Connection: gas tanks and dinner table

Sandra Finley is the Leader of the Green Party of SK, an entity much different from the Green Party of Canada.  This is her take on some recent announcements and propaganda as well as a letter to a Con MP by Marc Loiselle and an excellent piece by Darrin Qualman, the Director of Research for the NFU.

Subject: Connection: gas tanks and dinner table socjust
Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2007 13:49:14 -0600
From: Sandra Finley <xxxx@xxxxxxxx>
To: xxxx@xxxxxxx

In "health" we have fought the increase in pesticide use brought about by
the introduction of gmo crops.  Now, the Government is providing hundreds of
millions of dollars to help develop the production of crops for "biofuels".
The economics, etc. don't support it.  But another concern of mine is that
as cropland is turned over to fuel production, we will have more and more
gmo crops.  Because people won't follow what's happening if the crops are
destined for our gas tanks and not dinner tables. ... /S

Many thanks to Marc Loiselle for his letter to Member-of-Parliament, Brad
Brad is also my MP. I received the same letter that prompted Marc to "set
the record straight".

Marc used the excellent analysis provided by Darrin Qualman (below -
claim  "Biofuels:  A Win-Win Situation".  (Unfortunately the MP's article
isn't yet posted on his web-site.  And I don't have time
to type it from hard copy for you.)

I left a message for Conservative MP Carol Skelton and talked with the
office of Conservative MP, Lynn Yelich.  I don't know if the letters to
their constituents contain the same article used by Brad Trost.  I hope not
and have forwarded this email to both Carol and Lynn.  We have bad decisions
when people, MP's and others, are poorly informed and thereby voiceless.

*** IMPORTANT:  in smaller print at bottom of his mail-out, Brad Trost, MP
cites his source
  "Statistics from:  Canola Council of Canada ".


Our work on the opposition to Monsanto's gene-altered
"spray-chemicals-on-it-and-it-won't-die" wheat led us to the Monsanto vrs
Percy Schmeiser Supreme Court case.   One of the questions addressed was:
why would a "farmer organization" (the Canola Council) be an intervener in
the Supreme Court on the side of Monsanto?  why wouldn't they be on the side
of Schmeiser?

What we found is that the Canola Council is a "bought" organization.  The
buyer is Monsanto.  Some memories will be twigged by the example of Ed
Sirski from Manitoba, one of the farmer Directors of the Canola Council.  He
and his wife were wined and dined on a free trip to Spain.  At the time we
provided other examples of other "boughts".

The Canola Council IS Monsanto. The glossy Canola magazines are industry
propaganda.  Paule Hjertaas submitted an analysis of an article in the
Canola Digest.  The article manipulated the research to proclaim to farm
families that they are not at risk from exposure to chemicals.  Paule showed
how the reporting of the research was manipulated.  In spite of letters to
the Board of Directors they wouldn't, of course, print her analysis for
their farm readers.

It is Monsanto's herbicide-tolerant canola that heavily impacted overseas
markets for Canadian canola.  But hey!  we can use it for mass production of
bio-diesel. ... It can happen ONLY IF we citizens do not have INFORMED
DEBATE and SOLID INFORMATION on the actual economics of the biofuels.  They
can proceed IF all we receive is the industry propaganda.  How convenient
for the industry to have the Government doing that job for them.  (How
fortunate for us that we have the analysis by Darrin Qualman below, and the
internet to access more information!)

We have gone through the long list of examples from the public record of
just how corrupt Monsanto is.

Now here we have this Member-of-Parliament pumping out the virtues of
biodiesel.  Biodiesel is made from "oilseeds such as canola".  Monsanto's
gmo canola.

There are many UNBIASED sources of information - Darrin Qualman has nothing
to gain financially from his consideration and analysis of the economics and
trade-offs related to biofuels.  I EXPECT BETTER than that the "information"
distributed by my MP is based on "Statistics" from the Canola Council

God help us if the decisions of Government, all the money they are now
pouring into the development of biofuels, is based on  "Statistics from:
Canola Council of Canada " .  From Brad Trost's
newsletter:  "The Conservative government has allocated $345 million to help
farmers & rural communities take advantage of new opportunities to produce
biofuels, biofibres and biopharmaceuticals."

