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Sunday, October 21, 2007

This would make an interesting ballot measure

With all the talk around Portland City Hall about biofuels a while back, did anybody mention that the city is paying a more-than-33 percent price premium for the biodiesel it's buying for its fleet?

Portland is using fuel blended with 50 percent biodiesel (B50) for the city's diesel fleet. Under a contract with Salem-based SeQuential-Pacific Biodiesel -- Oregon's only biodiesel plant -- Portland officials agreed to pay the refinery and Madison the cost of production plus a little profit. That means the city will pay more than $4 a gallon for biodiesel, compared with about $3 for petroleum diesel.

City officials acknowledge that canola-based biodiesel costs more and that budget-minded consumers might go for cheaper blends.

But the city "wanted to create a dependable demand for the product," said Ty Kovatch, spokesman for City Commissioner Randy Leonard, one of Portland's chief biodiesel advocates. "We'd rather pay a premium for a product grown and refined in Oregon than get a good deal on something that comes from the Middle East or Venezuela."

One can debate whether the huge premium price, being paid to a Salem company and an eastern Oregon farmer, is money well spent. I just don't remember hearing about it at all up until now. Of course, the O has buried it way down in its story.

Comments (27)

"more than $4" covers a lot of territory.

Does this mean the we are subsidizing biodiesel? I don't recall being asked if I wanted to pay $1.00 more a gallon to keep someone in business.

Let's try this with other businesses. What would we like to subsidize that can't survive on its own? How about ethanol? Oh we are already doing that!

How about public schools? Oh we are already doing that!

How about penalizing good businesses that can survive on their own with all sorts of regulations and even new taxes? Oh, we are doing that, too!

That's funny. I pay much, much less at the Jubitz for premium Biodiesel, and their price consistently beats any station in town, easily. It was as low as $2.80 for a while, right now they are selling it for $3.25 or so.

Figures the local Gub'ment would find a way to screw their employers on even this. Since when do commercial fleets who buy in bulk pay 30 percent more than I do, retail ? Whose pockets is that extra 75-plus cents per gallon filling ?

From personal experience, I wonder why this monopoly's biofuel is so expensive. A friend is buying used Mercedes diesel's and running used cooking oil from restaurants.(no engine conversion) They love to donate/recycle it. I wonder how much it's fuel mix is donated by restaurants to this firm?
My thoughts more on-topic run to why propping up a monopoly is better than encouraging more comp. by seeking multiple small business suppliers?

What's that WE stuff from smell bad Randy?

Having read all the ways that we've been wasting money to increase that debt load that's been a recent focus, this one bothers me the least.

Yes, its a business subsidy. This is just an alternative to the usual tax abatements, city-paid development, and giving wads of money to lobbyists to turn Burnside-Couch into one-ways that PDX usually uses for subsidies.

At least it trying to get the money to stay in Oregon.

Both Leonard's biofuel and ethanol mandates bother me. The folks growing the canola crop in Oregon for diesel are also getting paid a state subsidy of as much as $100 per acre, which is more than the cost of renting crop land. Even with these subsidies Oregon's yields are too low even to meet 2% of the diesel needs of Oregon. Moreover, the ethanol is made mostly from corn grown in the Midwest where yields are significantly higher. Corn based ethanol is somewhat of a joke because it only has a net energy gain of about 25% versus 75% for conventional oil and natural gas (various Energy Information Administration citations). Oregon's ethanol net energy gain is probably even less because the inputs are shipped via rail thousands of miles.

Meanwhile the oil equivalent of half a million barrels per day is being pumped back into the ground up in Prudhoe Bay Alaska for lack of means to get to market. That's three times what is being produced by corn based ethanol in net energy terms currently. Our politicians should be focused on more energy efficient solutions than corn and canola.

Leonard's energy policy is a distraction and means the emporer or emporess will continue to have troops in the Middle East even longer than otherwise. Finally, despite the rapid build in ethanol supply the last two years, oil prices continue to run higher. If there was a significant net energy gain from these biofuels, don't you think oil prices would be flatening instead of sharply rising?

If this is news to you, you were not paying attention when this was first announced. Potter and Leonard both said they'd overpay and that this would spark a biofuels industry in Oregon. The story in the O shows how foolish that is going to turn out to be--our climate just isn't suited to canola apparently.

It was also claimed that it would soothe relations between urban Portland and rural Oregon. I remember the quote distinctly from Leonard: "Nothing speaks like money" or some such.

Wait...biofuel companies getting special treatment from the city government? Thats not really much different from how the feds treat the dino oil companies, huh?

