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Ottawa to push ethanol despite concerns

Despite a growing controversy, mostly in the US, Canada's federal environment minister is proceeding with regulations to require refiners blend at least five percent ethanol in their gasoline within the next 18 months.

May 11, 2009  By Globe and Mail

May 11, 2009

Ottawa is set to push ahead with a plan to dramatically increase the use of grain-based ethanol, despite growing controversy over the greenhouse gas emissions that result from agricultural practices used to grow the feedstock grains.

Environment Minister Jim Prentice has won cabinet approval to proceed with regulations requiring refiners to include at least five percent ethanol in their gasoline by September, 2010, sources say. A spokesman for Mr. Prentice's office said the Minister had "nothing to announce" on the issue of ethanol regulations.

The department has invited the industry to a briefing this week in which official Ottawa claims Canadian grain-based biofuels can reduce emissions by 40 percent compared to gasoline. But it has not begun to factor in indirect land-use emissions, a highly controversial measure of greenhouse gas emissions that result from deforestation and increased land cultivation needed to feed the demand for biofuels.

In recent weeks, both the US federal government and California have said that a full accounting of such emissions can render ethanol just as "dirty" as gasoline, depending on production practices, fuel sources and the time horizon over which they are measured.

The US government has a new renewable-fuel standard that requires refiners to include 15 billion gallons of ethanol in their product mix by 2012, and 30 billion gallons by 2020, with a maximum 15 billion gallons of conventional corn-based product. (Current gasoline consumption is 140-billion litres a year.)

s will outline how the government intends to proceed.

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