Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois about Bill C-33, which, in short, would regulate fuels. The Bloc Québécois is obviously in favour of having the standing committee study this bill. In fact, passing the bill at second reading, the motion which we will vote on, enables the committee to directly examine this bill. The bill will not have an immediate effect on the content of fuels, but it will simply enable the minister to regulate the content.
The bill reflects some of the Bloc's concerns—and I say some—that we should wean ourselves off our dependence on oil. The Bloc Québécois, like all Quebeckers, believes our policy should be to increasingly reduce our dependence on oil. The bill also calls for an effort to be made in the transportation sector in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote the use of agricultural and wood waste products.
Before the regulations are implemented, our party would like to see some thoughtful deliberation concerning the environmental record of the alternative fuels the federal government will propose. If the Conservative government really wanted to make a difference in this area, it would choose the path proposed by the Bloc Québécois, which calls specifically for legislative action to force automakers to substantially reduce the fuel consumption of all road vehicles sold in Quebec and Canada. The regulation would be very similar to the reduction proposed by California, which has been adopted by 19 other American states and the Government of Quebec.
We know the Conservative government's stance on this, however. It has chosen to ignore the reform supported by those who are showing leadership in the fight against greenhouse gases. In his statement, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities instead endorsed the Bush administration's declaration, which is much less demanding and seems as though it was designed specifically to spare American car manufacturers. Once again, the Minister of Transport showed his loyalty to the Prime Minister's approach and the Conservative Party line, which lean towards the Bush administration rather than California standards.
The purpose of the bill is to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 to provide for the efficient regulation of fuels. It would allow the federal government to regulate renewable content in fuels in order to require, for example, a certain percentage of biofuel in gasoline. The proposed measures, except for a few key details, were included in Bill C-30 of the previous session. I would remind the House that the bill called the “clean air act” was amended by the opposition parties in committee and that the measures concerning biofuels still appear in the amended version of the bill.
The government already announced the following:
An amended Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 would allow the government to implement regulations which will require five per cent average renewable content in gasoline by 2010. Subsequent regulations will also require two per cent average renewable content in diesel and heating oil by 2012 upon successful demonstration of renewable diesel fuel use under the range of Canadian environmental conditions.
Clearly, we believe that cellulosic ethanol is the way of the future. In terms of a biofuel substitute for oil, the most interesting prospect at present is ethanol made from cellulose. This process, still in the experimental stage and deserving of more support for research, uses a plentiful and inexpensive raw material and, more importantly, would recycle vegetable matter that is currently unusable. It would also provide new markets for the forestry and agriculture industries.
Given the environmental and economic problems posed by the production of ethanol from certain crops, support for raw materials that could be produced more readily is gaining ground. Thus, research is being increasingly focused on the production of ethanol from non-food crops and materials rich in cellulose and fibres. The development of an efficient process for converting cellulose to ethanol could promote the use of raw materials such as agricultural residues and straw as well as forestry residues, primarily wood chips, and even trees and fast-growing grasses. However, it is a more complex process requiring specific enzymes and it is not cost-effective at present.
Iogen, an Ottawa company, has built a pilot plant and has been producing ethanol from cellulosic materials for a few years. The pilot plant in Sweden produces ethanol from wood chips. The production process combines acid and enzyme hydrolysis. The products obtained are lignin, which can be burned directly or dried and sold as fuel, carbon dioxide, which is recovered, and ethanol, which is used to produce a biofuel.
Still in the experimental stage, ethanol made from cellulosic materials such as agricultural and wood waste cannot yet compete with traditional products. However, it does represent an interesting possibility. In addition, the Government of Quebec has announced that it will not promote corn ethanol further because of the environmental impact of intensive corn production. It seems that the Varennes corn-based ethanol plant will be the only such plant in Quebec.
It is important for all parties, and all the men and women listening, to understand the Bloc Québécois's policy and program to reduce our dependency on oil.
Quebec can cut its oil dependency in half within 10 years. By oil dependency, we mean oil's percentage of our energy consumption. Since global consumption of energy—be it electricity, energy from biomass or less conventional energy—will continue to grow in parallel with economic growth, reducing oil dependency by 50% means reducing oil consumption by a third in absolute numbers. This is quite a challenge, but it is not impossible.
The Bloc Québécois estimates that this huge shift requires that six objectives be met: one, quickly help Hydro-Québec regain a margin of flexibility; two, continue encouraging individuals, businesses and industries to give up using oil; three, reduce fuel consumption in passenger transportation; four, stop the increase in consumption in goods transportation; five, reduce consumption of petroleum products as fuel; and six, make Quebec a centre for clean energy and clean transportation.
