Alberta is rich with energy resources in the form of
fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal). Unfortunately, when fossil fuels burn, they
release emissions containing greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases, measured in carbon dioxide equivalents, build up in the atmosphere and can affect climate
and weather patterns. Global climate change, sometimes called global warming, is
considered to be a widespread effect of greenhouse gases.
One method to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to find
cleaner burning fuels. Coupled with this burden is also the realization that
Alberta will eventually run out of fossil fuels, a non-renewable
resource, at some
point in the future. Alternative fuels produced from renewable resources, such as
cereal grains, oilseeds and forages, can be more sustainable and burn cleaner
than fossil fuels.
Ethanol is an example of a clean-burning fuel that can be
produced from the fermentation of cereal grains (wheat and barley). Compared
with other alternative fuels, ethanol performs well but has high production
costs. As a result, ethanol will most likely be used as a fuel additive to
improve the performance characteristics of gasoline. Gasoline containing ethanol
burns cleaner and releases less harmful exhaust gas emissions. A by-product of
ethanol production from grains is a high-protein livestock feed ingredient.
Biodiesel is another alternative fuel.
in diesel motors sharply reduces emissions, including particulates. Biodiesel is made from renewable resources, such as soybean,
canola or other oilseed and vegetable oil sources, through a simple refining
The current key biodiesel markets are mass transit, marine
vessels and other environmentally sensitive areas, such as mines. Biodiesel's potential
in these markets is still under investigation. However, over 100 cities around
the world have run demonstrations or test projects using biodiesel, involving
more than 1,000 buses and several million kilometres of travel. France is
currently the world's largest producer of biodiesel, using it as heating oil and
also in 50-percent blends with petroleum diesel. Biodiesel is undergoing
extensive testing in Canada and the United States. Currently, there are no
biodiesel production plants planned for Alberta.
Department of the Environment. State of the Environment Report, Terrestrial Ecosystems. Edmonton: n.p., 2001. With permission from Alberta Environment.