© AgMedia Inc.
by SARAH McGOLDRICK
The need for collaboration between agriculture and government was one of the key points raised at a green energy conference held in London earlier this week.
“Some ministries were not aware of how other ministries were treating energy,” says the event’s committee co-chair Mike Bouk of Agriculture Energy Cooperative in Guelph. (The cooperative provides energy products and services to members). “There has to be a national strategy for energy.”
Bouk says generating energy from biomass would have a role to play in such a strategy. Biomass includes living and recently dead biological material that can be used for fuel of industrial production such as fibers, chemicals or heat.
“We want to make use of Ontario's decision to move from coal fire to biomass,” he says. “It can create more farm income and create a biomass infrastructure.”
He points out that biomass technology is used all over the world. In Holland and Austria it’s being used to produce ethanol, biodiesel and electricity.
He says $8.7 million in federal funding announced in March could be used to help establish the infrastructure. Distributed over three years, the funding is intended to assist with the development of technologies to increase the industrial value of crops.
Don McCabe, vice president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, attended the meeting and says the need for public education to foster a broader understanding of biomass’ potential was another point raised. He says issues such as whether agricultural land should be used to produce food or fuel have hindered the province’s adoption of biomass as an energy source.
“We are not using things which are part of the food chain,” for biomass, says McCabe, noting spoiled grain or hay can be used for energy and does not affect the human or animal food supply. Farmers produce higher yields than they did in the 1950s and there is room in agriculture for biomass production, he adds.
Held April 26 and 27, the Green Energy – Policies and Priorities Conference examined ways farmers could use biomass to produce energy and fuel in the emerging green energy market and for Ontario to become a leader in biomass energy. Richard Ivey School of Business' Lawrence National Centre for Policy and Management hosted the event.
McCabe says proceeds from the conference may be used to form a lobbying document to persuade governments about the merits of biomass energy production. “When we bring this level of expertise together there is some opportunity to get things done and done right.”
He says such conferences help remove the barriers which continue to prevent green energy from becoming an economic driver in the agriculture industry. BF