When we say that we need to focus on energy efficiency to restore a margin of flexibility to Hydro-Québec, which can no longer count on surplus electricity as it did in the past, the goal is to increase residential efficiency by 18% and reduce consumption by 15% in 10 years.
To recoup energy, we need to start by looking at the energy we waste. The best way to create some flexibility is to improve energy efficiency, especially in buildings. Older homes are must less efficient than new homes. Homes of equal size built between 1981 and 1996 lose 14% more heat than new homes built after 1996. The difference climbs to 27% for homes built between 1971 and 1981 and 43% for even older homes. Using fairly simple methods to improve thermal efficiency, we can reduce the difference between older homes and newer homes by 65%, according to the federal Department of Natural Resources.
Given the real potential to save energy, we need to look at introducing measures such as programs to encourage people to use alternative energy, including geothermal, wind, passive solar or photovoltaic energy; mandatory but free energy audits when homeowners apply for a permit for a significant renovation; and amendments to the building code to set thermal efficiency standards for older homes and require that homes be brought up to standard before any permit is issued for major renovations.
Our second proposal is to eliminate the use of fuel oil in homes, businesses and industry. The 10-year goal would be to reduce by half the number of homes that heat with fuel oil, to reduce their consumption by 60% through energy efficiency measures, and to reduce by 45% the use of oil as a source of energy in industry.
In 25 years, the number of homes heated by fuel oil in Quebec has been cut in half. In the past few years, the trend has slowed considerably, in part because there are no longer any incentives for converting heating systems, but also because the price of oil has been relatively low for the past decade. The price of oil has gone up considerably in the past two years and that in itself provides an incentive.
To accelerate the conversion rate, the incentives for converting heating systems that were successful in the past could be reinstated.
Third, we recommend curbing fuel consumption for the intercity transport of goods. Trucks consume far too much fuel and alternatives to trucking are not flexible enough.
The goal is to put a freeze on truck traffic at its current level and to focus on technological advances and on changing the standards and regulations, in order to achieve a 9% reduction in fuel consumption for the intercity transport of goods. This increased fuel consumption is directly related to the increased quantity of goods being transported by truck.
While the quantity of goods transported grows along with the economy, rail transport is not growing as quickly as production, and transport by truck is practically absorbing the entire increase. To reduce truck traffic in the intercity transport of goods, in addition to increasing the energy efficiency of trucks, the relative advantages of other modes of transport need to be greater and efficient infrastructure needs to be developed to encourage the use of more than one mode of transportation.
Creating programs to rebuild the rail system, immediately removing all federal obstacles to implementing a Quebec marine policy, building an efficient transshipment infrastructure to facilitate the use of more than one mode of transport—intermodal transport—and limiting the predominance of trucking are some avenues to explore to achieve this goal.
There is a second point to the third suggestion, which is to curb fuel consumption for the intra-city transport of goods, since nearly all oversized vehicles run on oil products. The goal would be to reduce the amount of fuel used for the intra-city transport of goods by 25%. Unlike intercity transport, for which it is possible to develop alternatives to trucking—since it is over a long distance, it is always possible to consider transport by rail or by water—trucks will always be difficult to replace in an urban environment. However, in many cases, the vehicles used for this type of transport are unnecessarily large.
According to a 2001 study by the Office of Energy Efficiency, delivery trucks in urban areas in Canada were on average driving with a load that was at 20.5% of their capacity. The Bloc Québécois thinks we should put an end to that.
Measures specially designed for this sector can be implemented, for example, developing plans to reduce the size of vehicles, in cooperation with the government, for transport and delivery companies. For companies to which this measure could apply, such as messenger companies, there should be incentives to encourage them to introduce as many electric or hybrid vehicles into their transport fleet as possible. This idea has already made some progress, since in a brief presented to the House Standing Committee on Finance on October 17, 2006, the association representing messenger companies indicated that its members were interested in introducing electric-dominant hybrid vehicles into their fleets, provided they would receive a federal tax credit to help them make up for the price difference between hybrids and gasoline-powered vehicles.
The Bloc Québécois' fourth suggestion is to reduce the amount of fuel used to transport people, which makes up two thirds of the total amount of oil consumed in Quebec's transport sector and of which a large portion, 83%, is used in urban settings almost exclusively by cars. Our goal is to halt the increase in the number of automobiles on our roads by promoting a 40% increase in public transit ridership, and to reduce the fuel consumption of privately owned vehicles by 17% and that of industrial and commercial vehicles by 30%. Automobiles are responsible for nearly all oil consumption used in passenger transportation. Reducing our oil dependency and contributing to the fight against greenhouse gases necessarily requires us to reduce the use of cars and reduce fuel consumption.
