Archive for February, 2007
Biofuels bill reaches a vote
by damian | Uncategorized

The Oregon House tomorrow is expected to vote on HB2210, which will provide tax exemptions for biofuels production facilities and set a statewide renewable fuel standard. The bill has been sailing through committee and environmental groups and industry expect it to pass. Tomas Endicott today said he expected it to pass with 20 Republicans on board. I hope to be in Salem for the vote - minus any snow (fingers crossed).

The embarrassed American
by damian | Uncategorized

Almost a month after the IPCC report on climate change came out and it’s still a hot topic here. Global climate change and CO2 emissions have come up in almost every conversation I’ve had with Europeans of many nationalities over the past few days without any provocation from me. One conversation, in particular, comes to mind.

A Portuguese man raised the topic at a table including Americans, Germans, French, and Bulgarians. What began as a high-minded scientific discussion soon devolved into an argument between the EU citizens and a lone, very outspoken American. Global warming is rhetoric, it’s kitsch for puritans who, having realized there is no God have turned to a force of nature to bring forth destruction and doom, said a man from Denver. And if humans are indeed the cause of climate change the only natural conclusion would be to exterminate humans, he continued. He doesn’t see any real solution to the problem aside from human extinction and therefore it shouldn’t be addressed, especially not by government regulation.

The EU faction of the table was shocked by his statements.

Not all Americans think this way, I was quick to point out.

Yes, but what about your vice president?

I couldn’t deny it. Cheney had just spoken out against the IPCC report. It’s difficult to argue that Americans have a real concern for global climate change when our elected leaders at the highest level still refuse to acknowledge what the rest of the world has now accepted.

Beer == Energy
by damian | Uncategorized

Last night, at yet another Brussels bar, Beer Mania – home to 400 Belgian artisanal beers — a Frenchman once again gave me an excuse to write about beer on my blog. Upon learning that I am a journalist, he set about convincing me to write an article on Beer Mania. I write about energy and transportation, I said, I’m a serious writer. But beer equals energy, he said. True, I said. I had not eaten anything in ten or so hours so the three beers in my system were indeed sustaining me.

Oregon’s backyard biofuels movement — those fanatics who gather their own used cooking grease to formulate biodiesel in their backyards and garages — has been compared to Oregon’s ardor for basement micro brews. And on my visit to the SeQuential production facility in Salem last spring I met a biodiesel production manager who had, in fact, managed a brewery for several years before accepting his current position. So the link between beer and energy isn’t so far-fetched.

Sure, I said, I’ll write about Beer Mania.

by damian | Uncategorized

Last night at Le Roy d’Espagne pub in Brussels, after downing the biggest glass you’ve ever seen of Leffe blond, I met an employee of Ford Motor company, whose European division has offices in Antwerp. Feeling completely unhindered I asked him how much longer he expected to have a job. He replied that unlike the American division, Euro Ford is doing quite well.
Pardon? I asked. Pourqoui?
It’s simple, he said, Euro Ford has embraced smaller more fuel efficient models. He then went on to talk about how much SUV’s disgust him. Only the most wealthy Europeans drive them, he said, as a way to flaunt their wealth.
Oh, I said, SUV’s in Belgium are like Hummers in America?
He would guess so, he said, though he’d never seen a Hummer in real life before.
Pardon? How can two divisions of the same company be so different? I asked. He broke it down for me, asking how much I pay for a gallon of gasoline, converting that to Liters and then adding in his country’s fuel tax.
D’ac. I said. Je comprend.

Smith the Stone age senator
by damian | Uncategorized

Earlier this month the international panel on climate change released its fourth annual report, reviewed by hundreds of esteemed scientists worldwide, stating that climate change is undeniably caused by increased global carbon emissions due to human activity. The report received wide media attention and the overwhelming concensus is that the climate change debate is over.

That’s why I was shocked as all hell to hear Oregon Senator Gordon Smith say this morning to a roomful of Portland business leaders, in essence, that yes scientists say climate change is real, but it’s only a “7/10’s of one percent” increase in temperature and that Greenland, now covered in ice, was once a temperate farmland. This after stating his support for our state’s new focus on sustainable industries.

“I believe mankind is having an impact, I just don’t know the percentage of that impact,” Smith said.

I would expect such a business-friendly politician to seize the opportunity global warming awareness has created to capitalize on sustainable industries. Instead, I heard a politician having a hard time admitting he was wrong.

Smith’s website

Greening the Super Bowl
by damian | Uncategorized

This is the first year the NFL is purchasing carbon offsets in an initiative to make the Super Bowl a carbon neutral event. Working with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they calculated the carbon emissions of Dolphin stadium during the event and have planted trees and purchased renewable energy credits to offset it. Unfortunately, the calculation doesn’t include the travel to and from the event by the teams or the fans. Or the energy used by millions of ginormous televisions across the nation (although it does include the eight brand new 108 inch plasma screens just added to the club level of the stadium).

Read about the NFL’s environmental program

Read the story about the program

Doomsday scenario
by damian | Uncategorized

The Portland peak oil task force draft report “Descending the Oil Peak: Navigating the transition from oil and natural gas” is now available on the city’s OSD website. I have not yet read the entire 86-page report and I admit I’m scared to after a friend confessed he’s seriously hesitant about having children after hearing about its predictions. But Portland is one of the few cities in the country taking peak oil seriously enough to incorporate it into long-term planning and I believe it is worth the read, even if only for the temporary form of birth control.