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Articles by Ron Steenblik

Ron Steenblik is a policy analyst with 35 years experience working on trade, energy, agricultural, and fisheries policies. He has a particular interest in subsidies and their effects.

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  • Guess which type of energy comes in last in a recent poll

    GlobeScan, a self-styled "global public opinion and stakeholder research" organization based in Toronto, has just published the results of a survey of 1,000 climate "decision-makers and influencers" from across 105 countries, conducted in the two weeks leading up to the Bali Climate Conference (Nov. 22-Dec. 5, 2007).

    According to the firm's website:

    Unlike public opinion polls, this survey focuses on the views of professionals in position to make or influence large decisions in their organizations and society. This focus, together with the survey's large global sample and good balance of respondents across all geographies and sectors, makes this survey unique.

    A bar chart showing the results in graphic form is found below the fold.

  • An alternative view on biofuels, from a Briton in Sudan

    Biomass carbon cost hierarchyI've just discovered a great blog maintained by Clive Bates, a self-described "selfless public servant, amateur chef, novice mountaineer, lawless cyclist, overweight runner and occasional optimist." He is being modest: he's the former head of ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) in the UK and more recently the Head of Environmental Policy at the UK Environment Agency.

    Over the last two years, Bates has written extensively and persuasively on a wide range of topics, particularly on environmental and energy policies, and climate change.

    In his latest post, about biofuel policy, Bates states:

    Instead of asking how to reduce transport emissions from road fuel substitution, we should be asking how to make use of land to tackle climate change in the most effective way possible. In coming up with the biofuels targets, policy-makers have asked, and answered, the wrong question. It's not hard to see why ... transport policy-makers have to find transport policies. The results: waste, damage and lost opportunities to do better ...

    He starts off:

  • Is it something in the air?

    Interesting things are happening in the francophone world. Last week I reported that the Quebec government had decided to stop supporting any new ethanol plants based on corn as a feedstock. Now the French government, perhaps flowing out of its broad social dialogue on the environment (known as "Le Grenelle français de l'environnement"), is reported to be thinking of slashing subsidies benefiting the production of ethanol in the country.

    Ooh la la, what in the world is going on?

  • Backing away from corn ethanol

    Quebec flag

    The big news north of the (U.S.) border is that Québec's government has decided that there is no future in corn ethanol.

    As explained in an article posted on Canada's Cyberpresse website, back in May 2005 Québec's then Minister for Agriculture, Yvon Vallières, gave a green light, "for obvious economic and ecological reasons," to the construction of the first plant to manufacture ethanol from corn kernels, in the town of Varennes.

    However, during an emission of the Enquête television program (click to view) on Radio-Canada last Thursday evening, Québec's Minister for Natural Resources, Claude Béchard, promised that the 120-million-litre-per year Varennes plant would be the first and the last of its kind. "It is necessary to turn to other [feedstock] sources," he said. No other ethanol factory based on corn will be built in Québec.

    On Sunday, a leader in one of Montreal's newspapers, The Gazette expressed satisfaction with the decision, declaring, "Backing away from ethanol makes sense."