I urge you all to follow the lead of Marc Loiselle.  Talk to your elected
representatives.  They are taking us onto a band-wagon headed for oblivion.
We are BADLY in need of informed decision-making by Governments, decisions
that are not based on industry propaganda and corporate interest.

Best wishes,


SENT TO:  Stephen Harper;Clements, Tony. Min.Health; G.Breitkreuz, MP; NDP
Caucus; Nilson,J. Min.Env.; Parti Vert/Green Party-info.; Peter Prebble,
MLA; Saskatchewan Environmental Society; Serby,Clay, Min. Rural Dev; SK
Party Caucus; Skelton, C. Min. WD; Taylor, L. Min. Health; NFU; Mark Wartman
Min.Ag; Sandra Finley, SK Green Party

Mr. Trost,

I read with disgust your cover page on Biofuels in you latest newsletter
sent to constituents. You and your government have been swindled into
believing that biofuels are a panacea for the agricultural sector and for
the environment. The truth is just the opposite and the money you have
allocated, $345million will only be money in the pocket of the biofuels
developers, not to farmers!

The perceived benefits of biofuels are offset by the actual energy necessary
to produce them. We need to look at the whole picture, which includes what
it takes to get a final product; not just at the so-called benefits.

This investment would have been much better spent on sustainable organic
agriculture across Canada and adding back to provide more publically funded
agricultural research instead of handing it to large corporate and
multinational interests who don't have the best interests of Canadian
citizens in mind, only those of their shareholders.

I invite you to please read the following document authored by Darrin
Qualman, a leading researcher in Saskatoon. (document is also attached file)
He explains in layperson terms, what the actual situation is with biofuels;
something sorely lacking or purposefully avoided by proponents and
mainstream media.
Taking an excerpt from Mr. Qualman: "Ethanol is bad physics, bad biology,
and bad policy..."

Expecting better from government!


Marc Loiselle


The following represents the opinions of NFU Director of Research Darrin
Qualman and is presented for information only.  It does not necessarily
represent the policy of the National Farmers Union.  Your comments are

            It is hard to convey just how powerful, convenient, unique, and
irreplaceable petroleum is.  Oil is hyper-concentrated energy available, in
many places, for the pumping.  It is relatively stable and transportable—you
can carry it in a bucket. With a bit of refining, it can be poured into weed
wackers and luxury jets; it can run factories and cargo ships.  It is the
energy windfall equivalent of a thousand lottery wins.  It has created the
largest and most luxurious civilization the world has ever known.  There is
nothing else like it on Earth, and there never will be again.

                Biofuels—ethanol and biodiesel—offer only a fraction of the
energy that petroleum does.  More precisely, they offer only a fraction of
the energy surplus—energy not required to be put back into the system to get
more energy, energy you can use to support other aspects of our
civilization.  Any move from an oil-fueled economy/civilization to one run
on bio-fuels would require a radical downsizing and restructuring, because
bio-fuels are dramatically less “powerful” than oil.

                The preceding is true if you accept the well-founded but
necessarily pessimistic energy balance calculations of David Pimental or Tad
Patzek, but equally true if you accept the optimistic energy balance
calculations put forward by biofuel proponents.  This point bears repeating:
The problem with biofuels is not just that their energy balance is less than
one (that it takes more energy to create them than they eventually yield),
the problem is that even if you accept industry claims of energy balances
greater than one, biofuels yield only a fraction of the surplus energy that
petroleum does.  Planting the entire planet to biofuels would yield only a
tiny fraction of the energy we use today.  Biofuels cannot replace
petroleum; they are not a sufficiently powerful energy source to fuel our
current version of civilization*—not even remotely close.

                There are many claims that the energy balances for biodiesel
and ethanol are “positive”—more accurately, claims that the energy balances
are greater than one.  Just for the sake of this article, let’s accept for a
moment that the energy balance for ethanol is 1.5 units of energy out for
every unit in ( ) and the energy balance for biodiesel is
2 units of energy out for every unit in (  )  (Both these
figures ignore “externalities” such as resource and water and topsoil
depletion, but externalities also exist for petroleum production.)

