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Clean fuels: Demand it, we’ll create it

Posted by Chris Hagerbaumer at Sep 14, 2012 02:25 PM |
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Biofuel: it's not just corn anymore. Read about what it takes to create jobs in Oregon delivering climate-friendly biofuel made from algae and other sources.

biofuelsWhen you hear the word “biofuel,” does your mind immediately jump to endless fields of corn? Indeed, corn-based ethanol is a biofuel—a “conventional” or “first generation” biofuel. But today, producers are moving beyond the limits of using food crops for fuel.

Waste grease, grass and bushes, agricultural residue—even algae—are the feed stocks of today’s “advanced” biofuel.

And here’s the really cool part: Advanced biofuels are half as carbon intensive as petroleum—some are 75% cleaner. That means less global warming pollution.

A new report by Environmental Entrepreneurs describes how the advanced biofuels industry is growing steadily. The market is responding to incentives and regulations. The technology is advancing. The military and the aviation industry are using biofuels. Biorefineries are being built to meet future demand. The report estimates that, by 2015, thousands of people will be put to work making as much as 2.6 billion gallons of fuel1.

That would really help ease our dependence on oil. Oregon’s economy would have a buffer against spikes in global oil prices.

It takes money to build the infrastructure so we can grow, refine and deliver these new fuels. Private capital investors need to be certain that they’ll get a return on their dollar one day. They need to know that someone will buy the fuel.

They can count on California to buy hundreds of millions of gallons. The state has a “low carbon fuel standard” that requires transportation fuel to be 10% less carbon intensive in ten years. California will need advanced biofuel in the mix to meet that requirement.

Oregon has a similar Clean Fuels Program slated for adoption this December. But the program faces an uncertain future.

When legislature first authorized the program to gradually require cleaner fuels, a “sunset” was written into the law. Unless we lift that sunset, investors can’t count on Oregon’s need for cleaner fuels past the year 2015. That’s a market risk they might not be willing to take.

At OEC, we’re doing our part to ensure that advanced biofuels and other low-carbon fuels have a fighting chance against petroleum. We will work to remove the sunset on the Clean Fuels Program during the 2013 legislative session. Stay tuned. Sign up for our action alert email list if you’d like to make your voice heard when the time comes.

1. Biorefineries coming on line by 2015 will create about 1,518 permanent, 6,965 construction, and 9,924 indirect jobs. This jobs estimate just scratches the surface because it doesn’t account for other jobs created within the biofuel value chain, research & development, and related management and marketing.

cleaner fuels at least

Posted by Brad Carrier at Sep 18, 2012 11:35 AM
Yes, sunsetting dirty fuels will help move us to cleaner ones.

(No mention of hemp, but that's not my point.)

I see four ways government can urge us towards less pollution/more savings:

Place an exponential rate on car licenses based on their overall size and weight to start to compensate for their wear and pollution.

Same exponential expected from insurance companies to counter the menace such cars create (can't see around them, they smash lighter more efficient vehicles, driving many to "buy heavy" for self-protection).

Change the law regarding stop signs and stop lights from the current "you must stop no matter there not being a need to" to "stop if you must." At busy intersections, all would be regulated as now; if there is traffic in the green, red must stop. But at most intersections, when we can clearly see there is no need to stop, idle, re-get-up-to-speed, we would be legally permitted to roll safely through.

Create small parking spaces near the center of activity. More people would be able to get there, while those driving large SUV's and trucks would have to walk a bit farther.


Posted by Brad Carrier at Sep 18, 2012 11:49 AM
Forgive me for commenting on my own comment, but another thought on government influencing insurance:

 Create policies that are priced only on the use of that car and relieve the consumer of paying for cars he or she isn't using. That way, one could keep their big car and save it for occasional appropriate uses, but use the small car (or smaller) for more common needs, like just going to the store. The incentive would be to use the smaller cars (less fuel, less insurance fee) instead of the usual habit of using the usual car. This promotes a two-car system that lets the large, wasteful ones be parked without also having to pay insurance on it as if it were being used. This seems only fair to the consumer, insurance company, and it helps protect our environment and pocket book.

Great ideas, Brad

Posted by Chris Hagerbaumer at Sep 20, 2012 10:59 AM
Thanks for the great feedback, Brad. Some of these ideas are being discussed in policy venues around the state. Regarding insurance, OEC worked to pass legislation several years ago to give auto insurance companies an incentive to offer "pay-as-you-drive" insurance; none have utilized that incentive yet, but mileage is becoming a bigger factor in the insurance rates of some carriers.


Posted by Brad Carrier at Sep 21, 2012 07:58 AM
Thanks for the informative reply, Chris.

As policy, why just offer incentives (that the insurance companies don't accept) when government could require such options for the reasons expressed above? Are state insurance boards and our legislators influenced by insurance lobbyists?

I have a truck, a big car, a small old car (79 Honda CVCC), and a motorcycle, all of which I must pay insurance on even though I can drive only one at a time. Not fair. With multiple vehicles and incentives (based on size, weight, and use) I could pick the vehicle for the job (usually the little ones) and save not only on gas but insurance. Such incentives (size, weight, use) would help us all to be more efficient, and the insurance company still earns their just profits. As is, there is no incentive to be more efficient other than gas cost.

I want a government that intervenes into the market with sensible policies on behalf of our pocket book and our environment. Once such expectations would be in place, the market and competitiveness would lower our insurance burden in a fair way while protecting our environment. Thanks for reading and thinking.

sensible government policies

Posted by Chris Hagerbaumer at Sep 28, 2012 08:34 PM
Hi, Brad -- I completely agree with the sentiment you express in your last paragraph. Unfortunately, the political reality at this point is that neither state nor federal government is going to require auto insurance companies to provide a "pay-as-you-drive" option to their customers anytime soon. But things do change, and if companies continue to drag their feet and if the benefits to consumers become even more apparent, the regulatory route may become feasible.

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