Was it was a no-bid contract too?

Neo-cons, progressives, they really are all the same when you get down to brass tacks.

you were not paying attention when this was first announced.

If they indicated something like $3.25 a gallon instead of $3, I might have slept through it. But more than $4? Fireman Randy thinks money grows on trees. Which is why the city is quickly going broke.

There is apparently a company in west Texas that is producing ethanol from algea. In a story in the Houston Chronicle a few weeks ago they claimed to be getting some huge amount of oil from the equivilent of an acre. Something like 100,000 gal an acre. Maybe some research is in order here.

BGTI didn't know he'd find the info so fast. Could be a scam, but also might be real.

Here ya go Randy.

Houston & Texas News

Glen Kertz, CEO of Valcent Products, says algae can be cultivated anywhere, including arid West Texas. But mass production as a biofuels feedstock will take time and money, experts say.
PLAY | BACK | NEXT " src="" width=9 border=0 vsapce="1"

Oct. 8, 2007, 1:41PM
Could West Texas algae curb oil dependence?
Some are betting the slimy plant will make biofuels a more viable option
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle
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Comments (34) Recommend


Yield of vegetable oil in gallons per acre per year:
• Algae: 100,000
• Palm: 700
• Rapeseed: 130
• Sunflower: 110
• Soybeans: 50
• Corn: 29
Source: GlobalGreen Solutions; Valcent Products
ANTHONY — A year ago, this dusty patch of land near the New Mexico border contained little more than dirt and the odd sprig of alfalfa. Today, it is home to a $3 million laboratory that is crackling with activity.
The hi-tech lab was built for a peculiar but possibly revolutionary purpose: to explore ways algae can be used to reduce the world's dependence on oil.
An arid stretch of West Texas might seem like a strange place to study the tiny water-borne plants, but the work is more than just a big idea.
The two companies behind it, El Paso's Valcent Products and Canadian alternative energy firm Global Green Solutions, have developed a system they claim will allow for cheap mass production of algae in just about any corner of the world.
Such a breakthrough, though still untested on a wide scale, could greatly accelerate the expansion of renewable fuels like biodiesel and ethanol because the oil extracted from algae can be used to make those fuels, said the companies who own the lab through a joint venture called Vertigro.
Today, those fuels are seen as having limited potential to curb oil consumption because they rely on oils from food crops like corn and soybeans, whose prices are rising. But algae could change the equation.
"This market is enormous," said Global Green CEO Doug Frater. "And it's waiting for us."
Yet it still may be awhile before the world is driving on algae power.
Not only are there competing ideas about the best ways to mass produce algae, but there are doubts about whether it can be done more cheaply than traditional oil. Once those questions are sorted out, it still could take years to build the infrastructure needed to make and distribute algae oil on a meaningful scale, experts said.
"Clearly, algae has potential," said John Kruse, a biofuels and agricultural analyst in Columbia, Mo., for research firm Global Insight. But other alternate feedstocks for biofuels are more likely to hit the market first, he said.
Licensing ahead?
Research on algae as a potential energy source is nothing new. But it suffered a setback in 1996 when the U.S. Energy Department cut funding for an algae research program that had been in place since 1978, said Al Darzins, a group manager at the National Bioenergy Center, part of the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.
With energy prices so low at the time, the agency doubted algae would ever be able to compete on cost with traditional petroleum sources, he said.
Recently, however, there's been an "explosion" of new algae research in response to record crude oil prices, the rising cost of making biofuels from vegetable oils and growing global energy needs, he said.
Activity has also been bolstered by government mandates that are expected to boost biofuel demand in coming years.
In 2003, the European Union set a goal to derive 5.75 percent of total transport fuel consumption from biofuels by 2010 and up to 20 percent by 2020. The U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard Program requires that at least 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuel be blended into vehicle fuel by 2012. Congress is considering a proposal to expand the mandate to 35 billion gallons by 2017.
In light of the current climate, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is about to announce it has secured funding for a new algae research program though an industrial partner, Darzins said. He declined to name the partner or say how much money the program would receive.
Vertigro, however, is not waiting on Uncle Sam to act. The company is about to begin building a pilot plant behind the research lab in Anthony, and company officials say they are in talks with biodiesel producers about licensing their "closed-loop" algae-production system.
In contrast to "open pond" methods studied by the government, the system uses tall, clear plastic bags, hung in rows in a greenhouse, to breed algae.
The bags, which are pumped with carbon dioxide and exposed to the sun, help the algae speed along photosynthesis. In this setting, the tiny green organisms can reproduce up to six times every 24 hours.
"That's pretty sexy," Frater said, in his Scottish accent.
Selected strains
The bags also protect the most energy-rich algae strains, which Vertigro selects in the lab. In an open pond, they would be crowded out by stronger strains with less oil, said Glen Kertz, CEO of Valcent, who developed the system.
About 20,000 bags can be hung in one square acre, yielding 100,000 gallons of algae oil per year, Kertz said. By contrast, one acre of soybeans can produce just 50 gallons of soybean oil a year and one acre of corn yields 29 gallons per year, Vertigro said.
But the biggest benefit: Algae farms can be built virtually anywhere — a point Vertigro hoped to illustrate by locating in West Texas.
To meet U.S. gasoline and diesel demands with biofuels from seed crops, all arable farmland in the nation would have to be planted three times over, said Craig Harting, Global Green's chief operating officer.
"With algae, we can do it with a fraction of 1 percent, and we don't even need arable land," he said.
Hurdles to overcome
Algae farms may even be able to help offset carbon dioxide emissions, which are linked to global warming. Because algae needs a ready supply of carbon dioxide to flourish, the farms can be built next to electricity plants or other industrial polluters to capture carbon dioxide emissions before they reach the atmosphere, Vertigro said.
But the algae business may need to mature before investors are willing to throw the hundreds of millions of dollars required to take it to the next level, said Todd Alexander, a partner with New York law firm Chadbourne & Parke, who represents biofuel producers and financial firms seeking to invest in alternative energy.
"There are definitely some hurdles that have to be overcome before this becomes a commercial technology," he said, "unless it's heavily subsidized by the government."

