School of the Environment-University of Toronto

CRE 401- Biofuels


This course investigates a specific renewable energy indepth; examining newly emerging markets and their effect at various scales, including regional, national, and global perspectives. Students examine biofuels through the avenues of production of its various forms, placement in markets, and policy approaches with an eye towards reduction in GHGs (greenhouse gases).

This course will investigate a specific case of renewable energy in-depth; examining newly emerging markets and their affect on various scales, including regional, national, and global perspectives of the chosen renewable energy. The course will consist of team work investigation into one form of renewable energy with an emphasis on the economics, placement in current and future markets, the environmental impacts and sustainability of incorporation of this renewable energy. The current focus is biofuel.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, biofuels powered human society. For centuries, humans used wood for heat and fats to make candles. Over the last 200 years, dramatic increases in use of coal, oil, and natural gas has brought large scale development to the world. These conventional forms of fuels are finite and have brought a dramatic rise in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The detrimental effects of GHGs are changing the atmosphere that all life on the globe relies upon. Renewable biofuels have the potential to decrease GHGs and other pollutants while continuing to fuel modern society. In the first course, CRE 400, students gained insightful knowledge into renewable energy, examined the various forms available, the collective effect they have on different sectors of the market and political arena, and developed primary team and research skills. CRE 401 builds upon the foundation of CRE400, narrowing its focus of investigation to biofuels.

The goal of this course is to further the student's knowledge of renewable energy, both in the Canadian and global content, through an in-depth investigation of one important case study. Students will examine biofuel through the avenues of production of its various forms, placement in markets, and policy approaches with an eye towards reduction in GHGs. Students will review how biofuel production can offset or replace conventional fuels in both developed and developing nations. Under the broadened focus of the impact of biofuels on the environment, students will grapple with the life cycle analysis of biofuels, potential changes to land-use, and the energy balance from this form of renewable energy. Through this examination of biofuel, the student will become proficient in understanding the potential impact of a specific renewable energy on society, how economic and political drivers develop markets for decentralized forms of renewable energy, the variable effects on developed and developing nations incorporating renewable energy into their current and future energy schemes, and the scope of environmental impacts of renewable energy on ecosystems through life cycle analysis.

By the end of this course, the student should be able to:

  • Understand the historical role and current use of biofuel both from a Canadian and global perspective.
  • Understand how the processes of conflict resolution, decision-making, shareholder involvement and partnerships are applied in the case study of biofuel.
  • Know the various views on the current science of biofuel production and how this impacts on the process of policy relating to biofuels.
  • Understand the use of conventional forms of fuels and how biofuel usage will displace and/or replace these conventional forms.
  • Connect the market mechanisms for the decentralized production of biofuels and the potential for emerging large producers.
  • Identify the key organizations and bodies that regulate and are engaged in the study of biofuels.
  • Comprehend the nature of the environmental and economic impacts of biofuel to various sectors of the world, including developed and developing nations.

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