Update July 9: The Star reports that Premier McGuinty is rethinking a commitment to 10% ethanol fuel requirements.
Update July 5: The Guardian reports that an as-yet unpublished study by the World Bank concludes that the distortion of the world food market is a direct result of biofuels.
“Without the increase in biofuels, global wheat and maize stocks would not have declined appreciably and price increases due to other factors would have been moderate,” says the report. The basket of food prices examined in the study rose by 140% between 2002 and this February. The report estimates that higher energy and fertiliser prices accounted for an increase of only 15%, while biofuels have been responsible for a 75% jump over that period.
[End of update]
The agenda for the Commission meeting on July 10 includes a report extending the upset dollar limit on the TTC’s current contract with Suncor Energy Products for Bio-Diesel fuel. The TTC has locked in its current fuel price only until the end of December 2008, but the contract runs through 2009.
TTC staff is concerned that a price locked-in during the current market may be unreasonably high and that better pricing may be available on the spot market. This sort of discussion is common in TTC fuel purchase arrangements, and staff juggles things around to ensure the best ongoing price for the system’s needs.
The current price paid by TTC is $0.8752 per litre while the market price today is $1.46 for 95% No. 1 Ultra Low Sulphur diesel plus 5% virgin vegetable oil (soybean).
The fascinating comment comes at the end of the report:
While the recommended amendment value is based on the purchase of bio-fuel, staff is currently reviewing the value of the continued use of bio-fuel in consideration of the $1.5M to $2.0M premium in the cost of bio-fuel versus the actual environmental benefits as well as the impact that the use of bio-fuel is having on food prices and availability. As a result, there is the possibility that the Commission may not purchase bio-fuel for 2009.
I may sound like an environmental curmudgeon, but I’ve always felt biofuels were designed more to comfort Agribusiness than have any real benefit for the environment. Transit’s environmental impact comes from reducing the demand for auto travel and supporting an urban form with dense populations.
Recently, we have seen the controversy over the impact of biofuels on food prices. Yes, there are different sources for the “bio” additive and some use products that would otherwise go to waste. If only that were the criteron for “bio” fuel being truly green, then the issues would be much clearer.
Meanwhile, a TTC decision to move away from biofuels may not have much effect on the price of soybeans, but it’s a step in having transit concentrate on what it does best — get people out of their cars.