Algae isn't the answer, either.

1: it works in a test tube, but not on a massive commercial scale.

2: the process doesn’t eliminate CO2, it just adds a step between creating and (eventually) releasing it.

3: biofuels may contribute to a bigger than ever “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.

4: the claims of “10,000 gallons per acre” are basically made up, without much basis in science.

there are many more.

here’s an excellent discussion by an engineer. take the time to read it, and then i’d request some counter proof about algae:

There is apparently a company in west Texas that is producing ethanol from algea.

There is a power plant in Arizona using algea to help lower its emissions, and then using it to make biodiesel. Its in the last part of an article in National Geographic.

it works in a test tube, but not on a massive commercial scale.

Like I keep pointing out to you, this technology has barely left the test tube. Also, like I pointed out to you before, the actual scientific article referenced in that blog you linked to mentioned this as well. In other words, the actual source you cite secondhand agrees with me, and many other people as well.

Give it a few years.

What, exactly, is your agenda, anyway ? A return to some 18th century pre-industrial agrarian existence ? Ain't gonna happen. You cannot simply un-invent's just not in human nature.

To put a finer point on it, I suspect at times that you might even agree with me that uncontrolled, dysgenic breeding, resulting in massive, exponentially increasing overpopulation, is by far and above the greatest environmental threat facing our species today. Discuss.

There is apparently a company in west Texas that is producing ethanol from algea.

Hey! We can refine Oswego Lake!

Hey, we can keep it in Portland and just use the pond at Laurelhurst Park, it is a disgusting green soup right now...

Jackpot! I just KNEW the Columbia Slough was going to be a goldmine at some point...

What, exactly, is your agenda, anyway ? A return to some 18th century pre-industrial agrarian existence ?

different blog, different alias, cabbie?

you see, picking a new fuel technology (in this case, algae) each time the current one doesn't seem promising enough is, in my opinion, stupid, arrogant and business as usual.

in case you hadn't noticed, waxing poetic about things like algae and whatever-the-next-big-thing is is what's gotten us into trouble.

in other words, oil at one time seemed like the answer. then, dams and coal fuel plants. and so on, and so on, and so on.

do you get it, "cabbie"? the problem isn't "science just needs more time to save us". the problem is consumption and our way of life.

but you seem to think write only in polar opposites: either we chase technology at any cost or we return to the "18th century agrarian economy."

i'm seeking a more thoughtful third way. haven't found it yet.

Hey! We can refine Oswego Lake!

There is a "goldmine" in Klamath lake for sure. I think sometimes you can walk across that one.

different blog, different alias, cabbie?

Not sure what you mean by that. Perhaps someone else you have have had the same debate with ?

the problem is consumption and our way of life.

Of course, the perfect person in charge of deciding who should consume what and what a "proper" way of life would be, would ?

Seriously, do read Bastiat. It will change your life.

