What renewable diesel plant means for environment

In late 2021, Regina City Council voted to sell land to Federated Co-operative Ltd, for $5.5 million. While the Saskatchewan Government endorses the idea of a renewable diesel plant, Coun. Andrew Stevens (Ward 3), who voted against the proposition, doesn’t share the same sentiment. 

“I think we are really vulnerable to greenwashing,” said Stevens. “Everybody right now can stamp sustainability on a product and think, ‘well that means it’s great.’ ”

According to Stevens, he considered multiple aspects while looking at this deal, some of which include in his eyes how the FCL doesn’t have a great track record with the best emissions or environmental standards. 

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe believes the plant exemplifies Saskatchewan’s environmental goals.

“We’re getting cleaner and greener,” said Moe, according to CBC

The Saskatchewan Government believes the renewable diesel plant is environmentally friendly because it will reduce as many emissions as possible in sectors that will rely on diesel fuels in one way or another for the foreseeable future.

The renewable aspect refers to how the diesel is synthesized at the plant. Instead of crude oil being refined, the plant would use mainly canola, but other plant-based products and animal fats could be used to produce the diesel as well.

“Further incorporating the advantages of blending canola-based renewable diesel into Saskatchewan’s diesel supply will lead to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the province’s trucking, agriculture, rail and heavy equipment sectors,” James Parker, the senior communications advisor for the Government of Saskatchewan, said in an emailed response.

The FCL thinks it is meeting requirements that meet the Canadian Government’s standards for climate goals by 2030. 

“Utilizing renewable diesel lowers the carbon intensity of our fuels and helps us meet our goals of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent of 2015 levels by 2030 and meet our goal of net zero emissions by 2050. This is in line with Canada’s goals and regulatory framework,” said Andrew Swenson, the FCL communications manager. 

Stevens said this is another way the oil and gas industry is prolonging its life, but it is mostly just a scheme to seem environmentally friendly, when in fact it is not. 

Stevens also believes that carbon capture is one of those schemes used by oil and gas companies, when in reality it is not efficient.

Looking at the Boundary Dam’s use of carbon capture where the captured carbon is then sent through a pipeline to be used for enhanced oil recovery in Weyburn, it defeats the purpose of the whole program, according to U of R professor of geology, Emily Eaton. 

“It’s business as usual, not much of a transition, but it looks good and they can then use this and pitch it to the federal government,” said Stevens. “This is really a scheme advanced by the oil industry to sustain the oil industry well into the future, rather than looking at mass electrification and whatnot.”

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