Manitoba farmers could become major players in the energy marketplace with the right programs. No, that doesn’t mean finding oil under the farm – though that never hurts. It means tapping into markets for the energy products we already produce.
As farmers, we are really just managing the landscape to use the sun, water and nutrient inputs to collect carbon in one form or another. These carbon chains can be used to create energy in many forms such as ethanol, biodiesel, biomass or biogas. Working examples of this abound across the world and also include wind and direct solar collection.
Policies to create incentives to use more biomass or biogas at home or on the farm would be a good start.
Using biomass as a source of heat for our long, cold winters in community or public service situations would create viable business opportunities. Producing biogas from livestock wastes would be a big positive from the public perspective. Even some farm inputs such as nitrogen-based fertilizers could be replaced by local energy sources.
To begin to move in this direction, we must rethink buying our energy inputs from traditional sources.
We must also get access to outside energy-hungry markets either by selling electricity into the export grid, biomass for heat, or biofuels. Even hydrogen could become a key product for sale.
It’s going to take time to develop some of these market opportunities, but some are available right now. We must start looking at our role, work on getting new policy in place and make things happen.
– Ian Wishart farms at Portage la Prairie and is president of
Keystone Agricultural Producers.