Mr. Speaker, the member for says that I owe him one and if it is just one, that is not too bad. I know the interest will pile up very quickly. He is a tough guy to deal with, Mr. Speaker, and you know that.
It is very apropos to have this bill before us today. Many of us enjoyed the camaraderie at the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association event last night in room 200, and everyone had a great time. It is a tremendous organization. This bill is the genesis of a lot of work it has done with the government to build the biofuels industry in Canada.
We are playing a bit of catch-up. The Americans and other countries like Brazil and so forth are light years ahead of us in getting this done. We are happy to work with them to make that happen, to get us an industry that will help us to start to meet our greenhouse gas commitments, which we are taking on globally.
This was a joint work piece between Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada and my department at Agriculture Canada. Farmers will play a huge role in the way we will roll this out.
The amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act are starting a job that will lead our nation and perhaps the world into an era of greater environmental sustainability. Currently the act provides authority for the regulation of sellers, producers and importers of fuel.
The proposed amendments in Bill will provide the additional authorities needed to make efficient national regulations requiring renewable fuel content in Canadian fuel. The authorities we are seeking include: the authority to regulate at point of fuel blending; authority to track exports; and exemption for small volume producers and importers. This is another example of how our government is taking concrete action to promote biofuels production in Canada, acting as a catalyst to an industry that is going to have wide sweeping benefits.
As the has said, the domestic and global appetite for more environmentally friendly sources of energy is growing by the day. Canada is and will remain an energy superpower. We rank fifth in the world in total energy production, which is amazing. We are America's largest supplier of oil, natural gas, electricity and uranium. With the government's actions today, we are on our way to becoming a clean energy superpower adding biofuels to that list.
In December 2006, the government began to move Canada toward smarter consumption by announcing our intention to require a 5% average renewable content in gasoline by 2010. We also signalled our objective to develop a similar requirement of 2% renewable content in diesel fuel and heating oil by 2012.
Meeting these requirements will make a real difference for the Canadian environment and overall the globe. Reaching these targets will be the equivalent of taking almost one million cars off our highways. That is substantive. Close to three billion litres of renewable fuels will be needed annually to meet the requirements of these new regulations. It is a very substantive start.
Canadian production in 2007 was about one billion litres, so the expansion will represent tremendous economic opportunity for Canada's 61,000 grain and oilseeds producers, and they welcome the challenge.
With the transportation sector accounting for more than one-quarter of Canada's greenhouse gas outputs, increasing the renewable fuel content in gasoline will put a huge dent in emissions.
The health and well-being of Canadians depends on the quality of both our environment and our economy. They do go hand in hand.
The government has announced $200 million in funding for the ecoagricultural biofuels capital initiative designed to encourage agriculture producer investment in biofuels production facilities and that is through my department.
We have recently announced the first two contribution agreements under this program for a new biodiesel plant in Alberta and an ethanol plant in Saskatchewan, which I had the pleasure to attend the opening. It happens to be in my riding. It is at Unity, Saskatchewan. It is a component of the North West Terminal, a privately owned farmer producer owned terminal, which is now expanding into the ethanol industry. I welcome its tremendous input in designing a lot of what we are doing.
The gentlemen on the ground there, chaired by Gerald Rewerts and Merv Slater, Bill Fraser and Jason Skinner, the manager of the facility and his dad, Jim Skinner, the chair of the board, put together a lot of ideas and worked with us to develop a lot of regulatory positions and so on that would help them. I give them a tremendous amount of credit for taking the time to educate us in the real world of ethanol and biofuel capacities. They have done a tremendous job.
We expect to sign several more agreements with other plants, with farmer participation, in the very near future.
As well, we have invested $20 million in the biofuels opportunities for producers initiative, or BOPI as everybody knows it. This initiative provides assistance to biofuels related projects across Canada with farmer representation in it. About 120 have applied for these funds. It helps them design their business plans.