            If biofuels’ energy balance is 1.5 or 2 units of energy out for
every unit in, then if you put the equivalent of ten barrels worth of
biofuels energy into the biofuels production system, you end up with 15 to
20—a net gain of 1.5  to 2 times the original investment.  That’s what the
energy balance number means: a balance of 1.5:1 or 2:1 means you get out 1½
or 2 times more energy out than you put in.

            But if you have ten barrels of oil and you put them into oil
production, you can produce anywhere from 50 to 100 barrels of oil,
depending on where production takes place and under what conditions
(tarsands production exempted from the preceding statement).
                With oil, it’s approximately one or two barrels in: ten
barrels out.  With biofuels, it’s approximately five to eight barrels in:
ten barrels out.

                These ratios mean that if you have ten barrels of oil, you
only need to set one or two aside to get ten more barrels; the other eight
or nine surplus barrels can be used to fly aircraft, build cities, fuel
automobiles, wage wars, etc.  But if you have ten barrels of biofuel, you
need to set aside five to eight to get ten more barrels.  You only have two
to five “surplus” barrels to fuel the other projects of civilization.  In a
biofuel system, the majority of your energy supply is required for energy

                Any proposed transition of our economy/civilization from oil
to biofuels would mean a transition from an energy source that yields a 500%
to 1000% gain on energy invested to one that yields a 50% to 100% gain (at
best, and probably less than 0% if the many scientists who calculate
biofuels’ energy balances at less than one are correct).  The impoverishing
effects on our energy-dependant, growth-based economy and civilization are
easily predictable.

                Running a civilization on oil is like running a farm with a
very efficient pony: for every ten bushels of oats you and the pony grow,
the pony eats one or two; you have lots of oats left over to sell and lots
of surplus money to re-invest in expanding other aspects of the farm.  But
running a civilization on biodiesel or ethanol is like farming with a lazy,
hungry pony—it eats most of the oats it helps to grow.  You have little
surplus to re-invest in other areas.  Your farm is not nearly as prosperous
or fast-growing.  In fact, if the surplus oats is not enough to feed you and
your family and to sell to cover the other bills, the farm may have to

                Biodiesel and ethanol are not sufficiently rich energy
sources to support the kind of civilization we are now running—the western
car culture of leisure, luxury, and privilege.

            Over and above the problem of whether biofuels could
theoretically yield enough surplus energy to underpin our economy, there is
a second problem: in absolute terms, there will never be enough  biofuel to
support current energy consumption levels.  Global oilseed production
(canola, soybeans, etc.) is about 400 million tonnes annually.  At 60
gallons of biodiesel per tonne of soybeans, turning the entire global supply
of soybeans into biodiesel would yield 24 billion gallons per year.  That’s
about 1/6 of the 150 billion+ gallons of diesel fuel consumed each year in
the world.  Turning the world’s entire corn and wheat crops into ethanol
would similarly supply less than a third of the world’s gasoline needs.

                Thus, converting the world’s entire food supply to biofuels
might supply us with 20% or 30% of our fuel needs (again, accepting the very
optimistic energy balance numbers put forward by promoters).  More
realistically, we could, at most, turn 10% of our land over to fuel
production—yielding, at best, 2% or 3% of our liquid fuel needs.  And the
reality may be even worse: If the biofuels production system were actually
fuelled totally by biofuels, we wouldn’t even have this small fraction
available to run trucks and cars: we’d have to put well over half the
biofuels back into the energy production system to produce more.  Thus, that
2% or 3% would really be just 1% or 1.5%.  Biofuels are irrelevant.  These
small percentages make biofuels largely irrelevant.

            Further, we may not even be able to access that 1% or 1.5%.  We
are in a food-supply drawdown; in six of the last seven years, humans
worldwide consumed more grains and oilseeds than we produced.  We are in the
fastest food-supply drawdown recorded in the 45-year data.  The world’s
cropland area has been static or declining for a decade.  And we are adding
the equivalent of a North American population every six years.  Given
declining food supplies and a static landbase, it is hard to believe that we
can solve our current hunger problems and feed an additional 2.5 billion
people and fuel a global proliferation of the SUV culture.  We should
consider the possibility that we may be heading toward food supply
challenges, and that there may be no “surplus” land available to produce
biodiesel and ethanol.