There are two paths to achieving our objectives. On one hand, we must come up with an efficient alternative to the use of personal cars in urban settings and, on the other hand, we must reduce the amount of fuel consumed by cars. This will obviously require considerable investment in public transit infrastructure, particularly, to establish transit-only roads, develop new lines for commuter trains, street cars and trolley buses, establish designated lanes for public transit and car pooling, all properly monitored, as well as car sharing and other initiatives. For the Montreal, Quebec City and Gatineau areas alone, these developments would require considerable investment.
It would also require regulatory changes in order to force automakers to substantially reduce the fuel consumption of automobiles. Such a measure would target a 20% reduction in the fuel consumption of all road vehicles sold in Quebec within10 years. In order to ensure that the reduced fuel consumption of new vehicles is not offset by an increase in consumption by older vehicles, this measure would have to be coupled with mandatory annual inspections of all vehicles more than five years old or having been driven more than 100,000 km.
Once again, our regulations should follow the California model rather than what is being proposed by the Bush administration in the United States or the Conservative administration in Canada.
Fifth, we recommend that the amount of oil be reduced in fuels where biofuels, despite their interesting potential, are almost non-existent. The objective of our fifth suggestion is to reduce by 5% the amount of oil consumed throughout Quebec. The Bloc Québécois, like the federal government, is recommending that current oil-based fuels have a 5% biofuel content—biodiesel and ethanol, preferably cellulosic ethanol.
Sixth, we recommend that Quebec—a leader in some areas of transportation and clean energy—become a transportation and clean energy pole primarily by increasing investment in research and development and promoting the creation of technology poles. The objective is to gain the advantage on our neighbours and to be on the cutting edge of technology when this sector really takes off.
By further consolidating our assets in such sectors as public transportation, hydroelectricity and wind power, as well as substantially increasing support for research and development in niches related to clean technologies—in which Quebec has comparative advantages—Quebec could have an enviable position in the post-petroleum era because it would be less vulnerable to oil crises and it could export leading edge technology.
Over the next 10 years, achieving the objectives and recommendations that we have just listed would benefit Quebec in many ways. Quebeckers could benefit from a 32.8% reduction in oil consumption in Quebec and a reduction of close to 50% in oil used for power generation in Quebec, which would drop from 38% to 20%. They would also benefit from a 21.5% reduction in Quebec's greenhouse gas emissions, and a savings of $3.2 million on the cost of importing oil into Quebec. These measures would also make Quebec more competitive and stimulate growth, which would, in turn, increase employment and outside investment. Quebeckers would also benefit from increased wealth and an improved balance of trade.
Let us not forget that achieving these goals would effectively reduce Quebec's greenhouse gas emissions by 7% by 2012 and by 21.5% by 2020.
Within a few years, these investments would produce significant results, particularly in terms of Quebec's balance of trade, the competitiveness of businesses here, household disposable income in Quebec, Hydro-Quebec's revenues, and employment in construction and businesses in the transportation and clean energy sectors. In short, investing to reduce our oil dependency will make Quebec richer and will generate revenue that will enable the state to cover the full cost of these investments, perhaps within as little as seven years.
It is important to understand that so far, Quebec has developed its hydroelectric generating capacity by itself with no funding from the federal government, which has contributed barely 8% to the development of wind energy. It is high time the government came up with programs that will enable us to invest in reducing our oil dependency, in helping people and in imposing the strictest possible standards for automobile manufacturing, rather than offering tax credits to help rich oil companies.
All the measures proposed by the Bloc Québécois are achievable in the short, medium and long term. Just as it is already a leader in hydroelectricity and wind energy, Quebec could be a world leader in the fight against greenhouse gases, but especially in our desire to reduce our oil dependency. Clearly, this will require an effort by the federal government.
Quebeckers can cut their oil dependency in half within 10 years, but only if the federal government does not work against us and scupper Quebec's efforts by doing nothing, as it has done in the fight against greenhouse gases.
Moreover, in accordance with the constitutional division of powers, the federal government has responsibility for taking some steps to help achieve these objectives. Consequently, the government must correct the fiscal imbalance once and for all, mainly in the form of independent revenue, which grows with the economy and inflation. It must also continue investing in transportation, in particular by rebuilding rail lines and port facilities, building transshipment facilities to support the development of intermodal transport and improving transportation networks.
In short, with federal involvement, Quebeckers could avoid once again having to foot the bill themselves for developing new energy sources.