This will help reinvigorate rural Canada, and we know so well that rural communities often find themselves isolated. They have higher transportation costs. Everything costs more to get there. Changing over to biofuels will help our environment. It will also help these people feel like they are tied back into mainstream Canada.
Producers will be able to contract with and ship to a processor in the nearest town rather than halfway around the world. That will save energy as well.
These new plants are great news for our farmers, providing a new market for their wheat, corn, canola and potentially other crops as we start to design high starch products, higher oil commodities to give us a broader range of feed stocks. It is all good news.
All of this presents an exciting new market for Canadian farmers. Biofuels production is helping farmers grow their businesses while creating new jobs, especially in rural communities. Biofuels offer economic benefits to farmers and communities by providing an alternate local market for their production of grains and oilseeds.
We will continue to feed the world and supply energy too. There is a lot of discussion out there that we have to do one or the other, but we cannot do both. We have the capability, with our modern agricultural techniques and our climbing yields per acre. They have been increasing for decades. This is part of the problem that our grains and oilseeds sector faced over the last number of years. They got too darned efficient. They got too good at what they did. They are looking for another stream of production to work their products into. This is the answer to the questions they have asked.
We have no problem keeping up with the demand for our supply of safe, secure quality food we produce on our farms, but we can also supply that energy market and have the expertise to market both commodities as well as supply the domestic demand. I know my producers are up to that job, and I know yours in Manitoba are too, Mr. Speaker. They are looking forward to that challenge. They are that efficient.
Looking beyond grain and oilseed based fuels, the government understands that biofuel technologies are evolving every day, and that is a fact. We have had some great work done at the University of Saskatchewan. We have had other universities and private sector initiatives working on facilities as well, and the sky is the limit. These folks are moving well ahead.
We have invested $500 million in new technology that will take waste products such as wheat straw and wood chips and turn them into valuable commodities to create cleaner burning renewable fuels.
We have also seen a lot of work done on methane recapture. We have seen a tremendous amount of work being done on biodigesters. We are seeing slaughter facilities that are able to take the parts and pieces of cattle, the SRM, specific risk materials, and work them in such a way that they are generating a diesel product out of that type of commodity.
I have had discussions with the McCain folks in Brandon, a large facility. They slaughter some 1,300 hogs an hour. They are taking a lot of the waste products and running them into biodigesters. They have a line that will start to turn biodiesel out of that end of the facility as well. It is all good news.
We are taking that product out of the landfills. We are taking it out of the environmental concerns by turning it into biodiesel and bioethanol products. It is just a tremendous opportunity to move ahead.
In July Harper announced an investment of $1.5 billion over nine years—
Mr. Speaker, that is a hard act to follow. Our illustrious is certainly a good advocate for the farmer. He insists on putting farmers first, as does Bill . I am, like the minister, very honoured to speak to Bill C-33 today.
It was about a year ago that the federal government first announced that it intended to introduce regulations as part of a national renewable strategy.
The regulations would require a 5% renewal content in gasoline by 2010. We also signalled our intention to develop a similar requirement of 2% for diesel fuel and heating oil by 2012.
Bill will enable the government to work with interested stakeholders as we develop regulations for renewable fuel content.
Approximately one-quarter of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector. The introduction of 5% renewable fuel content in gasoline and a further 2% in diesel will help significantly in reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.
The volume of renewable fuel required under this initiative is expected to contribute to achieving a four megatonnes reduction in greenhouse gas each and every year. That is the greenhouse gas reduction equivalent, as the minister said, of taking approximately one million cars off the highways. It is the same effect.
I believe that the 5% average renewable content in gasoline and the 2% renewable fuel content in diesel fuel and heating oil are ambitious targets. There is no question. Together they equate to almost 3 billion litres of renewable fuels per year.
The government's renewable fuels initiatives are very important, for not only will they have a significant impact in terms of reducing emissions but they will also provide much needed financial support to Canada's farming industry. As we know, this minister and this department are here to put farmers first.
