Last October, the federal government announced a federal carbon-pricing backstop for Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Saskatchewan – four provinces without carbon pollution pricing in place deemed acceptable by Ottawa.
The national goal was to reduce emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by the year 2030, and it was up to the provinces and territories to figure out how. They could either put a direct price on carbon pollution or adopt a cap-and-trade system. For the direct cost option, the price would start at a minimum of $10 per tonne in 2018 and rise by $10 per year to reach $50 per tonne in 2022. For the cap-and-trade option, the number of greenhouse gas emission permits for businesses would be reduced each year, encouraging them to adopt cleaner technologies.
90 per cent of the collected revenue will reportedly be returned to households in their respective provinces. However, Dan Kelly, CEO of the Canadian Federation for Independent Business, tells Global News that there’s no real information on the rebate for small business owners, even though more than half a million businesses will be impacted by the carbon tax.
April 1 has now come and gone. Since then, each of the four provinces have appealed the federal decision through their respective courts without success. The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal recently ruled that the federal carbon tax is indeed constitutional. Alberta may soon become a fifth member of this disgruntled group, once newly minted premier Jason Kenney repeals the provincial carbon levy enacted by the recently deposed provincial NDP government.
Perhaps biomass will make a comeback. Our cover story (pg. 34) features a Yukon grower who recently added a hydroponic vegetable greenhouse to his operation, and it’s powered by an automated biomass boiler. Though some will argue that burning trees isn’t carbon neutral due to the time it takes to re-establish a mature forest, the released carbon is largely made up of what was sequestered during the growing process. In the case of our cover story, this grower makes use of trees infested by insects and, in the future, may look towards trees removed for wildfire prevention.
For biomass to succeed, Natural Resources Canada (NRC) notes the importance of supplying it at a competitive cost, with minimal environmental impact and of suitable quality for energy conversion. Enter the forest biomass energy plantation, a designated area for growing biomass meant for bioenergy production. Where natural forests take about 40 to 100 years to mature, plantations can produce suitable biomass in three to 15 years. Plus, plantations can be established by farmers with extra land and placed near the location of the end user(s). With advancements in multiple aspects of forest biomass production, these plantations can now produce 10 to 15 oven-dry tonnes of biomass per hectare per year.
In the end, it all comes down to cost. Given the changes in carbon taxation, could biomass boilers become a more enticing investment in the near future? Perhaps it could help supplement areas of Canada that are prone to natural gas interruptions.
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