Thank goodness for free enterprise, entrepreneurs, and science. If we all thought as I think you are suggesting we should, we'd still be sitting around banging on rocks, waiting for someone to come around and invent agriculture and the internet. John Zerzan was a moron and a hypocrite who drank from styrofoam coffee cups.

Collectivism and planned economies produced not only the worst examples of genocide in human history, but the worst environmental devastation and pollution, as well.

Of course, the perfect person in charge of deciding who should consume what and what a "proper" way of life would be, would ?

considering that commercial buildings and corporations that do NOT sell ordinary consumer goods are responsible for most environmental pollutiona and damage, i'd say no, smart guy.

Seriously, do read Bastiat. It will change your life.

good grief.

Thank goodness for free enterprise, entrepreneurs, and science. If we all thought as I think you are suggesting we should, we'd still be sitting around banging on rocks, waiting for someone to come around and invent agriculture and the internet.

agriculture was invented over 5,000 years before free enterprise, smart guy. and neither entrepreneurs nor "free enterprise" invented the Internet.

Collectivism and planned economies produced not only the worst examples of genocide in human history, but the worst environmental devastation and pollution, as well.

entirely, and most convincingly, wrong. unless, of course, you believe he US economy is collectivist and planned--because its effluent creates by far the najority of pollution and environmental degradation on the entire planet. and, unless you belive the US, which is on the record for directly creating or supporting genocide in no less than 68 countries.

good grief. apparently, Basquiat didn't cover all this in his writing?

and apparently, my keyboard's on the fritz.

Basquiat didn't cover all this in his writing?

Bastiat died in the middle of the 19th century, you illiterate idiot. What he did predict, quite accurately, was the horrors wrought by Socialism and planned economies. Communist governments murdered nearly 100 million people last century alone, and produced the worst pollution known to man. It's a matter of public record, "smart guy"...

agriculture was invented over 5,000 years before free enterprise, smart guy. and neither entrepreneurs nor "free enterprise" invented the Internet.

Science, which you appear to loathe and disdain, science both extremely primitive and extremely sophisticated, created both, that was my point. Are you also seriously suggesting, albeit in a way that also takes my point completely out of context and attempts to twist it, that free enterprise did not exist in any form in antiquity ?

Look, I have read Marx, Bakunin, Trotsky, Goldman, Proudhon, and the rest of the pantheon. The reason I hate leftism so much is because I too was brainwashed once...before I began to read histories of the Left that aren't silly lies and propaganda. Why don't you talk to one of Portland's many Russians about Socialism sometime ? I have.

But all of that is so off-topic at this point...back to Biodiesel. My gut feeling was that it was a major mistake for the city to get involved in the fuel business in this way, and I was right. There is a considerable market for it here, regardless of Government intervention in the market, and it seems outrageous to me that we are paying $4 per gallon plus for it, when I can buy it right down the street for $3.30.

Subsidies for it's development, to supposedly spur growth in the industry, now that is a sticky subject I have very mixed feelings about.

Oh, on second thought, I'm done debating politics with you. It's a fool's errand attempting to open most Portlander's eyes to the history of Socialism... it's part of what makes this backwater town so hilarious and sad, really.

Yeah, sorry about the ranting, all, maybe someone can steer the conversation back to Biodiesel.

my favorite part of cabbie posts is where he describes at length what i "appear to think".

"loathe and disdain" science? are you for real?

a fool's errand, indeed. of course i know the difference between basquiat and Bastiat, dude. it was a joke and bait, and an easy one.

that free enterprise did not exist in any form in antiquity ?

free enterprise isn't the same as capitalism, "cabbie". and being fond of repeating your reading list as a way to impress, i'm sure you're aware of that.

look, dude, capitalism is out of control. it's caused most of the mind-boggling environmental damage in America. personal shopping choices arent going to solve the problem, though i'm sure you'd like to think so--that paradise is just a few slightly different purchasing decisions away.

and, who's debating? you've spent most every post telling me how i think, who to read, and decrying my lack of understanding. i, for the most part, have been saying what i think's wrong with the current system.

it seems outrageous to me that we are paying $4 per gallon plus for it [biodiesel], when I can buy it right down the street for $3.30.

Oh, probably not for long. Now that the city has set the price, the biodiesel cartels...err, companies.. will pick up on that trend and raise prices for everyone.


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Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five
Kathryn Lance - Pandora's Genes
Cheryl Strayed - Wild
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamazov
Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
Jack Walker - The Extraordinary Rendition of Vincent Dellamaria
Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - The Nanny Diaries
Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 5
At this date last year: 3
Total run in 2017: 113
In 2016: 155
In 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269

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