October 10, 2007
Save the environment. Just which one?

The latest wonder of ersatz fuel is coming to a pump near you. If you live in Ballard at least. Propel Biofuels, a local firm specializing in retailing biodiesel directly to the consumer, opened a new filling station on Leary Way.

The punch-line is the company uses Washington grown crops to produce Washington distilled vegetable oil which is used to manufacture locally refined biodiesel that is then sold to Washington drivers. While raking in those federal subsidies...

It's all good because Americans need to wean themselves off their dependence on Canadian, Mexican, Venezuelan and domestically produced oil.

Seattleites can feel guilt-free fueling up their Volkswagon microbuses and Cummins Diesels. At least until the new California-style emissions kick in.

Since state farmers will have to devote more land to growing canola oil for biodiesel that means environmentalists will have to scrap their idea of breaching the four Lower Snake River Dams; they provide irrigation for 36,000 acres of cropland - 55 square miles - while acting as a highway for cheap, greenhouse friendly, low-emissions barge traffic to bring produce to market.

Better import more tainted wheat from China for domestic food consumption too. There's only a finite amount of arable land east of the Cascades. You either feed people with it or feed cars.

The days of water buyback programs for farmers need to be a thing of the past. Seattle commuters have to save the environment; one ton of French-fry smelling vehicle emissions at time. With the increased demand for irrigation water along the rest of the Columbia River Basin, Eastern Washington PUDs will be unable to spill extra water over the dams for salmon and steelhead stream flow mitigation.

No sacrifice is too great to stop man-made Global Warming though. Besides. Polar bears are so much more cute and cuddly than stinky fish.

Posted by DonWard at October 10, 2007 06:47 PM | Email This
1. The whole biofuels thing is a false savior. For some time now US farmers have been letting more and more fields fall fallow. The acreage of forest land has been increasing as nature reclaims unused cropland. (I love it when the econauts complain about urban sprawl taking forest land while forests in the US are growing.) But this trend could easily reverse if it becomes profitable (with the help of subsidies) to develop (or re-develop) more and bigger farms.

The environmental impact statements of trading US forest for biofuel producing fields ought to be quite entertaining.

I wonder what percentage of the US would have to be covered with farmland in order to fuel our cars, or our cars and our factories, or our cars, factories and homes.

Sooner or later we are gonna have to develop those shale fields for more fossil fuels, or start building lots nukes.


Posted by: Hairy Buddah on October 10, 2007 07:12 PM
2. Let the free market work.
As oil is depleted, the pump price will go up, and alternative fuels will become economical without subsidies such as those above. Kill all agricultural and fuel subsidies. They are just special interests. Giving money to them is contrary to the free market, to the Constitution, and to any reasonable sense of fairness.

Oil dependence is a GOOD thing. It ties us in to mutually beneficial trade relationships. When goods cross borders, troops tend not to.

If Muslim countries thought of us as an oil customer, their governments would have more incentive to police the radical elements within their borders who wanted to do us harm.

Contrary to what the liberals and socialists claim, capitalism and free trade are the path to peace and prosperity.

Posted by: Bruce Guthrie on October 10, 2007 08:51 PM
3. Not to mention, that if any more that the few BioDiesel nuts start to actually purchase this fuel on a regular basis, we'd quickly run out of capacity not only here in WA, but nationwide. And the "dirty" secret of BioDiesel is that it takes a huge amount of energy to fuel all of the tractors to plant and harvest the crops, in addition to refining, etc. By the time one factors all that extra energy in, there's nothing Bio about it. Any real environmentalists should be calling for the stoppage of the subsidies that make this boutique industry possible, and also for the stoppage of the industry as an additional pollutant and waste that goes far beyond what would be needed to produce the equivalent amount of crude oil.

Another great example of where Progressives are so blinded by the emotion of a little scheme, that they are willing to create a plan which is a net loss, and never really solves the problem it was intended to solve.

These nuts should stick to their french fry oil, and leave the rest of us alone.

Posted by: Jeff B. on October 10, 2007 09:02 PM
4. "More Americans are realizing the benefits of biodiesel every year," Bush said. "In 1999, biodiesel producers sold about 500,000 gallons of fuel for the year. Last year, biodiesel sales totaled 30 million gallons. That's a sixtyfold increase in five years. More than 500 operators of major vehicle fleets now use biodiesel."

May 16, 2005

Damn progressive "biodiesel nut"!