            Finally, there is the question of greenhouse gas emissions.
This issue is complex and potentially confusing, but consider the pony-oats
analogy again.  Imagine a pony that ate all the oats it helped produce.  It
could produce and consume for 20 years and never yield any surplus oats.  In
energy balance terms, this is equivalent to an energy balance of 1—the
energy (oats) in equals the energy (oats) out, and there is no surplus.

                Similarly, if you had an ethanol system with an energy
balance of 1.0, you could run it round and round, year after year, making
and burning ethanol (or burning the ethanol-energy-equivalent in diesel fuel
and natural gas), and creating no surplus energy.  The greenhouse gas
emissions (from fertilizer plants, farm tractors, etc.) would mount, but you
’d never succeed in fueling an automobile even a single mile because you’d
never generate any surplus ethanol to put into that car.  In this scenario,
the greenhouse gas emissions for ethanol would be infinitely greater than
for gasoline.

            Now, consider a situation wherein the ethanol energy balance is
1.5:1.  If you burnt the energy equivalent of one unit of ethanol in the
ethanol production system, you’d get 1.5 units of energy out.  Of those 1.5
units, you’d have 0.5 units surplus, and you’d put the other 1.0 unit back
into the system and burn it, yielding the next 1.5 units—another surplus of
0.5.  Now you’d have accumulated a total surplus of one unit (0.5 units plus
0.5 units); but you have already burned two units getting that one.  And,
when you burn the 1 surplus unit in the car, your total will be three units
burned: 1 in the car and two in the field and refinery.  For comparison—on
basis comparable to the 3 units of ethanol burned and emissions
produced—simply burning gasoline would yield about 1.25 units of
emissions—one unit burned in the car and 0.25 burned in getting the oil and
refining the gasoline.  For an energy balance of 1.5:1, for a given mile
driven by a given car, burning ethanol creates over twice the emissions that
burning gasoline creates.

                Let’s forget the preceding for a moment.  Let’s accept what
the proponents of biofuels claim: that the use of biofuels reduces
greenhouse gas emissions.  We could ask: By how much?  Moving, over the next
five years, to a 5% ethanol blend in Canada will result in little or no
reduction in actual gasoline burning because total motor fuel use will
probably continue to increase at about 1% per year as it has.  Thus, five
years from now, even as we add ethanol to the mix, we’ll be burning the same
amount of gasoline we are now; plus we’ll be burning about 5% as much again
in the form of ethanol—a fuel that, according to proponents, generates only
slightly fewer greenhouse gases (and according to many credible sources
produces more).  Even as we move to adopt biofuels, we are increasing our
greenhouse gas emissions from oil-based motorfuels.  The widespread adoption
of biofuels, seemingly Canada’s only significant current  initiative to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions, will not even begin to tackle the problem.
And by some analyses, such a move makes the problem far worse.

                Investing massively in ethanol and biodiesel production may
turn out to be the greatest public policy mistake in a generation.  As
energy sources, even accepting the rosy calculations of proponents, they
will never be sufficiently powerful or abundant to replace more than a tiny
fraction of petroleum.  And for that fraction they do replace, they may well
increase greenhouse gas emissions and speed global warming.

                The fervour with which policymakers, the media, and the
public have fastened onto ethanol and biodiesel may simply be a reflection
of our fear.  We fear what an oil-limited and a climate-change-constrained
future may hold for our experiment in economic and energy-use hyper-growth.
Our focus on ethanol and biodiesel, like similar attention being paid to
hydrogen, may simply be a way of ignoring biophysical limits and pretending
that we can double and re-double the size of our global economy and the rate
at which we use resources.  The dominant belief still seems to be that each
generation will be better off than the previous one, and that 9 billion
people can eventually come to live like Toronto suburbanites.  As we plow
into problems created by trying to fuel our castle-in-the-sky civilization
on oil, we are now casting around for other solutions, telling ourselves we
can fuel it by burning food.

