Archive for April, 2007
The $1.1 billion question
by damian | Uncategorized

Monday April 30th was the deadline for cities to submit their congestion relief programs to receive a piece of the US DOT’s $130 million urban partnership agreements for reducing traffic — part of its $1.1 billion strategy to reduce urban congestion. It will be interesting to see the results, especially considering that tolling, the number one anti-congestion strategy in the DOT’s strategy has been so wildly unpopular.

Businessweek:Private roads a dead end
Texas stops private toll roads
Texas governor poised to veto toll ban

Bloomberg calls for congestion pricing
by damian | Uncategorized

On Sunday, as I was eating a tira misu gelato waffle cone in little Italy on a weekend trip to NYC, a few blocks south at city hall Mayor Bloomberg was announcing his Earth Day plan to start congestion pricing in Manhattan. His plan, to charge cars $8 or trucks $21 to enter the city anywhere below 86th Street, would go into effect in 2009 if he can succesfully sell it to state and local politicians.

“It sounds like a lot of money, but you go to the movies, it’s 12 bucks, so let’s put some of this stuff in perspective here,” he said. “People that drive into the city generally _ you have to be careful to not say everybody _ but if you look at the statistics, tend to be people that can afford it, because otherwise they’ll take mass transit. — Bloomburg, in an April 23, AP article

Many European cities including Stockholm, London and Paris have implemented such a system with success for exactly the reason that Bloomberg stated. Those who can afford it, pay it. Those who can’t, find alternative means of transportation. Such a system may seem unfair to working class citizens, but economists say, congestion pricing is one good market solution for combatting congestion and the associated carbon dioxide emissions.
The only better option to a zoning price is a per-mile fee, according to The Undercover Economist , by Tim Harford, an idea Oregon has been testing for the past year in a small pilot project but has so far failed to implement more broadly. Bloomberg’s idea, while progressive for a U.S. city is nothing new. Oregon’s system, if succesful, would be revolutionary.

Global warming gets a hearing
by damian | Uncategorized

I heard from the Oregon Environmental Council today that three bills aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and imposing tougher regulations on utilities and large industrial emitters will have their first hearing — a joint House and Senate committee meeting — next Wednesday at the capitol. Legislators will be briefed tonight and the public will be allowed to testify next week. The introduction of the bills is cutting it really close, the deadline to be out of committee is April 30. But the bills would go a long way toward bringing Oregon up to speed with our West Coast neighbors and could actually enforce the goals the state set 15 years ago for greenhouse gas reductions, should they all pass.

A pickle of a water problem
by damian | Uncategorized

An Oregon Senate bill, SB 483 , introduced a few weeks ago would permit farmers to withdraw more water from the Columbia River to increase crop production and spur economic growth in the northeastern part of the state. And farmers, including Kent Madison (who’s growing canola to crush into biodiesel and selling it to SeQuential), have argued they’ll need the water to meet the state’s biofuels mandate should it pass. The interesting thing is that drawing more water from the Columbia also reduces flow rates through the Bonneville Dam, which is being used currently to integrate wind farms into the regional electrical grid. That could create problems for the proposed renewable energy standard which would mostly be met through wind resources. Oh, how to solve this pickle of a problem?

Capital Press: Supporters say tapping Columbia helps farmers

Fueling cars or cows?
by damian | Uncategorized

Buried in USBank chief economist John Mitchell’s economic update this month was this little nugget on agriculture:

The Agricultural Statistics Service reported data on Oregon wineries and production for 2006. … There were a total of 52,000 acres of corn planted in Oregon, well short of the 800,000 acres required to fuel the planned ethanol plants in the state.

Two big ethanol plants are scheduled to come online in 2008 in Oregon. Pacific Ethanol’s 35 million gallon facility in Boardman and Cascade Grain Products’ 113 million gallon plant near Clatskanie. And US Ethanol just started construction on a 55 million gallon one across the river in Longview, WA.

If an acre of corn produces about 328 gallons of ethanol, according to a Cornell researcher, and if all the corn grown in Oregon was used to make ethanol it would still only produce about 17 million gallons.

Where will all this corn come from? And what is the ultimate price? I’ve read several articles in the past few weeks indicating that the higher demand for corn created by the demand for ethanol has led to higher food prices because feed corn for cows and chickens is suddenly more expensive. Oregon, with its shocking hunger statistics should think very carefully about the road it takes in promoting alternative fuels.

Oregon passes RPS
by damian | Uncategorized

The Senate today passed SB 838, which sets minimum standards for renewable energy in the state — 25% of new electricity generation from renewable resources by 2025. When it’s signed by the Governor, that will make Oregon’s clean energy standard among the most aggressive in the country.

I wonder how long this will stay up…
by damian | Uncategorized

I snapped this photo while waiting for a light to change at the corner of Burnside and MLK last week. This seems to be a pretty poor marketing strategy ‘What is better than a Hybrid? A Subarau.’ — in the hybrid capital of the U.S. But it’s also a misleading sign. Zero emissions is highlighted in pink. The “Partial” in front of zero emissions can get lost in a drive-by viewing. Partial zero emissions (PZEV) is the next best thing to a hybrid — lower emissions and better fuel economy than your standard car. But, like this sign, it’s somewhat half-assed. A PZEV meets the same emissions standard as an electric hybrid, but the hybrid is still more fuel efficient.

Batter up!
by damian | Uncategorized

Baseball season opens this week and I’ll be doing a little pitching of my own. On Thursday I will moderate a panel discussion on energy for the Portland Business Alliance’s sustainability day. Thor Hinckley, Tomas Endicott and Troy Gagliano will discuss renewable energy development in Oregon on Thursday, April 05 at 2:30 p.m. in the Flag Room of the World Trade Center in Portland (PGE headquarters). I will try to make my questions for Thor harder to even out his home field advantage.

Tomas Endicott is a co-founder and managing partner of SeQuential Biofuels, LLC, which developed Oregon’s first and only commercial biodiesel production plant in Salem. Thor Hinckley has been the manager of PGE’s renewable power program since October 2000. He is currently project manager for the development of PGE’s new Renewable Future renewable power offering and oversees the installation of PGE’s solar power projects. And Troy Gagliano is a senior policy specialist for the Renewable Northwest Project focused on project siting, regulatory issues in Idaho and Oregon, media relations, and represents RNP on the Energy Trust of Oregon’s Renewable Advisory Committee.