Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Davenport for his intervention and for seeking knowledge as to why this is the right thing at the right time. I give him credit for that. I will cover off a couple of things.
He talked about energy and our addiction to it, which I guess is the best way to describe it. I do not think we can push people away from having a light switch that flips on rather than lighting a coal oil lamp. We have lived through that and moved ahead, but there are new and innovative ways coming to the marketplace. There are new light bulbs available that will address energy consumption. Even turning our TVs off still takes power. There are new ways to do that and those will be driven by a different way.
We cannot combine all of our energy needs and the misuse of energy under the biofuels banner. A lot of people are using that as the lightning rod and we have to disconnect some of it. There is good news with biofuels but there are costs as well. He mentioned the point that it takes energy to create energy but that is typical of anything. Even if we go back to hydro, it still takes energy to build the dam, so we have to look at the downstream costs in a lot of cases.
I see comparisons now that say, “The cost of fossil fuel is $1.20 at the pump for gas“, and then, “Here is ethanol”, but we still have to combine it and plant it. The downstream costs of that gas at the pump are not taken into consideration but they are for biofuels. That is not a true comparison. When comparing apples to apples in the studies that have been done, the real ones, there is a huge benefit to ethanol and a bigger benefit to biodiesel.
We have to start building better technology, there is no doubt about it. There is innovation out there that will let us grow the crop in a more fulsome and cheaper way with zero till, less fertilizer and all those types of things. As we develop new innovative varieties, we will get 80 bushels an acre on dryland farming, which is unheard of now, but we have not been able to do that because of kernel visual distinguishability in western Canada. That is gone. We will move ahead on that front as well. It is a major gain. There are several thrusts, not just biofuel. It becomes the lightning rod and the whipping boy.
When he talks about food costs, yes, we are all looking at that. In the latest study in Canada, Statistics Canada said the food basket in Canada actually dropped .2% in February. Our higher dollar is letting us buy better but it is also hurting our trade capacity.
We are also seeing emerging countries, and I will list a couple, China, India, Brazil, Mexico, where there is a huge middle class starting to grow. They are moving away from a rice-based diet and saying, “We want meat and potatoes”. We are seeing fast food chains moving there and so on. Whether it is good or bad, they are doing that because this middle class with money is asking for new and innovative foodstuffs. They are tired of a bland rice diet and they need protein, not starch.
I was in Cuba last week on a trade mission. People there are bemoaning the fact that rice has gone from $400 a tonne to $800 a tonne. Now it is approaching $1,200 a tonne and it is still over in the Pacific Rim and has to be transported. I asked why they are not thinking outside the box. I said there are beans, potatoes and meat available in Canada for half those quantity prices and they should start re-jigging their diet to be more healthy. Therefore, there are a lot of changes in the food basket that just cannot be blamed on ethanol.