Familiar Face Takes the CRFA Helm

Following the departure of longtime Executive Director Kory Teneycke, the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association looked for government experience for his replacement. New CRFA President Gordon Quaiattini has taken the lead and is providing the Canadian biofuels industries with an experienced voice.
By Dave Nilles | February 11, 2008
Gordon Quaiattini was named president of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association in September. The 14-year-old nonprofit's mission is to promote the use of renewable fuels for transportation through consumer awareness and government liaison activities.

As president, Quaiattini is the principal advocate for renewable fuels in Ottawa and the provinces, as well as the main national media industry spokesman. Prior to his appointment as CRFA president, Quaiattini was a partner at The Wellington Strategy Group, an Ottawa-based government relations firm. While there he played a lead counsel role to biofuels clients. Quaiattini previously worked in federal and provincial politics, as well as at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. His extensive government experience will play a pivotal role in developing a national biofuels plan in Canada.

Quaiattini was a key speaker at December's Canadian Renewable Fuels Summit, which, despite snow-plagued travel, drew approximately 400 attendees to Quebec City, Quebec. Following the event, he provided his insight and vision of the future to Biodiesel Magazine.

Q: Talk about your new role as president of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association. What are the CRFA's priorities in 2008?
A: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my perspective with your readers on the state of the renewable fuels industry in Canada and the role the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association will play in ensuring its expansion and growth for the future.

Energy and the environment are the defining issues of our time. Together they are driving massive change in consumer behavior, commercial expansion and public policy. At the same time, the emergence of the bioeconomy is no longer pure speculation; it is a reality. For renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, all this adds up to increased demand, greater opportunity and steady expansion. Biofuels is no fad. It is, to be certain, an industry of the future.

For the CRFA, this means our work is far from over. In the immediate term, we are focused on ensuring the timely passage of the government of Canada's legislation to implement the national renewable fuels standard (RFS) for ethanol and biodiesel. In addition, we will be working on the overall regulatory package required to bring into force the legislation as well as finalizing the program details for the federal government's $1.5 billion ecoENERGY for Biofuels program. In the longer term, we need to keep pace with expanding continental and global opportunities and set new federal targets for future growth and production expansion. We also want to maintain Canada's lead in next-generation biofuels development such as cellulose ethanol.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get involved in the renewable fuels industries, and how did you get started with the CRFA?
A: I began my work with the biofuels industry in Canada more than five years ago when we had only a couple of ethanol facilities in operation and no provincial or federal mandates in place. I was very fortunate to be part of a team that helped implement the framework for tremendous growth and expansion in the biofuels industry. My background is in public policy and government relations. For the past 11 years, I was a partner in The Wellington Strategy Group, an Ottawa-based government relations firm.

Q: You are known as a "veteran political insider and government relations specialist." How does that experience relate to your role as CRFA president?
A: My time in government and my experience in government relations over the years have allowed me to develop the necessary skills to understand public policy development and the decision-making dynamic within government. As CRFA president, not only am I the lead spokesperson for the sector in Canada, but I am also the industry's chief lobbyist. It is my job to work with our member companies and organizations to engage federal and provincial political and bureaucratic decision makers in support of growing the biofuels industry in Canada. Canadians are asking industry and governmentto lead the effort to address critical energy, agriculture and rural development issues, while at the same time ensuring Canada is meeting its climate change responsibilities. A robust renewable fuels industry addresses each of these public policy drivers, and it is my job to work with governments, the industry and Canadians to ensure the right policy and programs are in place to develop this critical sector in Canada.

Q: Canada's federal government has done a lot to help biofuels. One of the more significant moves was an RFS that requires 5 percent of gasoline be renewable by 2010. Also included is a separate 2 percent requirement for renewable content in diesel and heating oil by no later than 2012. How important is this standard for the country's renewable fuel industries? In other words, what role does it play in furthering them?
A: The RFS is extremely important to our industry. Quite simply, it will drive the demand for ethanol and biodiesel in Canada. The RFS will not only ensure biofuels are blended in our national transportation fuel supply, it will ensure that farmers and rural communities in Canada benefit, and Canadians benefit from a reduction in greenhouse gases by filling their cars and trucks with a renewable fuel.

