lunes, 19 de marzo de 2007

Portland revs up as engine for biodiesel

Fuel - Commissioner Randy Leonard promotes the idea; still needed are production-ready sites

City Commissioner Randy Leonard stumps across Oregon to pump up Portland as a regional biodiesel hub.

Leonard says biodiesel can disconnect this liberal bastion from foreign oil, offering a green alternative that's good for Oregon farmers.

And Portland has competitive advantages for biofuel makers and politicians. Oregon has just one biodiesel plant, a small one in Salem, but 20 biodiesel or ethanol firms have poked around Portland for a site.

"It's a grass-roots Willie Nelson propellant that creates jobs in America," the former firefighter, who pays $3.29 a gallon to fill his Jeep Liberty, says of the country star with his own BioWillie blend. "Why not have that be centered here in Portland?"

But Leonard hit a very un-green roadblock: Two of the three prime spots are too polluted. "We would have one or two of those concerns signed on, were it not for the Superfund," Leonard said.

The Arkema Inc. property in Northwest Portland and the Time Oil property in North Portland have the right amenities, but both are tied up in years of investigations and cleanups through the Willamette River's federal Superfund status.

Leonard's biodiesel initiative comes as politicians in Portland and Salem try to drive an Earth-friendly agenda that cuts greenhouse gas emissions, reduces dependence on foreign oil and attracts sustainable employers.

California has been a leader in the next-generation green movement. Oregon, which has colored itself green since the 1970s bottle bill, is playing catch up.

This year, Gov. Ted Kulongoski turned sustainability into his legacy issue, signaling he wants Oregon to be the clean energy capital of the nation. In response, the Legislature is working on new tax credits to encourage farmers to grow crops, such as canola, that can be turned into biodiesel.

Leonard brought biodiesel to City Hall after gas price run-ups in 2005. Or, as Leonard calls it: "The price gouge."

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