                One last thing needs to be said, however: This isn’t all bad
news for farmers.  Clearly, incinerating the world’s food supply in
ever-more-numerous SUVs has the potential to create shortages and to drive
up grain prices.  The current grain supply drawdown began eight years ago,
before the advent of significant ethanol or biodiesel production.  But
biofuel production (coming as it does at a time when grain supplies are
touching a thirty-year low and coupled with the reality that we’re adding
the equivalent of two-and-a-half Canada’s each year to global population)
has the capacity to trigger short term grain shortages that could lead to
grain prices doubling, as they did in the mid-’70s and mid-’90s.  Ethanol is
bad physics, bad biology, and bad policy, but the publicly subsidized
vaporization of food stocks can be good for farmers.  Despite valid concerns
about energy balances or greenhouse gas emissions, the biofuels project will
proceed and accelerate.  And with or without ethanol or biodiesel, there are
almost certainly higher grain prices ahead for farmers. nfu

 *          Our current industrial civilization and its growth-based economy
has its detractors.  This article won’t examine whether continued production
and use of “Hummers”, either as assault or commuter vehicles, is in the best
interests of the biosphere or the global population.  What this article will
do is to analyze the question of whether an automobile-based, industrial
economy could be significantly fuelled by biofuels.  Can ethanol and
biodiesel even partially sustain the status quo?
<!--[if !vml]--><!--[endif]--> Food is energy (and vice versa)

Modern, industrial agriculture turns fossil fuels into food.  Nitrogen
fertilizer is synthesized directly from natural gas.  Humans are now
producing so much nitrogen from fossil fuels that we have doubled the amount
of nitrogen cycling in our biosphere.

 The very high energy content of our food prompted one NFU member to quip
that biofuels are a way of “turning energy into food into energy.”  This
observation has some merit.  Biofuels are a project wherein we channel part
of our energy-augmented food supply into creating a food-augmented energy

Marc & Anita Loiselle
*Loiselle Organic Family Farm*
'Holistic Stewardship for Abundant Life'
Certified Organic since 1985
Championing Red Fife Wheat
*Ferme Biologique Familiale Loiselle*
'Intendance Holistique pour la Vie Abondante'
Certifié Biologique depuis 1985
Champions du blé Red Fife

Celebrating a century of family farming 1906 - 2006
Le centenaire de notre ferme familiale 1906 - 2006

P.O. Box 25
Vonda, Saskatchewan
S0K 4N0
tel: 306-258-2192
fax: 306-258-2169

Farmer of the Year award – 2007
Organic Crop Improvement Association, Int.

Marc Loiselle - board of directors Chairperson,
Prairie Red Fife Organic Growers Cooperative Ltd.

Marc & Anita Loiselle
Worldwide Marriage Encounter provincial registration contact couple
A WWME Weekend is a gift you give each other and a wonderful affirming love
and life enhancing event. We believe every married couple deserves this

Marc Loiselle
Communications & Research Director,
Organic Agriculture Protection Fund (OAPF),
‘To preserve and protect certified organic food and fibre production’
directeur des communications et recherche,
Fonds de Protection de l'Agriculture Biologique (FPAB),
‘Pour protéger et préserver la production d’aliments certifié biologique’
Saskatchewan Organic Directorate (SOD)

“Biotechnology and GM crops are taking us down a dangerous road, creating
the classic conditions for hunger, poverty and even famine. Ownership and
control concentrated in too few hands and a food supply based on too few
varieties planted widely are the worst option for food security.” Christian

“La planète est le bien commun de l’humanité. En prendre soin donne un sens
à la vie” SOS-Planète

Email from:
Sandra Finley, Saskatoon
Email network started in year 2000
Joined Green Party in May 2006
Leader, Green Party of Saskatchewan, Oct 2006

5 thoughts on “Connection: gas tanks and dinner table

  1. It is a decent sized font in my browser window.

    And, as Leader of the Greens in SK, Sandra wants her name “out there.”

    Why are you boys being so bossy? 😛

  2. I’m not bossy! Just do what I say! j/k

    I didn’t look at the names actually. I just saw you took out the info at the top and left the stuff at the bottom. I was trying to be helpful, jeeze.

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