Industry is already moving quickly to ensure that it secures its place in what will become a very lucrative market, but industry cannot do it alone. That is why in the last federal budget the set aside $1.5 billion over seven years for biofuel producers to assist in the development of our government's long term renewable fuels strategy.
On November 2 my two caucus colleagues, the and the member of Parliament for , were in Johnstown, just an hour from here, where they announced that the Government of Canada was contributing $15 million to assist GreenField Ethanol with construction of an ethanol plant in Johnstown, Ontario.
According to GreenField Ethanol estimates, this new facility will remove an estimated 370 tonnes of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere each and every year and it is expected to remove 9.25 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over the life of the plant.
Shortly thereafter, the hon. was in Aldersyde, Alberta, representing the , where he announced that the federal government through the federal ecoagriculture biofuels capital initiative would contribute $638,000 to help build a biodiesel plant in that area.
For those who are not familiar with the ecoABC initiative, it is a federal $200 million four year program that provides repayable contributions for the contribution or expansion of transportation biofuel production facilities. It is designed to provide an opportunity for agricultural producers to diversify their economic base and participate in the biofuels industry through equity investment ownership in the biofuels production facilities.
These are but a few examples of the government taking action to reduce our dependence on greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuels and promoting a cleaner biofuels industry.
This is an exciting time for the biofuels industry. I expect, as demand for biofuels increases and as Canadians and industry adapt to this new product and technology, we will see a significant rise in the production of biofuels which will mean a huge financial boost to our farming community and, as I mentioned, a significant decrease in our greenhouse gas emissions.
Canada is not alone in turning to renewable fuels as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The United States has regulations requiring 4.7% renewable fuel content in gasoline and is moving to higher levels. The European Union has already set a 5.7% target to be reached by 2010.
This government has never claimed that its biofuel initiative will be the ultimate solution to reducing greenhouse gases linked to climate change. What we have said is that it is an important piece of that puzzle.
In addition to our actions on renewable fuels, these programs include eco-energy initiatives, the eco-transport strategy, the trust fund for clean air and climate change, and support for public transport. Each of these initiatives on its own will not achieve our desired objectives. However, together they will provide Canadians and our international partners with the kind of results that they had demanded and expected from the previous government but never received, which explains why Canada is presently at 33% above Kyoto targets.
In summary, the and all members of this government are committed to working on ways to lower carbon dioxide emissions in Canada. This bill is not only good news for our environment, it is also good news for our farmers who will benefit from this new market opportunity.
Farmers around the world are harnessing the potential of biofuel development and our new government is proud to help Canadian farmers lead the way. I am looking forward to having the support of all members opposite.
Mr. Speaker, Bill sets out to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act in an important way.
The bill, for Canadians who are watching or who will read the transcripts of this debate, is really about expanding the scope that the has to regulate fuels in Canada. In fact, the brief summary of the bill says that the entire bill is merely to provide for what they say is the efficient regulation of fuels and the new measures that it puts forward are administrative in nature and give the government more control on regulations.
For example, the government enhances its ability to regulate fuel produced in Canada that is to be exported. Regulations can be made regarding the blending of fuels, how we mix them and in what percentages, an obvious nod as we have heard to the expanding biofuel industry. It also expands the basis upon which a government can distinguish between different kinds of fuels. It is fundamentally a housekeeping bill. There is really nothing in the bill that will immediately affect any commercial interest or immediately require any fuel producer or vendor to do anything. It is a very preliminary step that will allow the government to regulate all kinds of fuel within the same regulatory regime.
From that perspective, it is an improvement over the current wording of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The official opposition supports the bill in principle and we look forward to discussing the merits and the parameters of any new regulations that will come from the bill when it gets to committee.
