Opportunity Knocks, But Who Will Answer?

A recent survey of Canadians shows that 85 percent of those surveyed have a favorable impression of the national renewable fuels industry and 88 percent support the government doing more to promote renewable fuels, according to Andrea Kent of CRFA.
By Andrea Kent | June 11, 2015

Climate change is one of the defining challenges of the 21st century. And it's especially tough because it isn't just a scientific concern or activist cause or industrial issue. Climate change is a global problem that brings to light serious environmental and economic challenges. 

CRFA recently conducted a national survey of 1,750 Canadians. The gross majority (79 percent) of people polled believe that climate change is happening and is caused by human activity. And more than half (61 percent) of respondents said they want more government action to fight climate change.  

With Canada’s next federal election later this year, environmental policy is poised to become a sword or a shield for politicians.

As it stands, Canada does not have a sterling reputation on the environment. A recent report prepared by Environment Canada suggested Canada has little hope of meeting its international commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. As I write this, Canada’s post-2020 targets, and those of many provinces have not been released. The only thing that is known going into the fall federal election is that climate change will continue to be a political issue or an opportunity.

Enter, renewable fuels. Despite the criticism on Canada’s progress on greenhouse gas reductions, using biofuel in our fuel mix removes 4.2 megatons of carbon from Canada’s environment annually. This is the equivalent to removing 1 million cars from our roads every year. It’s hard to imagine reaching any reduction targets without renewable fuels, let alone the ambitious standards being called for internationally and by some here at home. Biofuels are an easy fix for any government looking for efficient, low-cost pathways to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Investing in renewable fuel infrastructure and making higher-level ethanol blends available to consumers at the pump is the best way to achieve even greater emissions reductions from the transportation sector.

Those on the campaign trail should also know that Canada is home to well-established federal and provincial biofuels policies. This spans the federal mandates announced in 2007 to the more recent Greener Diesel Mandate in Ontario. Of those surveyed about one-third (35 percent) were aware of Canada’s ethanol mandate. However, when told about the impact of the mandate, 31 percent said their impression of the government’s record on climate change improved. By comparison, only a fraction (6 percent) said their impression was negative. And there’s more:

• 85 percent of Canadians have a favorable impression of  Canada’s renewable fuels industry.

• Support for the Government of Canada doing more to  promote renewable fuels was high across the country (88 percent).

• Almost all Canadians (91 percent) have heard of ethanol before the survey, and most Canadians (64 percent) support the federal ethanol mandate.

• Eight in 10 Canadians believe that renewable fuels are innovative, sustainable, clean, and efficient products that they need, which help create great jobs that are good for their province.

• The majority (61 percent) of Canadians want the federal government to do more to deal with climate change.

It all goes to show what our industry, and our champions in public office, have known from the beginning: Supporting renewable fuels has many upsides, and few downsides. The upcoming federal election presents an opportunity for politicians and voters alike. Opportunity is knocking, let’s hope we are all ready to answer.   

Author: Andrea Kent
Canadian Renewable Fuels Association