Portland, Oregon: An American Energy Brain Trust
Yesterday I was witness to an amazing event. I was standing at the corner of Jay’s Garage, the first fueling station in Portland to install both Biodiesel (B99) and Ethanol (E85) pumps. The sun was beginning to wind down its day, when suddenly 4 motorcycle cops reminiscent of Robocop come barreling toward me, lights blazing. The officers shut down traffic immediately with lightning precision, and as I began running the Bill of Rights through my memory, 3 more officers appeared, followed by multiple undercover cruisers, lights flashing.
Then I saw it.
A line of over 30 vehicles, from buses to 3-wheeled fiberglass cars, making an instant a motorcade of new energy pride. It was a flash-mob like scene that conjured memories of the movie Ghostbusters when ECTO 1 rolled up to the building in NY to go slay Zuel. The blazing-lights and horns-a-honkin renewable fuels parade was led by multiple players and momentum makers in Portland’s biofuels scene, including City Commissioner Randy Leonard, credited with forging America’s first biofuels standard for a city. It was a “Who’s Who” of Portland’s biofuels scene, and an amazing networking event highlighted by featured speaker Josh Tickell.
Josh’s energy is amazing. The man who has traveled the world to promote biodiesel, has authored multiple books and now even has a movie coming out commanded the microphone and addressed the hundred plus audience that had gathered for the event. “You are making a national statement, Portland!” he exclaimed. Choking up with emotion, Josh passionately preached his vision of a new way forward for America to realize sustainable energy. “This isn’t about being Republican or Democrat,” he said as he gave a fiery speech touting the merits of community and renewable fuels. We were even treated to a preview of his up and coming smash blockbuster biodiesel movie due out next year.
Sleepy time is over kids – we must act now. The sentiment is echoing across the state as farmers realize new markets for growing fuel and drivers recognize they now have a choice of what fuel to put into their vehicles. While there are still plenty of attacks against biofuels in the media, there IS enough land to grow both food and fuel. And you should see the awesome stuff happening with Algae… it produces oil and doubles its mass every few hours! By instituting both large-scale and micro-level biorefineries, we can create the changes we need to ween ourselves as much as possible off of black gold.
While I believe we will be biking a lot more, growing food at home, relying on our neighbors, and doing much more with less stuff, yesterday’s event is a proud start. It will take a lot more than canola and sugar beets to stop war in this world, but the unifying power of American ingenuity is coming together. Granted, there will will be NIMBY and zoning issues that arise as we locate places for biorefineries, and we are way late in the race, but we truly have the ability to get our act together. As soon as we demand and install better national leadership that cares about Americans and get over our differences – we can build better lives for ourselves and future generations.
And Portland is doing a fine job of helping lead the way.