That being said, I would like to continue with my remarks in three separate ways. First, I would like to talk about the government's setting of a 5% ethanol standard in Canada. I would like to talk about the incoherence of that new target that is forthcoming with the changes the government is bringing about to the excise tax exemption. Finally, I would like to talk about how this fits, or does not fit, into a climate change plan which frankly has been completely discredited by all third party observers in Canada.
This morning we saw news reports that four major Canadian provinces, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, have decided to no longer wait for the federal government in terms of coming up with a coherent climate change plan. They are going to go it alone. They are looking at designing their own cap and trade system. They are looking at the potential of fungible trading, trading that can happen between Canada and Canadian provinces and American states, for example.
This is happening at a time when the government is bringing in a minor technical adjustment bill to allow for the regulation of new fuels, which is only a very small part of what should be a coherent national climate change response.
Let us talk about Bill and what it actually will do if the government is going to follow through, as the and the have both said, with a 5% national ethanol mandate by 2010.
First, the official opposition has been calling for a 10% ethanol position since last January when the challenged the government in a speech to Saskatchewan farmers in Regina to increase to 10% what had already been put forward in our election documentation of 2006 calling for a 5% ethanol content.
It is important for Canadians to know that all car manuals, in every car sold in Canada today, tells car owners that today they can in fact use a 10% ethanol content in their engines as they run their cars.
We know that if we had a 10% mandate in Canada as opposed to the weaker 5% put forward by the government, it would double the amount required to some four billion litres a year, a figure already surpassed in terms of those plants that are presently operating, under construction and being financed. When the and his speak about supporting our farming community, one has to ask the question, why is the government pursuing such an unambitious target of 5%?
In fact, in late June the former minister of agriculture labelled the call for 10% as “overly aggressive”, which the Canadian Report on Ruel Ethanol says is in itself an excessive term given that Ontario, the country's largest gasoline market, is already moving from an existing annual average E5 requirement to 10% starting in 2010. Why is the federal government lagging behind the province that consumes the largest amount of gasoline in the country? There is no explanation so far.
It is interesting to note as well that the Renewable Fuels Association that was quoted just moments ago by the parliamentary secretary is in fact driving for a 10% ethanol content. It says that since today all car manuals allow for 10% ethanol, this means that the government's legislation will allow for two years of the use of sub-environmental quality gasoline, that is, 5% ethanol, but two years later such blends have to be increased to at least match the level allowed for in 100% of all car manuals.
Thus, even the Renewable Fuels Association and its president Gord Quaiattini, who was just quoted by the parliamentary secretary, are opposed to the government's standard. Some consultation. Some leadership. All of this, of course, is in the context of the climate change plan.
Let us talk for a few minutes about the science behind ethanol and greenhouse gas reductions. Three or four colleagues have raised questions about the merits of one form of ethanol derived from one plant substance over another form of ethanol derived from yet another plant substance. Let us talk a bit about that.
I was quite astounded, in fact, to hear the tell the House that this is his bill but he is unable to speak about the environmental considerations that ought to be paramount with respect to what he is trying to accomplish here.
We know that the environmental impact of ethanol depends very much on the raw materials and the production process used to make it. Studies of corn based ethanol, which is the most common form in North America, vary in how much greenhouse gases can actually be reduced. Some studies say there can be a net positive effect, while other studies say there can be a net negative effect. It depends on how it is measured.
Berkeley University found that corn ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by about 13%, whereas another form of ethanol called cellulosic ethanol would produce about 85% fewer greenhouse gases than gasoline. That is 13% for corn and 85% for cellulosic ethanol. In terms of greenhouse gas emissions per mile driven, gas with 10% ethanol lowers emissions by 2% and E85 lowers emissions by 23% for corn based ethanol and 64% for cellulosic.
There are major concerns, realistic concerns, that heretofore we have not seen even mentioned by the government and we hope to see these debated in committee.