Q: The U.S. fuel ethanol industry was largely kick-started by farmer/investors. Likewise, the Canadian federal government's ecoAgriculture Biofuels Capital Initiative helps give agricultural producers an opportunity to invest in biofuels facilities. How important is farmer investment to Canadian ethanol and biodiesel development?
A: Canadian farmers' participation both in terms of growing the renewable feedstock and investing in building biofuels facilities is critical to the sector's success in Canada. The CRFA membership actually consists of several grower groups and farmer-led biofuels projects, and we work closely with other stakeholders in the larger agricultural sector as well.

The CRFA championed the creation of the federal government's ecoABC program that provides direct capital support for biofuels projects that have important farmer investment within the project. Thousands of Canadian farmers are investing in ethanol and biodiesel projects across Canada and the CRFA will be working to ensure that even more opportunities exist for Canadian farmers to not only provide the feedstock to these facilities but also see the opportunity to diversify their farm-gate revenue by investing in these projects themselves.

Q: In early November, you as head of the CRFA, European Bioethanol Fuel Association Secretary General Robert Vierhout, Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen and Marcos Jank, president of Brazil's Sugarcane Industry Association, made a collective statement supporting increased biofuels production and availability. Why was there a need for a collective statement from such a diverse group, and what does it say about the role international partnerships play in expanding biofuels?
A: Each of our industry associations is working to engage governments and citizens in the critical role that biofuels can play in addressing energy security, agriculture, rural economic development and environmental issues and needs within our respective regions of the globe. Collectively, through a global partnership, we are better able to communicate the positive role biofuels can play in addressing these important public policy drivers in forums right across the globe, and engage and educate others who are interested in the potential for biofuels where they live and work. Unfortunately, our industry has critics who are misinformed, and this is happening on a global basis. Therefore, it is critical for us to work collectively to get the real biofuels story out-the real benefits to farmers and rural economies, the positive environmental benefits and greenhouse gas reductions, and the absolute need to diversify our global energy supply utilizing clean, renewable fuels. This is a great story where everyone wins, and it needs to be told more at that international level.

Q: Besides sharing a border, there is a great deal of commonality between the Canada and U.S. biofuels industries. Both nations face their share of detractors, such as those who criticize ethanol's energy balance, the food-versus-fuel debate and its impact on animal feed costs. What are the most prominent negative claims the CRFA is facing, and how are they being countered?
A: Canadians and Americans enjoy a unique friendship that transcends well beyond the fact that we are each others largest trading partners and benefit from a continental economic partnership that is not easily duplicated anywhere else in the world. The future of a robust and dynamic biofuels industry is shared equally between our two countries. Yes, we do have our detractors. That is unfortunate given all the positive benefits I shared earlier with you. Grain farmers in Canada have suffered from economic cycles over the past 20 years that saw them more often than not selling their grains and oilseeds at below the cost of production.

This is not the case today as commodity prices have risen because of world demand, economic prosperity in developing regions like China and India, and the growth of the biofuels sector. However, Canada and the United States remain large grain exporters. Even after diversifying our energy supply with a clean fuel, we are still going to be large grain exporters feeding and fueling the world. The so-called food-versus-fuel debate is one where the facts do not seem to matter as they are seldom reported in the media. The facts are that only a small amount of grain costs exist within the retail price of food, and distillers grains is an important coproduct of ethanol production and a valuable high-protein livestock feed.

