we compare the competitive advantage for a reduction of CO2 emissions between ethanol and the use of biomass energy in heating and we look at the cost effectiveness of those two products, biomass energy would win hands down right now.

A unidirectional approach with a $2 billion subsidy program to simply biofuels for ethanol and liquid fuels is not the way to go.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Western Arctic is very knowledgeable on energy policy. I would like him to elaborate on a couple of points that he mentioned.

One of the things that we have seen from the Conservative government is a piecemeal, fragmented and often incoherent strategy when it deals with climate change and certainly energy policy.

Many of the communities on Vancouver Island are rural and very small urban communities. For example, when we look at the government's transit strategies, it simply does not recognize some of the challenges. We have our rail line on Vancouver Island that we have been asking the federal government to invest in as a viable alternative to trucking and other transportation. Yet, we simply cannot get the government's attention on it.

One of the elements that the member for Western Arctic touched on was the fact that an energy policy in Canada should talk about putting Canada first. I wonder if he could elaborate on the deficiencies in the bill and generally on the strategy that the Conservatives have put forward in terms of an energy strategy which puts Canadians first.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, as I pointed out, the situation in the world with biofuels is expanding rapidly. There is a rapidly expanding market for biofuels. Major countries like Japan are making huge investments in cornering the market.

Therefore, we have to be careful about what we do with this subsidy incentive. Will it actually help Canadians? Will it put Canadians' needs first? Or will we end up finding ourselves simply supporting the large scale development of a biofuel industry in the world which may or may not have the environmental characteristics, and may or may not have the socio-economic characteristics that we are looking for in Canada?

We have lived in what ideologically everyone calls a market driven economy for quite a while and it is not working any more. We need to have a directed economy, not a managed economy, which says that these are the directions that businesses should go in to ensure that our future is maintained.

Until many of my colleagues here can understand that and come to that realization which may be difficult for them, as they have grown up with this particular ideology, I think we will be stuck with it. Perhaps the Canadian population will have to work through attrition to change the ideology in that regard.