As we heard from the minister recently, the new demand for corn to produce ethanol is inflating corn prices, raising the price of both corn based products and other commodities that use corn as feed, such as beef, pork, and milk, for example. It raises the price of substitute crops, particularly as farmers switch to corn and produce less of the other crops. Some argue it could harm our exports of corn based or corn fed products. The proponents, those who favour corn based ethanol, say there is still a crop surplus carried over each year and that yields are growing.
Here is something else. We know that even small increases in grain costs harm poor people the most and could exacerbate world hunger. The often cited example is the price of tortillas in Mexico, which doubled in 2006, a year of record United States corn prices. Mexico gets 80% of its imported corn from the United States.
Here is another factor. Corn is energy and water intensive and is a highly polluting crop to grow. We have to be honest about this. It requires large amounts of fertilizer, pesticides and fuel to grow, harvest and dry, not to mention transport. It contributes to soil erosion and water pollution. It is a major cause of nitrogen runoff, which can create oxygen-starved dead zones in our water bodies, an extremely important issue for Canada.
Some people are concerned that the increased use of E85 as a motor fuel may lead to increased smog and health effects, but there I do not think the research is conclusive.
Sometimes when farmers rush to convert to or increase the production of corn or sugar cane or other crops for ethanol, there is a fear that the conversion of forests or wilderness to farmland will not only harm biodiversity but may negatively affect the net greenhouse gas reductions of ethanol use.
Even with major increases in ethanol production, ethanol is an expensive drop in the bucket in terms of reducing overall emissions. It is an expensive per tonne process to reduce our greenhouse gases. That is why cellulosic ethanol, which is often called second generation technology ethanol and uses waste material and switchgrass, et cetera, offers the real hope for significant reductions in GHG emissions.
Corn based ethanol has a net positive effect, I believe, but is not holding out the same promise. I think the government ought to be putting forward a policy where everything possible that can be done to direct the industry toward the next generation of ethanol development should happen if we really want the environmental benefits without as many drawbacks.
Yet there is another angle that deserves to be raised, and that is the incoherence between the government's purported 5% ethanol content regulation and what it is actually doing when it comes to taxation policy for these very fuels.
On April 1, just two months from now, the government will repeal the excise tax exemption for biodiesel and ethanol fuels. We know the effect of the repeal on low level blends is small, and maybe even minimal, but we know the additional taxes are substantial for higher blends. The price of what they call B50, for example, will increase by 2¢ a litre. The price of E85 will increase dramatically, by 8.5¢ a litre, hardly making the fuel competitive.
The tax increases come at a time when this early stage industry needs traction to establish a foothold in Canada's refueling market. There are 31 vehicle models today on the road in the Canadian market, 31 different kinds of vehicles that can use E85, but there are only two full-fledged E85 retail stations in the country compared to 1,200 in the United States.
Higher level blends are better for the environment than lower level blends. So what does the government do? It removes the tax subsidy, thereby driving up the cost of the substitute so that it is not competitive in the market at the retail stations and in fact pricing it over the $120 oil, as we have seen through analysis.
On this side of the House, we are really having a hard time reconciling how these two actually connect. In fact, we do not think they do at all. We think that the took a decision on this particular excise tax exemption without talking to his colleague, the , who obviously did not talk to his colleague, the , all of this in a government that purports to have a special cabinet committee where energy, environment and the economy come together. We are trying to figure out how they do come together.
My colleague, the member for , who is the official opposition critic for competitiveness and the new economy, has been raising this issue now for some months. It is falling on deaf ears with the government. He is trying to reconcile, for example, how a major company in his own riding or close to it, Cascadia Biofuels, has cancelled its plans to become the first retailer of E85 ethanol in B.C. because it is now going to be unaffordable to sell. What kind of market incentive are we creating?
In my own riding of Ottawa South, the largest single manufacturer of enzymes to produce cellulosic ethanol, Iogen Corporation, located just 30 or 40 blocks from here, is now getting very worried about the production processes and the ultimate costing of ethanol in Canada, more particularly in my home province of Ontario, where the provincial government in its wisdom set a 10% standard there as opposed to a meeker and less ambitious 5%.
