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Posted on  

February 24, 2003

New ethanol study may muffle critics

WINNIPEG -- Ethanol fuel produces half the greenhouse gas emissions of gasoline and produces more energy than it uses, says a new study that could muffle some of the alternative fuel's critics.

Manitoba Agriculture Minister Rosann Wowchuk was expected to release the study today at the GrainWorld, a yearly conference sponsored by the Canadian Wheat Board.

Natural Resources Canada commissioned the study, done by British Columbia consultants. The department wanted information to help decide if ethanol could help Canada meet Kyoto accord targets for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions believed to be responsible for global climate change.

Transportation is the single largest source of Canada's emissions, accounting for more than a quarter of the total. This month's federal budget mentioned ethanol would be considered for a share of $2 billion set aside to implement Canada's climate change plan.

The Manitoba government is considering forcing drivers to fill up on a blend of 90% gasoline and 10% ethanol.

A fuel made entirely of ethanol from Manitoba wheat generates 50% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline, the study found.

Ethanol from Ontario corn comes close at 48% because corn takes less fertilizer to grow, but ethanol from Saskatchewan wheat produces only a 43% benefit, the study says.

The greater benefit in Manitoba is because renewable hydroelectricity is used to run ethanol plants.

However, a fuel with just 10% ethanol produces only five per cent fewer emissions.

Manitoba and Saskatchewan are competing to become exporters of ethanol fuel to the rest of the country.

The study also challenges the claim that it takes more energy to create ethanol than it produces when burned to run cars.

The Natural Resources report found 1.45 units of energy are produced by burning wheat-based ethanol for every unit of energy used in its production. Corn does slightly better with a ratio of 1.53 to one.

A 2.5-cent-a-litre Manitoba tax subsidy could cost $30 million a year if all drivers in the province were forced to use gasohol, but the provincial government is hoping Ottawa will kick in.

To produce enough ethanol for a 10% mandate, Manitoba would have to expand production 14-fold compared to what comes out of Minnedosa's Husky plant now.  

 

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