Friday, June 19, 2009

Seattle Drops Biodiesel



Here's a King 5 News video clip and here is a short article from the online Seattle PI. The PI article suggests that Seattle quit because of this EPA study, which came out in May (Figure 2 shows soy biodiesel worse than regular diesel). It also suggests that this is a temporary situation when it isn't. Quite a change from a year ago when permission was given to invest ten million dollars of the Seattle Employee's retirement funds in a local biodiesel refinery now sitting idle.

Here is a quote from an article I wrote in the first week of April:

Just last week I met, along with two other people, with a local politician to lobby him to drop his city's use of a 40 percent blend of food-based biodiesel. He finally perked up when someone mentioned that dropping the biodiesel would save the city $350,000 annually. There was potential political gain to be had. As a politician, his next step should be to determine if banning of the biodiesel blend would make more political enemies than it would gain. The mayor of this city is a huge biodiesel proponent and the employee's retirement fund of this city invested ten million dollars last year in the largest biodiesel refinery on the West Coast, which is now on the edge of bankruptcy. All of the congress people in this State are huge proponents of biofuels.

A word of encouragement for this politician, as Washington State's King County Executive, Ron Sims stopped use of biodiesel in King County vehicles last year citing budgetary concerns. That move certainly didn't cost him any political points. He is now deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Maybe taking the moral high ground on this issue will be the politically smart thing to do in the future.


And here is the information presented to that particular politician via email prior to that meeting.

The city of Berkeley also stopped using biodiesel. Seattle is located in King County, which dropped biodiesel earlier in the year. That leaves Washington State, which still has laws on the books mandating ever-increasing blends of biodiesel in all state vehicles.

Higher level politicians appear to be taking a wait and see position. Visit their websites you'll find they are still gushing over how biofuels are going to stimulate the local economy (refinery death watch), fight global warming (not), and make us energy independent (80% of biodiesel was being shipped overseas).

What should have been obvious from the beginning is that growing both food and fuel will take more land. That land has to come from somewhere. It is coming from existing ecosystem carbon sinks. It should also have been obvious that food processors would be competing for the same feedstocks as the fuel processors, thus temporarily driving the price of both up, which in turn is the signal needed by farmers around the world to start torching grasslands, rainforests and peat bogs, which will in turn lower the price of feedstocks again, until the next biofuel mandate causes another round of price signaling and land clearing. There are 3 billion more people on the way.

It was just about four years ago that I first suggested this was a really bad idea. Be sure to read all of the comments from that post from four years ago.

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2 comments:

Kyle Capizzi said...

I would argue most of the politicians you've engratiated yourself to made a calculation that saving money in this environment (dropping biodiesel) and quoting your figures (a supposed environmentalist) to do it wouldn't cost them many green votes. Bravo, you're saving the world...

Kyle Capizzi said...

Propel's comments from four years ago still hold:
http://www.grist.org/article/bad-idea#c31938