On July 1, 2011, a new federal mandate came into effect: on average, two per cent of all diesel fuel sold in Canada must be biodiesel, a fuel made from renewable resources.
That’s generally used restaurant grease, rendered animal fat, or soybean or canola oil, according to Gordon Quaiattini, past-president of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association.
“In all of the off- and on-road demonstrations since 2008, biodiesel has been overwhelmingly successful in all kinds of the wonderful Canadian climate that we can be subjected to,” he says.
Depending on what “feedstock” (organic material) is used to make it, the overall greenhouse gas emissions are 85 to 99 per cent lower than petroleum-based diesel, Quaiattini says, when calculated from the initial feedstock production to what comes out the tailpipe.
Growing crops to produce biodiesel doesn’t interfere with food sources and will be beneficial to farmers, Quaiattini says.
“Eighty per cent of all canola that we grow is exported. That’s great for canola farmers, but at times they have been open to the (vagueness) of trade policies. We do almost no value-added processing in Canada.
“We have 5 to 7 million acres of cropland that sits fallow every year and have had some serious challenges, especially in the grain factor, where farmers were selling it below the cost of production. We have more than enough agricultural land for food and fuel.”
Biodiesel differs from ethanol, a gasoline substitute made primarily from corn in Canada, in several respects.
Biodiesel is made from fat or vegetable oil, while ethanol is derived from the sugar in plants. Biodiesel has the same energy density as diesel, while ethanol has only one-third the energy of gasoline.
Because of this, and ethanol’s corrosive properties, high-ethanol blends can only be used in special “flexible-fuel” engines, while most diesel engines can burn higher biofuel blends.
The low initial two per cent mandate is primarily to protect and build Canada’s biofuel industry, which is still in its infancy: a higher blend requirement could have forced oil companies to source their biodiesel from the U.S.