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P.E.I. climate plan targets “marginal” farmland

New incentives to take “marginal” farmland out of production, more support for biofuels and the possible development of an oilseed sector are now on Prince Edward Island’s to-do list.

The province on Thursday announced plans to move on those points and others as it released both its energy strategy and its strategy for reducing impacts of global warming.

“Climate change adaptation and energy policy are two issues where government must strike a careful balance,” Environment Minister George Webster said in a release Thursday, when he tabled the two reports in the Legislature. “We have to do what we can today to reduce our impact on our climate but, at the same time, we recognize that the Island has to prepare itself to adapt to the effects that come with climate change.

“It is a similar situation when speaking about our future energy supply and needs. We must balance the need for a reliable energy supply with the need to obtain energy that is economically and environmentally sustainable.”

Back to trees

Among other recommendations in its climate change plan, the province said it will “provide incentives to landowners to remove marginal land from agricultural production, if coupled with a program of reforestation with approved management plans.”

Reforested land would then be designated as “environmentally sensitive” and removed from provincial land holding limits.

The province also said it will support a review of its current land use and development policies and “attempt to encourage sustainable options for future land developments that are tailored to maximize energy efficiency and promote (greenhouse gas) reductions.”

“Pure plant oils”

In its energy strategy, the province also said it will “identify and explore opportunities and applications for the utilization of pure plant oils.”

Specifically, the report said, canola and soybeans and now grown on just over four per cent of P.E.I.’s cropland. Canola, it added, is “particularly well suited for our climate, and has a high energy content.”

However, oilseed acres are still too low for broad-scale use, the report said, but there are enough to support pilot projects and acreage “could be further developed once market demand is demonstrated.”

Pure plant oil, the report said, could displace light fuel oil for heating applications and be processed into biodiesel for transportation use. Although many vehicles would have to be modified before plant oils could play a major role in the transport sector, the report noted some of P.E.I.’s commercial trucks are already using canola oil- and waste vegetable oil-based biofuels.

The province also said it would double its renewable energy portfolio standard from 15 per cent to 30 per cent by 2013. Related goals include:

  • endorsing the concept of a low carbon fuel standard (LCFS), as a “guiding policy framework” to reduce greenhouse gases;
  • considering escalating renewable fuel standards, which the province defined as introducing mandatory E5 and B10 (or B10 renewable equivalent) in gasoline and diesel respectively by 2013 and doubling that by 2018;
  • securing a source of “locally available” biofuels for use in oil-fired equipment and fleet vehicles; and
  • attempting to “maximize the benefits of future large-scale wind developments for all Islanders,” including those built for both export and domestic markets.

The province also said it would examine mandatory emissions testing for heavy-duty vehicles beginning in 2010, and would also examine mandatory emissions testing for passenger vehicles as part of the annual inspection.

The province said it will also amend the vehicle weights and dimensions regulations of its Roads Act to allow wide-based single truck
tires, and a payload exemption for trucks equipped with auxiliary power units and particulate filters.

The climate change action plan “has the support of government and we will begin working now on addressing the serious issue of climate change,” Webster said. The province plans to start by creating an inter-departmental working group tasked with identifying and managing climate-related risks.

The energy strategy recommends over 35 government actions toward long-term energy security, Webster said. That strategy calls on government to improve its own performance “but also to develop programs and incentives that move the whole Island community toward more climate-friendly practices,” the province said.

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