Ethanol Forum
FTLComm - Tisdale - Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Registration began at 9:00 this morning in the RECPlex auditorium and there were about fifty people on hand by that time. The actual forum got underway at 10:00 with a series of speakers who worked their way through the minefield of issues that concern Canadians and people all around the world. The issue of global warming, energy conservation, the rightful place of agriculture in the world and its economy, the effects of moving agriculture from food production to fuel production and just how do we, the members of a community go along for a ride that is essentially sweeping the industrial world, coping with high energy costs and the effects that has on our lives and our livelihood.

Agricultural journalist and farmer Kevin Hursh was the master of ceremonies for the day and used his extensive knowledge and background to steer the days discussions through the wide range of topics to be discussed.

Tisdale mayor Rolly Zimmer expressed the concern that we in Tisdale are enormously concerned about agricultural diversification and explained the optimistic benefits of spin-offs from each and every development. He said that we as a community have worked hard at dealing the possibility of a shrinking population and how education is the key to dealing with the unknown future. He said that industrial is key to this community for growth and recognised the hard work of the Premier and the provincial government for its efforts on behalf of this and other Saskatchewan communities. Mayor Zimmer welcomed the members of the provincial cabinet to the forum and welcomed the visitors to the community to check out the facility in which the forum was taking place. He then introduced the reeve for the Royal Municipality of Tisdale, Bob Jackson.

Mr. Jackson pointed out that the Tisdale community is exporting people industrial development is the key to keeping people here in this place we call home.
Kevin Hursh recognised the many sponsors of the events of the day. He said that it is such a fine day and this good weather explains the absence of farmers in large numbers at the forum. He then introduce the newly appoint provincial minister of regional economic development Lon Borgerson B.A., B.Ed. and Masters of Education. Mr. Borgerson spent most of his life with the University of Saskatchewan and most recently involved in teacher training programmes.
Mr. Borgerson began by recognising the efforts of Clay Sturby in the development of Saskatchewan's ethanol progress. He said that as he was thinking about making his address last night there were storm warnings and a tornado advisory for some parts of the province. He said that he was unfamiliar with that threat but always was fascinated with the mini-tornado whirlwinds which would tear across fields on a hot Saskatchewan summer day and what we are looking at this Saskatchewan summer is a bio-fuel whirlwind. Clearly as a society we have to develop a reduced reliance upon non-renewable resources. Bio-fuel development is the catalyst to development of all kinds and at the same time will improve our position in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He said that Saskatchewan has 35% of the farmable land in Canada and is currenlty responsible for 40% of Canada's agricultural output. We are also the leading province in the country when it comes to developing bio-fuels.
Kory Teneycke served as the senior policy advisor to former Ontario premier Mike Harris and was for four years in the role as senior organiser for opposition leader Preston Manning. He is now the executive director of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association.
Mr. Teneyche's home province was Saskatchewan. He said that he was extremely optomistic about development here in Canada and particularly here in Tisdale Saskatchewan. Tisdale is an ideal location with an abundance of agricultural production and has shown an outstanding broadly based community support for an ethanol project. The development of ethanol plants is a form of environmental growth as a part of the natural carbon cycle, and the ethanol product can produce an astonishing 55% saving in green house gas emissions. Making ethanol is energy efficient as it really amounts to converting sugar to alcohol which is a natural biological process. The demand for ethanol seems almost infinite and we must not just consider domestic markets but the most important aspect of ethanol is for export. The most dramatic part of developing an ethanol plant are the intangibles where the project requires and seems to produce bipartisan political support. The community will get behind the project like no other thing seeing consenus among people of as high as 85%. One of the intangibles of ethanol production are the consumer issues where grain prices will be affected, there are positive and negative affects on third world countries by the development where the current processes are artificially driving commodity prices downward.
Jim Boxall chairman of ENSASK Biofuels ran through the history of Western Canadian agriculture how it got its start by providing a product and reason to settle the Canadian prairies but when transportation subsidies ended the whole sustainability and profitability of farming ended. Without value-added activity there is no future for agriculture. This project will require a shift in wheat production to varieties that will produce high starch content and even higher yields but with these developments Saskatchewan can become the energy capital of Canada.
ENSASK Biofuel CEO James Leier explained that despite the escalating cost of energy consumers are continuing to purchase SUVs and energy inefficient vehicles. Even more startling is the realisation that the demand for fuel may even decline per vehicle but the constant increase in the number of vehicles makes the demand for fuel and ethanol infinite. There are 42 recognised ethanol projects under development in Canada and ten of those are in Saskatchewan. This project has the support of the provincial government, the Bank of Montreal, Tisdale Credit Union and ScotiaBank. We have the business plan in place, the production plan is complete.
Dwight Percy is a regular business columnist in the Saskatoon Star Pheonix and an expert in community investment. He said that as Saskatchewan's population declined in the 70s, 80s and 90s Saskatchewan communities were engaged in finding outside sources to come and fix their problems as they looked for industries that would bring jobs and economic activities to their community. The result has been the realisation that no saviours have come and those that have came and went. The successes have been the local guys who have started up local manufacturing projects in small town Saskatchewan. Essentiall the realisation is that if we want successful industrial development we need to finance it ourselves.
This speech brought us to lunch time and gave us an opportunity to discuss the message with each other.

