Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak to the bill and to the amendments that our party has put forward.
I will begin by assuring those who are concerned about our party's position on biofuels in general that this is something that needs to be part of the mix to deal with the catastrophic climate change that is in front of us. However, we also need to be cautious. The do no harm principle should be invoked, the precautionary principle, which is why our party has taken the stand it has.
As we have noted recently, both in the House and in the debate that has occurred in Canadian society and, indeed, globally on the issue, if we look at the advantages of ethanol and biofuels, ethanol being part of the biofuel mix, we have to ascertain what the cost benefits are.
When we take a look at ethanol as an example, which seems to be the one that is the most popular, and certainly the supports are fairly strong within the government, we need to look at the costs in terms of the production of the corn for the ethanol as part of the mix for gas.
I recall years ago, when ethanol first became an option, that many said that we should be careful in what we were doing and that we should look at it both in terms of the cost of transporting the goods to production, in other words, the corn from the farmer's field that goes to the plant to mix the ethanol, and the effects on the environment there. We were also told to drill down deeper and look at the actual costs in terms of the production costs.
It has emerged, if we use ethanol as an example because that is the one that has the most production, focus and support, that there is a huge amount of investment in fertilizer, for instance.
There is an important aspect to fertilizer that we should be dealing with. Fertilizer, as we know, comes from natural gas. If we are disproportionately using things like fertilizer, which is a fuel and one that is not renewable, and we are using that to help with the production of corn for ethanol, it should be part of the cost benefit analysis.
I would also add that when we are looking at the other resources that are required for growing corn, certainly for ethanol purposes, there is a fairly substantive use of water as a resource. Again, if we look at the whole mix and what is required in the recipe for ethanol, that is something that should be taken into account.
The use of fertilizer is not something that has been fully analyzed, in other words, the degree to which it will be using the fuel that is required to make fertilizer. Many have pointed to this as a concern, notwithstanding the use of water.
When we look at the tar sands as an example and the science around the tar sands, what was contemplated first in the science that was pushed was how to get oil out of the sands. That is fair enough and innovative. Some work was done on that. What I do not think was contemplated was what happens with the waste.
We have seen this not just with the tar sands but also with nuclear energy. What I think most of us want to see is a very genuine, thorough analysis of the effects and costs in the production of any new energy source.
In the case of the tar sands, Alberta is about to become a have not province, not in terms of fiscal capacity but in water capacity. Australia was mentioned earlier regarding some of the problems it is having with drought. Water is a resource we take for granted but we should be very careful in how we use it, especially in relation to agricultural production.
We have new technologies such as ethanol. I mentioned nuclear power. We still have not figured out what to do with spent nuclear waste in a safe way into which everyone can buy. I mentioned the tar sands. However, when we deal with ethanol, we have to ensure we have done the proper analysis and due diligence. That is the thrust of our amendments and our concerns about the bill.
A member of Liberal Party, in statements to the press, was trying to convince his colleagues to slow down on the bill and not support it to the degree that we see with the official opposition, and that perhaps it would make sense to amend the bill with some of the amendments we brought forward, to have the oversight and to send it back to committee to do the cost benefit analysis, as I just made. He said that we should admit that things have changed, that since we made assumptions when we looked to ethanol as the way to deal with catastrophic climate change, new evidence had appeared. I suggest that would be the right notion and probably good advice for his caucus colleagues.
I do not assume the governing party will change its direction. It has been noted for going ahead regardless. However, I would plead with the opposition, and certainly with the Bloc, to take a reasoned and sensible analysis of the bill and the concerns we have with it.
The question is, why rush into it? Why not have amendments put forward, as we have done, to do due diligence? If we find 10 years hence that we have in fact gone in the wrong direction, the question will be, why were we in a rush to do this?
It will be difficult for government members and other members of Parliament to get a satisfactory answer when we put amendments forward at committee to have due diligence done. We put forward amendments at report stage. We put forward an amendment today to ensure we were careful with this and due diligence was done. That is important to note.
As my colleagues have said, we are not talking about an ideological view. We are talking about scientists saying that we should be very careful in how we go forward with our biofuel policy. Many have suggested that this is the wrong way to go without the proper oversight, as I mentioned.
I find it interesting that in his comments this morning, the minister suggested that this was not about the global map right now, that we were only talking about Canada. That is fair enough. We are in the Parliament of Canada and we are discussing the Government of Canada's policy on biofuels.
The problem with that statement or that analysis by the minister is it denies we are in a global economy. I find it intriguing that I am making this statement for members of the party who suggest that they are the ones who understand the global economy. What we do with our biofuels policy matters to the rest of the world, as does our policy on the tar sands. I share that with the House because if the minister's suggestion is that our policy on biofuels in Canada does not affect the global economy or that we do not have a role to play, I would fundamentally disagree with him on that.
At one point, he said that we needed to deal with an issue because of climate change. He then mentioned that recently there was snow in his province and that the farmers were in the fields. He made a passing remark about it being global warming. It suggests to me that the Conservatives do not have a consensus yet in their caucus about whether global warming exists. I hope that is not the case. This has been a long learning curve for the governing party. I know at one point it denied climate change and the science of it. I hope it was a lightened remark as opposed to an unenlightened analysis.
