Portland, SustainLane's #1 city in its US City Sustainability Rankings, is introducing legislation that would require that all diesel fuel sold within the city contain 5% biodiesel starting in 2007 and move to 10% by 2010. Besides ethanol use, it's one of the first times any U.S. city has attempted to truly wean itself off its addiction to oil not only on the demand side (public transit, planning, etc.) but also on the public supply side.
Biodiesel is made from vegetable oil rather than fossil fuel, and besides polluting about half as much as regular diesel fuel, it also can be homegrown from American crops such as canola and soybeans. It can also be blended with typical diesel fuel.
I just spoke with the Portland city commissioner that introduced the measure this week, Randy Leonard. "Our hope is that it does develop into an economic initiative for the state of Oregon. We will be successful if we establish a program that ends up reducing our dependenece on foreign oil," Leonard said. "The fear in this state is that the large oil corporations have manipulated the market. This ordinance will also increase reliance on the American farmer rather than on the executives at Exxon."
The five-member Portland city council made of Leonard, three other commissioners, and Mayor Tom Potter, will discuss the proposal Wednesday before voting on the measure Wednesday, July 5.
"We're digging in for an onslaught from the oil industry, which is claiming that the supply of this fuel is inadequate," Leonard said.
The availability of biodiesel is definitely an issue when attempting to legislate such supply-side approaches. But Leonard believes that the old conundrum--the chicken and the egg and which came first--applies here. "East of the Cascades in Oregon the land is ideal for growing canola. Farmers in Oregon said they would grow more of this crop for biodiesel, but the market isn't large or predicatable enough, so this builds predictability into that market."
As part of Leonard's ordinance, Portland's city fleet, about 25% which use alternative fuels including biodiesel, is also being directed to use at least 20% biodiesel in all diesel vehilces. According to Tricia Knoll at the Portland Water Bureau, her agency is shifting this summer from 20% biodiesel use to 99% biodiesel for its fleet of more than 140 vehicles. Berkeley, California previously made the switch to 100% biodiesel for its fleet of 180 trucks. They then switched back to B20(%) and now reportedly are ready to switch back to B99.
Leonard is also introducing legislation to make regular gasoline in Portland contain 10% ethanol-based fuel throughout the year. A state measure is set to expire that mandates 10% ethanol for regular gasoline throughout the city during winter months because of air pollution.
On my commute ride in to San Francisco today I was joined by mountain biking legend Joe Breeze, one of the sport's early pioneers. Breeze and fellow Marin County locals Gary Fisher and Otis Guy started in the mid-1970s tricking out their balloon tire Schwinn bikes for the slopes of Mount Tamalpais. In what history is calling the first mountain bike race in 1976, Alan Bonds won, being the only rider not crashing during the 1,000-foot shotgun descent. For fastest times over the next few years, Gary Fisher came in number one and Breeze a close second on Fairfax, California's notorious Repack. Check out these mondo photos of Joe and others racing on this dirt fireroad.
Joe was commuting this morning to his job in Sausalito, which is where his "transportation bicycle" company Breezer is located. These durable and functional bikes are equipped with racks, headlights and tailights, and mud flaps for ultra dependable bike commuting. They're built for the challenges of city and suburban commuters, not the trails of Mt. Tam, and they are hitting a sweet spot of need for gas-free transportation that many are turning to in cities throughout the U.S. Joe told me while we rode along that his company has shown 40% growth each year since they launched in 2004.
Is Breeze still living up to his name? Well, to give you an idea, I was on my skinny-tire road bike and he was on a heavier hybrid Breezer and kept pace with me until we split off in Sausalito 12 miles later.
Look for an upcoming movie featuring Joe Breeze and others from that fat-tire genesis, called Klunkerz, which comes out this summer and might be debuting at the upcoming Sundance.