Jan 16, 2008

Count your victories, not your problems.

One of the downsides of the information age is that we have access to a ton of troubling news from every corner of the globe - everything from cloned food (label it please) to melting glacial ice (less personal but equally ominous), to war, political scandals, etc. In light of all this, it can be hard to stay positive.

About a month ago I took a phone call on the main SeQuential line from a young woman who was feeling buried by all the negative news of the world - she felt there was nothing she could do to solve all the problems of the world, so why should she even bother trying? We talked about how there is no
silver bullet that will fix everything and how by taking small steps and leading by example, large ripples can be created that eventually create real, tangible results.

One such of these ripples tuned into a wave yesterday as the Oregon Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) started phasing in, just one part of the
2007 Biofuel Bill. This bill passed thanks to the efforts of a small coalition of non-profits, private business, industry organizations and dedicated individuals, not to mention government leadership. This bill is creating a huge positive impact on such daunting issues as local economic strength, energy security and climate change.

In 1992, Portland and other cities around the country were mandated by the EPA to use gasoline blended with ethanol to improve air quality during winter months. As of Tuesday, nine Oregon counties are now mandated by the Oregon RFS to use gasoline with 10% ethanol year round. Another nine counties are shifting over April 15; the rest of the state on September 16.

The impact of this is huge. Ethanol is cleaner-burning and the RFS was kicked into effect by
Pacific Ethanol's in-state ethanol production, moving Oregon one step closer to energy independence.

In 2006, Oregon used
3,571,000 gallons per day of gasoline. Once the whole state is switched over, the ethanol RFS will, on an annual basis, approximately:
  • Reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 198,735,000 tons (CO2 is a greenhouse gas)
  • Avoid the use of 95,149,000 gallons of petroleum fuel (scaled for the lower BTU content in ethanol
There is also a portion of the RFS for blending biodiesel in with petroleum diesel; this will go into effect when in-state production reaches the five million gallon per year mark. (The SeQuential-Pacific Biodiesel plant in Salem is currently under expansion from one to five million gallons per year.)

The Oregon RFS timeline for blending ethanol in with gasoline:

  • January 15th: Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, Clatsop, Columbia, Tillamook, Yamhill, Polk and Marion counties.
  • April 15th: Linn, Lane, Benton, Lincoln, Douglas, Coos, Jackson, Josephine, and Curry counties.
  • September 16th: all remaining counties.

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