At 1:00 ethanol expert Mike Bryan who had flown in to Tisdale today with he as the lone passenger on a chartered flight from Denver Colorado. During his speech he appologised for that singular mode of travel as he pointed out that we need so badly to rethink the things we do if we are going to achieve anything with energy conservation. He began by telling us that we can fix the problem of our carbon footprint and part of that solution is creating wealth. Not only is this something we can do but it is a responsibility.

One of the first things we need to understand is that of the $80,000,000 to be spent developing a local ethanol plant that 85% of that money, some $60,000,000 will be spent within 100 kilometers from Tisdale. He told of the remarkable development witnessed in Munroe Wisconsin from a similar sized plant, and noted that over $400,000,000 leaves Sudbury Ontario every year in money spent on energy. Meanwhile Toronto is shipping one hundred truck loads of garbage to Michigan 365 days of the year of which 60% is material that could be turned into consumable energy. Creating wealth is actually a marvellous opportunity to create renewable energy but at the same time there is a need to conserve the energy we already are using.

The important thing to understand is that there are lots of capitalists who are also environmentalists. Mr. Bryan explained that we need to be concerned about the future, the future of our community and of the world. We need not worry about saving the planet what we need to do is what do we need to do to save ourselves. With this issue there are powerful opposition forces as an oil executive explained that the melting of the ice cap is not necessarily a bad thing as 25% of the world's known oil reserves are under the ice cap.


The highlight of the day came with the speech by Premier Lorne Calvert as he chose this location and this event to announce the province's new $80,000,000 initiative to develop ethanol production in Saskatchewan. Most of that speech is in the video specifically on the Premier's announcement.

After the Premier's speech Jim Boxall made a formal presentation of a gift to the premier and there was a standing ovation for the Premier and his government upon their positive support of this project and the industry in the province. Minister of Agriculture Mark Wartman facilitated a question and answer session that involved members of the provincial cabinet and participants in the forum as the Premier explained various aspects of the programme. These details are not available to me because the sound was very bad and most of the questions unintelligible.


With the exuberance of the announcement the various representatives of the ethanol industry and members of the Saskatchewan Cabinet went outside for a picture to record this historical moment (top of page) and then the Premier did a press conference with CTV. CBC had been at the event earlier in the afternoon but did not stay to capture the Premier's speech.

After coffee Dwight Percy wrapped up his presentation on community investment. He pointed out the dramatic importance of the Premier's announcement but it is this writers opinion that the gem of the day was in Mr. Percy's second message. He explained that there was a fundamental way that communities invest and that their first instinct is to protect their own community. He talked about the community rivalries that are legendary in Saskatchewan such as Melville and Yorkton, Regina and Saskatoon. The big issue for us all is that demographics have changed and this means we now must as communities work together. No longer is there a Saskatoon area, there is now and must be a Saskatoon region. We now have to think in terms of provincial regions and realise the combined power of a region as opposed to the relative lack of clout in a single community. With Tisdale, Melfort, Nipawin and Hudson Bay we have in the Northeast a region of more than 50,000 larger than Swift Current or Yorkton. It is paramount to realise that things are happening in rural Saskatchewan and we much change our singular community approach to things if we are going to see prosperity which fixes things and ethanol production is impossible to develop without the combined efforts of a region.

Judy Dyke of the Saskatchewan Biofuels Development Council addressed the forum confident that with today's announcement we and Saskatchewan's other ethanol project are ready to meet the challenge of development.


The day concluded with a question and answer session but to launch that Keith Rueve of the Pound-Maker Agventures ethanol plant explained some of the successes and things that their wheat based plant has proved to be successful with.

As is the nature of a question and answer session the details are the details and perhaps this report would be even more confusing with these added so this writer is going to spare you that confusion.

At 4:00 the day was over, the ethanol forum a thing of historical importance but the shadow of this forum and the promise of development of a Tisdale based ethanol plant will without a doubt change the lives of every member of this community. With the encouragement of the industry, the demand for the product, the positive economics both from an investment stand point and spin-offs from development, I have no doubt about the optimism that was voiced and the positive nature of the day both for the community and for the province as a whole. This craft has taxied to the button its time for take off.
Timothy W. Shire

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Editor : Timothy W. Shire
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