Posted by: BA on October 10, 2007 09:20 PM
5. There are conservative Biodiesel nuts too. And way too many Republicans willing to hand out subsidies. We need leadership that cuts the subsidies altogether. You're right though, Bush is just as guilty as the rest. Although at least he is not a Progressive. That would make him even worse.

Posted by: Jeff B. on October 10, 2007 10:06 PM
6. Love the polar bear footage. Did anyone else notice the hilarious man-bear fight video next to it??

Posted by: Michele on October 10, 2007 10:29 PM
7. That boob in the White House is still blathering on about our "addiction to oil". This sort of nonsense plays right into the hands of Maria Cantwell and her gang of Luddites who want to save the Artic for the mosquitoes.

And speaking about the Artic why has the United States become such a laggard about exploiting the the vast oil reserves in the Artic Ocean? Is it because the Coast Guard's decrepit icebreakers don't dare venture that far or does Bush really believe his own BS about our addiction to oil?

Oil is by far the most efficient and thus cheapest energy on earth. In a market free of government intervention biodiesel, and most certainly, ethanol would be discarded as too wasteful and expensive to produce.

If we are addicted to oil then we are addicted to oxygen. Unless we Americans want to join Cantwell in her mosquito infested, but oil well free paradise, we had better learn that oil is the lifeblood of modern civilization.

Posted by: Bill K. on October 10, 2007 10:32 PM
8. From a good mechanic I know: Most anything (diesel-wise) on the road today can't run a straight diet of bio-diesel without some heavy modification. What that station is probably offering is mix of about 25% or so bio with the dinosaur stuff the balance. The bio is also the pits in moderately cold weather. It gets a little too viscous. Other than that it's great.

Bruce @ #2 gets it. Unlike our "leaders" who wouldn't know about free market economics if it bit them. Bush included. The simple fact is that bio-diesel and ethanol solutions have been around for quite some time (the Indy 500 has been using ethanol for as long as I can remember and E-85 cars have been in the midwest since at least the late 80s). The market chose oil because it is superior to all the others in BTUs, transportability, flexibility and cost.

I'm not against bio by any stretch. The subsidy is another matter however. Let the market decide.

Posted by: G Jiggy on October 10, 2007 10:36 PM
9. Don't get me wrong, biodiesel - at least the stuff made from virgin crops, not from waste vegetable oil - is no environmental panacea.

That said, I still think it's a lousy that foreign nations have the US over a barrel (pardon the pun).

The market should be allowed to work, which means both eliminating direct subsidies (paying biodiesel producers and crop growers) and indirect subsidies (the cost of petro-fuel doesn't reflect the cost of keeping a military presence in the Middle East.)

Yes, only a fraction of our imported oil comes from that region, but it's strategically important because every other producing nation outside the ME is pumping at full capacity. That effectively means that Saudi Arabia (and Iraq, if its reserves ever come fully back online) has enormous power to set global prices because they've got all the spare capacity.

Trade is a good thing, but right now we're bankrolling the enemy. The only way this will change is if we stop subsidizing a consumable (oil) with the military and start charging the true cost of securing our energy resources to the consumers of those resources.

Right now we're not even paying the full cost of that subsidy in tax receipts - i.e. we're financing our oil consumption with national debt. This is like buying gas on a credit card and carrying the balance forward - a terrible idea.

I couldn't give a fig about so-called global warming; a volcano could burp next week and emit as much CO2 in a day as the US does in a year. I just think subsidizing oil with our military is lousy policy, and the US needs to charge that cost to the consumer so the market will work.

Posted by: declaration of independence on October 11, 2007 09:21 AM
Washington State is an example of how a Democratically controlled state can turn into a technological backwater.

Check out this map of LA. It shows all the hydrogen filling stations from Gov. Arnold's Hydrogen Highway:


Look at all the stations near LA and SanFran. Right now you can practically own a hydrogen vehicle in California.

In Washington? Nope! You can only get 19th century fuel in the supposed High Tech center.


Because of the dum-dum politics of Murphy and Cantwell!

Posted by: John Bailo on October 11, 2007 10:49 AM
11. So Don how many shares of Exxon-Mobil do you own? Or is it BP shares?