For Canadians, all of this has to be seen in the context of climate change policy. Let us take a look, as the parliamentary secretary suggested, at the climate change policy of the government. Let us see where it is actually at today.
First of all, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change told the government, all parliamentarians and all Canadians that we need to contain temperature increases to between 2° and 2.4° if possible. We will only be able to do that, it says, if we stabilize emissions within 15 years and cut them in half by 2050. We have to stabilize in 15 years and cut emissions in half by 2050 or we play Russian roulette with the atmosphere. That is the choice. The IPCC has told us.
It reminds me of the old advertisement on television for FRAM oil filters. The first shot was of a mechanic standing at the window who was saying “you can pay me now for your oil filter”, while the next shot was the car being wheeled in, obviously broken down, with the mechanic saying “or you can pay me later”. This is what we are talking about when we talk about a functioning atmosphere: pay now or pay later.
The Stern review, conducted by the former chief economist at the World Bank on the economics of climate change, said that the costs of ignoring climate change would be 5% to 20% of GDP, more than the cost of two world wars and the Great Depression combined. In contrast, the cost of tackling the problem now can be limited to 1% of global GDP, if we act now.
The IPCC report also says there are already many effective low-cost options available to developed countries like Canada to reduce greenhouse gases: financial incentives, and we have just talked about one, the excise fuel tax; deploying existing technologies; tradeable permits and carbon credits, something missing from the government's climate change plan; renewable power investments, cut since the government came to power; and voluntary programs.
Here is another study. Just four months ago, McKinsey & Company, the largest and most respected management consulting firm in the world, showed that a great deal could be achieved in the fight against climate change without placing an undue burden on the economy if governments were to provide incentives for the development and deployment of green technologies. The study concludes that the annual worldwide costs for making the needed emissions reductions to avoid worse climate change is only 0.6% of that year's projected GDP in 2030.
I could go on. The litany of failure on the government's climate change plan has now been well detailed by the C.D. Howe Institute, Deutsche Bank, the Pembina Institute and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, the Conservative government's own board, have told the government its plan is baseless and will not achieve their targets in any way. In fact, not a single third party observer has put forward a shred of evidence to substantiate that its plan will work.
Once again, we see the government's incoherence. The , the and the do not speak to each other because they could not even get a basic policy straight as a subset of the climate change plan, a plan which has now been widely discredited throughout Canadian society.
Those are my remarks. I welcome any questions and comments from my colleagues.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak this evening to Bill to provide for the efficient regulation of fuels. It allows the minister to regulate the content of fuels. The Bloc Québécois is in favour of the principle of this bill. We obviously want to examine it in more detail in committee.
I am nonetheless surprised to hear the government this evening. It is as though it were presenting the seventh wonder of the world. This Conservative government thinks this bill represents a shiny new energy policy, agriculture policy, and greenhouse gas reduction policy, but it is nothing more than an administrative measure that addresses some of our concerns. That is why, as I was saying, we support the principle.
We want—and everyone agrees on this—to increasingly reduce our dependence on oil. Maybe some people do not want that, but we certainly do. We also want 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. Some hon. members have mentioned certain pilot plants as far as cellulose ethanol is concerned. An increasing number of projects are being implemented. During this speech I will take the opportunity to talk about what is going on in my region in particular. You will understand why when I do.
The government has already announced that it will implement a regulation requiring fuel to contain an average of 5% renewable fuels by 2010. Regulations will also require diesel and fuel-oil to contain an average of 2% renewable fuels by 2012. We know that the Government of Quebec intends to have gasoline contain 5% ethanol by 2012. It has invested $6.5 million in building two demonstration plants for cellulose ethanol production in the Eastern Townships, not far from my riding.
