Biodiesel is here

On Wednesday, Portland became the first municipality in the country to require that all diesel fuel sold at service stations within the city be at least five percent biodiesel. The Trib touches on the new requirement as well as other city endeavors regarding renewable fuels.

Portland's requirement for all of the city's service stations is happening as the city makes a large biodiesel push in additional ways. Almost all of the city's trucks and other large vehicles now run on some version of biodiesel fuel.

Many of them are running on what's call B50 — or fuel that is roughly half biodiesel and half petroleum diesel. Vehicles operated by the city's water bureau — which is overseen by Commissioner Randy Leonard, who has become a biodiesel advocate over the past two years — now run on B99, or fuel that is nearly 100 percent biodiesel.

Commissioner Randy Leonard shared his efforts with us in the past here on BlueOregon.

A notable point in our efforts to make Portland as green as possible and move our little corner of the country towards energy independence. So now that we have that out of the way, what next? Where can we go from here to make a truly green Portland, Oregon, and the nation a reality?

  • Canola's Better Than Petrol (unverified)

    Seriously BlueOregon,

    OPB is already a news cycle ahead of you:

    Sure, while bio-diesel is better than oil, by virtue of the fact it doesn't require a war to keep those motors turning, you guys could use a bit of a tune-up when it comes to addressing our oil-dependency problems.

    It's time to think outside of the combustible engine trap.

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    An interesting article from Science Codex: I don't know if it's valid or who funded the study, but it's interesting. It may not be the answer to all our energy woes but I think bio is one part of a a good interim fuel strategy while other energy resources are developed.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Biodiesel and ethanol are a positive step toward sustainability, but bio fuels will need to come from waste products, not canola seeds and ears of corn before the fuels themselves approach sustainability. In the longterm, it just isn't possible to grow enough biomass to satisfy our energy habits as they are. We need other sources of energy and we need, most of all, to drastically reduce our energy use. There is not a lot of choice in this, but their is choice in how much we will suffer during the transition from fossil fuel to sustainable energy.

  • (Show?)
    1. Ban pesticide use on city land, like Arcata, CA has done since 1986.

    2. More bike lanes off the road, so that cycling is safer. Also, when doing bridge repairs, consider cyclist needs.

    3. Create areas downtown that are closed to vehicle traffic.

  • BOHICA (unverified)

    Hemp for Victory!

    Drives me crazy that we cannot grow industrial hemp without a DEA permit. Hemp oil makes great biodiesel.

  • (Show?)

    OPB is already a news cycle ahead of you:

    We're not competing on news cycles. If we tried, we'd lose.

  • megs (unverified)

    Well, I guess this is a start, but it seems lacking. One thing that keeps me from going to Biodiesel is ..where the heck do you fill up your tank...?

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    Actually algae based biodeisel production has serious potential. It produces an order of magnitude more oil than any other stocks, grows in waste water, the left over is ideal fertilizer and it acts as a CO2 sink.

    Biodeisel is, despite what some claim as still being evil combustion engine based, a viable transition fuel, and potentially a long-term solution as well. The entire fuel delivery and handling system is already in place since it is no different than current delivery methods.

  • (Show?)
    Posted by: megs | Aug 20, 2007 11:27:16 AM Well, I guess this is a start, but it seems lacking. One thing that keeps me from going to Biodiesel is ..where the heck do you fill up your tank...?

    Ahhhhh. The same place you put diesel fuel in any diesel running vehicle, the fuel tank, just like you do know when fueling at a gas station that sells diesel.

  • Garlynn -- (unverified)

    This is great news for Portland!

    Sure, biodiesel isn't perfect -- it's still fuel for an internal combustion engine that emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere -- but it is far better than conventional diesel fuel.

    And to the extent that existing diesel fleets represent an investment by our government that will not and should not be thrown away without much planning and foresight, biodiesel represents the best current solution to run these fleets with the least environmental impact. Sure, in the long run, biodiesel-electric plug-in vehicles would be much better... and after that, maybe we can figure out a way to do this fuel cell thing without using fossil fuels to create the necessary hydrogen gas.

    But for now, biodiesel represents a small but important step forward.

    Congratulations, Portland!

    Now, let's make sure that as much as possible of our biodiesel is organically grown and not made from food/feedstock in such a manner as to prevent it from being used for feedstock later.

  • Ben Hubbird (unverified)

    While it's great that we have the political will to make a commitment like this as a city, I have to agree with Tom -- biofuels are, at very best, a transitional option. To me, they don't have a place in a truly responsible or sustainable approach to global warming.

    A study in Science (full story (subscription required), free summary in the New Scientist) found that it would be better, in pure terms of carbon dioxide pollution, to keep burning oil and plant forests on the land that we would otherwise use for biofuels production.

  • Garlynn -- (unverified)

    Ben & Tom, you guys raise excellent points -- but you must take with a grain of salt any comparisons between the "biofuels" studies and the biodiesel being sold in Oregon.

    "Biofuel" in the USA generally means Ethanol.

    In Oregon, the biodiesel supply is being sourced much differently than the Ethanol that is being used to meet nationwide clean air mandates (oh, and sometimes to stock the E85 pumps). Ethanol production dwarfs Biodiesel production in this country.

    Besides, Carbon Dioxide is not the point of Biodiesel.

    The point of Biodiesel is Partilate Matter (PM) emissions, carcinogenic emissions, and Ozone. These are the pollutants that are decreased by switching to Biodiesel.

    So, please -- don't poo-poo news of Biodiesel advances by saying "well, the verdict is still out on Biofuels, and besides, it doesn't help Carbon Dioxide." Keep your biofuels straight, and only cite studies that focus specifically on Biodiesel -- otherwise, you're just confusing the issue.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)


    Diesel particulate emissions is an important matter, and as you note, veggie oil is much cleaner than petroleum. But all fuels must be examined for their climate warming effect and, even more important, their contribution to a sustainable energy economy.

    As far as CO2, bio itself should be neutral [a good thing], but we must consider inputs of energy used in growing and transporting the fuel for their greenhouse gas contribution. The biggest problem with current biofuel technology, whether for ethanol or diesel oil, is the large amount of energy used to grow crops like corn and canola. Also, land used to grow fuel is not growing food - unless we get the fuel from waste products.

    In an urban environment, particulate emissions are important, for sure, but many folks get the idea that biodiesel is a major step toward sustainable energy. It ain't.

  • Coyote (unverified)

    Megs, there's a map of B20 and B99 biodiesel pumps in the Portland area at this URL:

    I suppose this policy is a slight step forward, though I'm pretty skeptical of biofuels. But when it comes to their own fleet, I wonder if the City bothered to look at conservation first. Did they try to cut back on the number of miles they drive? Did they ensure that City vehicles always have more than just the driver? Did they teach their employees how to drive in the most efficient manner possible (I saw one City truck blast through my residential neighborhood well above the speed limit the other day). Did they find ways to perform their work without the use of ICEs? Or did they just change what they put in the tank?

    Biofuels and other "alternative energy" sources are total non-solutions if we don't focus on conservation first and foremost. And I won't even mention the fact that all of these green solutions are useless as long as we continue to encourage our population to spiral up up up. 300 million and counting, thanks entirely to liberal immigration policies. When do we draw the line and say enough is enough? Half a billion? A billion? Five billion?

    As for biofuels being "transitional," once the money has been spent to fully develop the industry, it will be as permanent as the petroleum industry. There's nothing transitional about it---there will be far too many entrenched interests by then. That's why we should approach biofuels very critically. The mistakes we make today will have repercussions for decades, if not centuries.

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