I expect better than this brain dead analysis of biofuels.
Hmm. Where do I start?
First No more acreage will have to planted to produce canola oil. Wheat farmers are already paid to leave there acreage fallow every three years. With canola they can wean themselves off this subsidy. They get better wheat harvest after planting canola and not only can they sell the oil the farmers can sell a protein rich mash to feed livestock.
I guess it makes more sense to spend tens of billions of dollars a year to subsidize the safety of the world's oil supply as it travels through the Straits of Hormuz.
Strange no one every mentions the subsidies the oil industry continues to get.

You so-called conservatives deserve to continue to lose elections.

Posted by: M&M on October 11, 2007 01:35 PM
12. From a good mechanic I know: Most anything (diesel-wise) on the road today can't run a straight diet of bio-diesel without some heavy modification.

Most any diesel built in the last ten or fifteen years can run straight biodiesel with no problems. The only real disadvantages straight biodiesel has over petro-diesel is that it doesn't handle extreme cold as well (think Canada and Alaska), and it has slightly less energy so gets a little less MPG. But other than that, it's pretty much a direct substitute.

But it shouldn't be made out of food crops. Algae farms in the Arizona desert seem like a good experiment to try (and some people are trying). If it's economically more viable than buying it from Hugo Chavez et. al., I trust the free market to figure out a way. If not, then not.

The problem, of course, is government subsidies that skew the market and encourage farmers to turn foodstocks into fuel. Jeff B. overstates the case a bit, but corn isn't the most efficient source. Making biodiesel out of corn runs about 4 to 3 (you get 4 gallons of product for every 3 you burn creating it).

A free market. Let's let it work.

Posted by: JMHawkins on October 11, 2007 02:14 PM
13. M&M @ 11,
50,000 shares of Exxon and Phillip Morris. I'm also heavily vested in Spacely Sprockets and own Boardwalk, Park Place and all four railroads.

So they've found canola which is able to grow without irrigation water? The salmon will be so pleased.

Or are we going to take more wheat fields offline to plant fuel crops? The Chi-Coms will be so pleased.

Posted by: Don Ward on October 11, 2007 04:01 PM
14. We need to work on the technology of drilling
oil wells right from here to the middle east
in a straight line and suck it all out. Then
we could sell them some wheat for 100 dollars
a barrel and get our money back. SSHHHHH

Posted by: mark on October 11, 2007 07:42 PM
15. Don,

Do your homework and get your facts straight:

1. No farmer is converting open space or wheat farms to grow canola crops and if you can back your claim up please provide evidence.
2. Canola is grown in Washington exclusively as a rotation crop to prevent soil erosion and weed infestation. The fact that there is a market for the end product is nice, whether that is cooking oil or biodiesel doesn't really matter. But farmers still lose money growing canola at current market rates (which are historical highs), thus no new land will be converted. Just rotated as they have been for decades.
3. Since no new land will be converted, obviously no new water will be consumed for growing canola for biodiesel production as you suggest. However, given our massively booming population led by immigration and friends of immigrants (Pres. Bush & Co.) water consumption will grow well beyond sustainable rates due to open land being converted for more food production as well as direct water usage. See southwest U.S. for examples.

I agree with Bruce, let the free markets work. No more subsidies for special interests like biodiesel, farmers or oil companies.

Posted by: saxa on October 11, 2007 10:15 PM
16. saxa,

You didn't offer a single shred of evidence supporting your spew. Bush and co are friends of immigrants? HA HA HA! Weren't you just on the corner bashing him for getting tough on our borders? Pick a side, any side!

Posted by: Laughing at YOU on October 15, 2007 03:34 PM
17. Laughing at who?

"Weren't you just on the corner bashing him for getting tough on our borders? Pick a side, any side!"

I never bashed anyone for getting tough on our borders. I am firmly on the side of anyone who supports border control- as I always have been. I'm a card carrying member of FAIR and CAPS.

I don't offer a shred of evidence? Okay, do I really need to offer evidence that farmers rotate crops? It's a universal practice that has existing for decades if not centuries.

Do I need to provide evidence on pricing of global commodities? Just check wheat prices with the Chicago Board of Trade and canola prices with the Winnepeg Commodity Exchange.

Do I need to provide evidence that farmers won't clear virgin land to cultivate unprofitable crops like canola?

Do I need to provide evidence that our population is exploding due to immigration (legal & illegal)?

In any event, I'm not part of Sound Politics so why should the burden of documenting and publishing evidence fall on me and not on DonWard? If he can produce evidence to make his points, I will either agree with him or provide evidence to the contrary.

Posted by: saxa on October 17, 2007 10:55 PM
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