The cellulose ethanol process promotes the use of agricultural residues, such as straw, and forestry residues, such as wood chips, trees and fast growing grasses. This could be an excellent opportunity for the agricultural and forestry sectors, which desperately need additional sources of revenue.
Such a project is underway in the Bromptonville area, in Sherbrooke. I know the area well. Indeed, during my first election campaign, the former municipality of Bromptonville, which amalgamated with Sherbrooke, was in the Richmond—Arthabaska riding. The pilot plant or pilot project involved the Kruger forestry company, located in the area. The second project is still in the Eastern Townships, in Westbury, where the residues from table making are turned into ethanol. It is still in the early stages, but it is a path worth exploring further in terms of these kinds of projects.
The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food also had the opportunity to meet with the managers of an Ottawa-based business, Iogen Corporation. Some members have mentioned other plants elsewhere in Canada. These people built a pilot plant that has been producing cellulosic ethanol for a few years now. The process is not yet “profitable”, although I think it is a profitable venture anytime we do something to reduce our oil dependency. For now, this is very much still in the experimental stage, but this is a very promising new form of energy.
The biofuel industry is also becoming increasingly important. Moreover, under new regulations, some cattle farmers are left with specified risk materials, or SRMs, that are worth nothing at this time and they must pay to dispose of them. It would be beneficial for these farmers to be able to send these materials to biodiesel plants so they could be turned into fuel.
I know that the Fédération des producteurs de bovins du Québec is already asking the federal government for assistance to conduct a market study, at the very least, to determine whether constructing a biodiesel plant would be feasible. It would be a very good idea for the federal government to listen to the representations of the Fédération des producteurs de bovins du Québec regarding this issue. Indeed, a very profitable market could be developed. Of course, all animal oils, all animal product residues, could eventually be turned into biofuel.
Earlier I said that I would provide examples from my riding. My hometown is known as the cradle of sustainable development. This is even written on the signs. In my area, the late Normand Maurice was known as the father of recycling. Recycling started in Victoriaville, in central Quebec. We are very proud of that. The city is the cradle of sustainable development. We fulfilled our desire to take sustainable development even further by converting the city's 35 trucks to run on biodiesel. In Victoriaville, the foremen are already driving around in hybrids. This example gives an idea of the philosophy of my region. All the other vehicles run on ethanol fuel. Biodiesel comes from vegetable oils, animal fats and used frying oils.
In Victoriaville, the Centre de formation en entreprise et récupération, or CFER, was responsible for an interesting partnership. Normand Maurice, whom I mentioned earlier, created the CFERs in Quebec. In the beginning, there was only the one centre in Victoriaville. There are now 17 throughout Quebec. Young people with learning difficulties learn to work as part of a team in a plant. Now, CFERs are specialized in recycling all kinds of materials, including cellular phones or anything Hydro-Québec no longer uses, from wires to lamp posts. A recycled paint plant was even opened in Victoriaville. It belonged to the CFER, but is now independent. They are still together, but thanks to them, a whole new industry was developed. The CFER is what started all of this. Pioneers like Normand Maurice and Yves Couture, the current director of the CFER in Victoriaville, have made it possible for these young people to learn job skills, and most of them to find jobs. Of course, all the projects aim to promote public awareness about the importance of recycling.
In addition to the CFER, this project accommodates the Centre de formation Vision 20-20, which is a school, and Peinture récupérée du Québec, about which I have already spoken. Together, they decided to set up a used vegetable oil recovery and treatment project to produce biodiesel. At present, about ten Victoriaville restaurants provide the vegetable oil. We already have a pharmacy delivery vehicle that uses the biodiesel. The vehicle was modified and has a biodiesel reservoir. This entire project is branching out.
