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Israel and Canada Cooperate on Biofuels

By Linda Gradstein | The Media Line

November 9, 2015

(Photo Illustration by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Hope is that biofuel can partly replace fossil fuels

Biofuel is the wave of the future and Canada and Israel can cooperate in this area, say experts from both sides. They were in Rehovot attending a workshop on biofuel sponsored by McGill University and the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture at the Hebrew University.

“Both Israel and Canada have some good research people on biofuel,” Donald Smith, of McGill University, Director and CEO of BioFuelNet, told The Media Line. “Canada is especially focused on advanced biofuel because we have a lot of trees right now. The forestry sector is looking for a new outlet because the paper market is shrinking due to the Internet.”

There are two primary kinds of biofuels – ethanol made from corn, and ethanol made from cellulose, or the waste products of trees. Until now, ethanol from corn has been the primary source for fuel. But using corn to make fuel has negative environmental implications. Using waste material from trees or even organic garbage is more difficult and expensive, but has fewer negative environmental issues.

“If we just look at the current state of affairs, we won’t succeed,” Yakov Tsur, a professor at the H. Smith Agriculture Faculty of Hebrew University, told The Media Line. “We need to look two, three, or even five decades ahead. We need to investigate different aspects of the production of cellulosic biofuel, and make it compatible and even more efficient than corn ethanol.”

Donald Smith said that there has been an increasing demand for corn as people in countries such as India have begun to eat more meat. It takes about twenty pounds of corn to make one pound of meat, he said.

The collaboration between Israel and Canada in this field is still emerging, and scientists from both countries say they are interested in start-ups and technology that will have practical implications.
“We have ten scientists here from coast-to-coast across Canada,” Donald Smith said. “There has been a lot of discussion and there is a developing collaboration that has the potential to become quite significant.”

The advantage of using cellulose to make biofuel, he said, is that after harvesting wheat or corn there are stocks left over, and they can be converted into fuel. Even garbage that has been shipped to a landfill can be converted.

In Canada, about five percent of energy comes from biofuel, similar to the amount in Europe. In Israel, the industry is still fledgling, partly because of a lack of land, and partly because of recent Israeli discoveries of huge natural gas reserves. One gas field, Tamar, has already begun producing, and an even larger field, Leviathan, is due to start producing soon.
(Photo Illustration by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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