It is now clear that the federal corn ethanol mandate has driven up food prices, strained agricultural markets, increased competition for arable land and promoted conversion of uncultivated land to grow crops. In addition, previous estimates have dramatically underestimated corn ethanol's greenhouse gas emissions by failing to account for changes in land use.
Adapted from the report's introduction:
"Environmental groups Earth Track and Friends of the Earth just put out a study quantifying biofuels subsidies through 2022, as the U.S. plans to massively increase production of biofuels. The upshot? The cost to taxpayers would be about $420 billion over that period, or an average of about $28 billion a year."
According to government data commissioned by the GSI, China provided a total of RMB 780 million (US$ 115 million, roughly US$ 0.40 a litre) in biofuel subsidies in 2006. These comprised support for ethanol in the form of direct output-linked subsidies paid to the five licensed producers, as well as tax exemptions and low-interest loans for capital investment. Further support is provided through mandatory consumption of ethanol-blended fuel in ten provinces (a ten per cent blend with gasoline, E10).
This study aims to reduce this complex debate to two simple questions: how much money are Canadian federal and provincial governments spending to support liquid biofuels—fuel-grade ethanol and biodiesel—and does it represent good value-for-money to Canadian taxpayers?
It is one of a series of reports undertaken by the Global Subsidies Initiative (GSI) of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) examining government support for biofuels in selected countries.