That is not all. Victoriaville is also home to the Institut national de la recherche scientifique, INRS, which is interested in the sludge from Victoriaville's water treatment plant. Apparently we have good sludge. I do not know much about the different qualities of sludge but one thing is for sure: the INRS believes that Victoriaville's sludge could be useful in the future. One day, it could be processed into biofuel. That is a scientific possibility. It could also be turned into biopesticides, detergent for the agriculture sector or paper mills, and microbial additives for treating wastewater from the agri-food sector, among others.
To close, I would like to point out that the INRS plans to open in Quebec City, in the near future, an agricultural, industrial and urban waste bioconversion laboratory that will be a pilot project. A small idea has taken off and I have only talked about what is happening in my riding. Every MP who has spoken has been able to give a few interesting examples of the strides taken in developing alternatives to traditional fuels. Everything I have spoken about can be found in Victoriaville's newspapers. The local media have kept the citizens informed. In my opinion, these are projects that could be replicated in other regions.
There are some very interesting possibilities with regard to the production of biofuels, but we still do not have large-scale production. As I mentioned, in many cases, things are still at the experimental stage. Unfortunately, we are still dependent on oil.
The Bloc Québécois put forward a plan to reduce our oil dependency. The government would do well to go along with our plan rather than believe that introducing an administrative bill will fix everything. The government should go along with this plan instead of giving mind-boggling tax cuts to big oil companies. If I am not mistaken, this year alone, the government gave $922 million to big oil companies that certainly do not need the money. Everyone knows this, so I will leave it at that.
I want to emphasize that Quebec could reduce its dependency on oil by half within 10 years. One way to reach that goal is to reduce the amount of oil used in gasoline. That is one way to reduce our oil dependency. However, we will not be able to reach that goal if the Conservative government continues to shoot down Quebec's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
As we all know, not long ago this government thought that the whole climate change issue was a socialist plot and that global warming was not really happening. Representatives of this government have been hard at work on the international scene sabotaging the efforts of countries that want to do what has to be done to reduce greenhouse gases.
Contrary to what we heard earlier, this bill will not solve the problem. We agree that we need much stricter solutions. For example, we could demand absolute targets, particularly for big oil companies. We could do the same for transportation. We could also set up a carbon exchange. There has been enough talk here and in the public arena to realize that while some countries are taking action, our government is, unfortunately, asleep at the wheel when it comes to environmental issues.
Among other things, the federal government should take action within its jurisdiction to table a bill requiring auto manufacturers to improve the fuel consumption of all road vehicles sold in Quebec by 20% within 10 years. That kind of bill would be interesting.
Unfortunately, Bill , which is currently before us, does not go that far. All it does is allow the minister to regulate the content of fuels.
The committee will have to look at this very closely to figure out exactly what the government is trying to accomplish with this bill. For example, we want to know if the government intends to copy our American neighbours' energy system development strategy.
It is important to understand that Canada will never be able to copy the United States, which heavily subsidizes its grain producers through the Farm Bill. The U.S. also heavily subsidizes ethanol plants. The American government pays 50¢ of the cost of producing a gallon of ethanol. If we do the math, we see that the U.S. is currently producing 12 billion gallons of ethanol, which means $6 billion in subsidies. The Americans' goal is to produce 36 billion gallons of ethanol in the relatively short term. Subsidies in the U.S. are staggering.
Clearly, Canada will not be able to go that route. We would like to know what the Conservative government's policy is on this. The minister did not make any mention of it in his speech this evening.
We need to know the federal government's real strategy for developing the energy system, if it has a policy. That remains to be seen.
To date, the government has talked a good game. Some steps are being taken—and we agree with them, of course—to promote certain biofuel plants. But as I said earlier, we will not give this government a blank cheque based on its environmental record. That is out of the question. This government's responsibility for the sustainability of agriculture in Canada will not disappear with this bill, even though it does promote the use of biofuels.
As I said, we need to be increasingly aware of new fuels. It is important to study all the environmental impacts of introducing and using biofuels. That is why it will be very interesting to hear the explanations and testimony in committee about the actions the government wants to take.