Q: The U.S. ethanol tax credit and the import tariff have created contentious debate in Washington, D.C., and in the mainstream U.S. media. What impact is the credit
having on the development of the Canadian ethanol industry? Is the more competitive exchange rate having an impact?
A: Canada, thus far, has been a net ethanol importer. Our industry is just beginning to grow and take shape. Federal and provincial governments in Canada have worked with the CRFA to ensure that the biofuels industry can be as competitive here as in the United States by investing in critical policies and programs such as the national RFS, the ecoABC program and the ecoENERGY for Biofuels program. The CRFA supports an open border for biofuels and believes that as both countries continue to expand the demand for biofuels, new opportunities for production facilities will exist on both sides of the border.

Q: The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently stated that U.S. greenhouse gas emissionsdeclined 1.5 percent in 2006. The report stated that "increases in ethanol fuel consumption in recent years have mitigated the growth in transportation sector emissions somewhat." What impact might such a report have on Canadian policy in regard to biofuels as part of Kyoto Protocol compliance?
A: Well, governments in Canada see the many benefits that a strong biofuels industry brings, and GHG emissions reductions is a key aspect of that. It is estimated that Canada's new RFS will result in an annual 4.2 megatonne reduction in net GHG emissions-the equivalent of removing more than 1 million cars from Canadian roads. Ethanol and biodiesel are definitely significant keys to helping fight global warming by reducing these harmful GHGs.

Q: You recently attended the fourth annual Canadian Renewable Fuels Summit. What role do you feel the event, or those similar to it, play in bringing together the Canadian biofuels industry? What "take-away" point did you get from it?
A: Despite some challenges presented to us by Mother Nature in Quebec City, the Canadian Renewable Fuels Summit was a success. Participants heard from the Canadian Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Gerry Ritz during the opening keynote address when he announced that the government of Canada would be tabling the implementation legislation for the national RFS as well as the release of the program details for the ecoENERGY for Biofuels Program. Quebec Premier Jean Charest also addressed the summit and shared his government's plans for renewable energy and renewable fuels for the province of Quebec. The Canadian Renewable Fuels Summit provides an excellent opportunity for all stakeholders in the sector to come together to network, share ideas, do business, and hear from dynamic speakers on the critical issues of the day for our industry.

Q: While both the ethanol and biodiesel industries have grown considerably in Canada, the country's biodiesel industry has recently lagged somewhat in terms of increasing
production capacity. Why is this, and what do you expect from the biodiesel industry in 2008?
A: There was no biodiesel industry in Canada just a few years ago, and today we have a couple of world-class facilities producing almost 100 MMly (26 MMgy). There are several projects being financed and constructed that will significantly grow the size of the Canadian biodiesel industry using a variety of feedstocks such as soybeans, canola and tallow.

Many large government and private fleets are moving to biodiesel blends, including several large city bus fleets across Canada. In addition, the federal government is proceeding with the national RFS for biodiesel and several provincial jurisdictions are moving ahead with their own commitments to expand the use of biodiesel, thus growing the demand. Industry is responding by expanding existing and building new biodiesel facilities, and exploring the use of higher-yielding varieties of canola and seeing new feedstocks such as algae come on line.

Q: Canada clearly has great potential to supply its domestic-and potentially international-market with homegrown biofuels. What potential do you feel ethanol and biodiesel holds in Canada in the next five years? What role will the CRFA play in that future?
A: From my perspective, the potential is unlimited. The national RFS in Canada of 5 percent and 2 percent for ethanol and biodiesel is just the beginning as the CRFA begins to champion higher blends of 10 percent and 5 percent, respectively. With the recent passage of the new U.S. Energy Bill, the potential for Canada to be part of a significantly larger continental and global biofuels market is very real. Canada is also leading the way in developing next-generation feedstock and technology including the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol. The CRFA will continue to play a proactive role of engaging governments and Canadians to inform and educate them on the innovations taking place within the biofuels sector and to ensure that we are part of Canada's permanent renewable energy and transportation fuel supply today and in the future.

Dave Nilles is the Biodiesel Magazine contributions editor. Reach him at dnilles@bbibiofuels.com or (701) 373-0636.
 
 
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