It is about good policy, and the policy we form here does affect the global view and what happens in the world. The government has been very clear about Canada's role. I think the Prime Minister coined the phrase that he wanted Canada to be an energy superpower. If we are going to be, on the one hand, an energy superpower and, on the other hand, making policy on biofuels and suggesting this is only for Canada and it does not really affect the rest of the world, there is incongruity. What he is saying is that what we do here will not affect what happens around the world, and I could not disagree with him more.
Let us look at the analyses and studies that have been brought forward. The chief economist for the U.S. agriculture department is very critical of what is happening with biofuel policy. Gwyn Morgan, no close cousin of the NDP, has said that this is not the way to go. People have genuine questions about what the effects of this policy will be and we need to listen to them.
All our party is asking for is some reason, due diligence and to ensure when we are formulate our policy, we do not do it in a hurry or be too hasty. If we do that, there are unintended consequences and, some would say, irreversible effects that will occur. Once we build into our mix of energy supply, put in certain supports and have legislative underpinnings to it, it is very difficult to undo.
What that means for not only the environment but our economy is that we will then have our eggs distributed in the wrong basket. I will not say they would all be in one basket with this legislation, but it gives the nod to the economy and says, “This is where you should be investing”.
It was noted by the minister in his comments this morning that perhaps weather could have more of an effect on the supply of fuel, the cost of fuel, et cetera. Granted, I would concur with him on that. However, the same can be said about the supply, in terms of ethanol, that will be built in if there is a bad crop. What happens if there is a drought? What will happen then is we might have to look far afield, pardon the pun, to supply the mix that has been built into the system.
I would like to see the analysis on that. What is the last decade's analysis for the supply of some of these crops that we will be dependent upon, even with the minimum that we have established presently? Those kinds of things need to be understood.
The other thing I find interesting is the people who are lobbying for ethanol in particular. We know the person at the top of the association, who was running the lobby effort for this, was lobbying one day for the industry and the next day was working for the government. I find it that interesting.
We need to be absolutely clear as to the premise for which these policies are brought in. Is it the best direction for our country in terms of the economy, climate change and to ensure we have the right mix? Many people would be surprised that someone who lobbied for this policy one day, ended up the next day in the Conservative government, directing where that policy would go. Again, that is important to note.
If we look at what the legislation purports to do, and certainly the government will say it will do, and look at some of the concerns brought forward by scientists, there is no clarity. There is not enough clarity for my party and I think opposition members, because we have heard from some who are concerned about their party's position, to say that we should rush ahead and do this.
There has not been sufficient argument to say that we cannot hold back, that we have to go ahead immediately because the sky will fall. When we look at some of the arguments that have been made about concerns of bringing this policy forward, we can still slow down, take a look at the cost benefit and have this kind of policy put in place. It is a false premise for those who say we have to rush this through now. Those who have taken a look at the direction of ethanol and biofuels mix have argued the opposite, that we can still go in the right direction on this, but it is important we get the balance right.
We do not take this lightly. We have seen what happens once we start down this direction. We see the concerns in the United States. As I referenced, the chief economist for the Department of Agriculture in the United States has thrown up the cautionary flag and said that they have a problem, that have done too much in one area and that it is undermining the capacity for the United Stated in terms of agriculture. I do not want to be put a corner like the Americans.
As my colleague from Hamilton said, this is something we should rethink and be cautious about. It was interesting to note the editorial he referenced from The Toronto Star the other day. It states:
But in their rush to biofuels, the politicians have overlooked the drawbacks of turning food into fuel.
Although biofuels do emit less greenhouse gas than regular gasoline, environmentalists point out that this comparison does not take into account the emissions coming from the farm machinery and fertilizer required to “grow” these new fuels and the trucks for transporting them.
This is a reasonable question, and it should be put back to the committee to answer it. What is unreasonable about that question? If we are to do due diligence, if in fact this whole policy is to deal with the catastrophic climate change that is in front of us, then why would we not do our homework on this? Why would we not look at an impact, not just of when the fuel comes out the tailpipe, but look at the production of that fuel? We can do that. In fact scientists have done this, working with farmers.
There is a suggestion that if we are critical of this policy, that somehow we do not support farmers. It is unfortunate that some are using this argument to create a wedge between society in general, which wants to deal with that catastrophic climate change, and the challenges that confront farmers. Our party has been clear for decades about the way to support farmers. We believe in the Wheat Board and other institutions that have been built by farmers. We are not going to undermine them. I think this is something where the government is trying to create a wedge. I have talked to farmers locally and they do not buy that. They are as concerned as the rest of us on this rush to put in legislation that would tip the hat one way in terms of where agricultural direction is going.
I hope that reason will carry the day, that the government will take a second look at this and that the opposition will support our amendments. I hope we can look back 10 years from now and say that we did the right thing, that we did due diligence and we made sure that we did not rush into something that we had not thought through thoroughly.