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Alberta backing bioenergy programs

Oil-rich province continues efforts to diversify the economy.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Alberta backing bioenergy programs
Alberta's Environment Minister Shannon Phillips tours biogas facility after unveiling new short-term funding support for bioenergy. Photo courtesy of the provincial government of Alberta.

Feb. 10 (UPI) -- The provincial government of Alberta said it was creating new jobs by offering funding to support bioenergy and a low-carbon future.

The government said it was offering up to $45 million to support a bioenergy producer program aimed at deriving fuels from crops and livestock waste.

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The industry already powers the equivalent of 200,000 average households in Alberta and contributes around $600 million to the provincial economy on top of curbing greenhouse gas emissions. About 500 new jobs will come from projects supported by the short-term funding offer.

"Bioenergy producers are job creators and technology innovators," provincial Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said in a statement. "The Alberta government is committed to supporting them, their employees and local economies as we diversify our energy sector, boost our economy and reduce emissions in Alberta."

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The International Energy Agency describes bioenergy as the largest source of renewable energy available currently on the global stage, providing about 10 percent of the world's primary energy supply.

Critics note it may not be the best commercial option for low-carbon alternatives as the touted gains usually discount the energy used to process, transport and harvest the products used as a fuel source. A similar Alberta funding program was canceled in 2013 following criticism from an auditor general.

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Alberta relies heavily on the fossil fuels industry for energy and has advanced diversification schemes during a market downturn characterized by lower crude oil prices. The provincial economy has lingered in recession because of energy sector weakness.

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The provincial government said the new funding will mostly support programs already in operation. A report to the government is expected before April.

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