More corn in your car

Manitoba first province to mandate use of biofuel

Manitobans will soon be pumping two per cent biofuel into their tanks every time they fill up. Cindy Titus

Manitoba will soon be the first province in Canada to have mandated the use of biodiesel. As of Nov. 1, all fuel sold in Manitoba will be required to contain two per cent biodiesel.

Energy minister Jim Rondeau said this new mandate will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 56,000 tonnes, which is like taking 11,000 cars off the road annually.

“The gain on biodiesel is about five to seven times higher energy input versus output,” said Rondeau.

Concerns have been raised by many that the use of food crops could result in higher prices in grocery stores. When asked if this would be the case Rondeau said, “Of course not.”

“Biodiesel manufacturers are using off-grade canola which can still be used as feed for livestock once the oils have been removed,” he said.

There are also byproducts that can be made from biodiesel production. One byproduct, glycerol, can be converted into a natural gas through a process called anaerobic digestion, said Nazim Cicek, associate professor in the biosystems engineering department at the University of Manitoba. This can in turn be harnessed to heat the very plants that are manufacturing biodiesel.

Though Cicek works with the byproducts of biodiesel production, he is not in favour of using food crops for fuel.

“I would much rather use waste products,” he said.

Cicek said there is a benefit for manufacturers to use waste products in the making of biodiesel, such as deep fryer grease. Approximately 80 per cent of the value of biodiesel made from food-based crops will go towards paying the farmers. Waste products can be obtained for little to no cost, since the fryer companies are trying to get rid of it anyway, Cicek said.

When asked about the research into using waste sources for biodiesel production, Rondeau said, “I’m pretty sure we’re the ones paying for that research. We’re funding a whole bunch of new renewable energy sources.”

The Manitoba government plans to continue seeking out alternative energy sources such as a possible bio-reactor landfill that has been proposed for the Brady landfill, which could be used to provide heat to all of Waverly West.

Published in Volume 64, Number 6 of The Uniter (October 8, 2009)

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