Hall Monitor 

Greasy Palms

If the corner of SW Jefferson and 4th seemed extra greasy for the past week or so, it's because city hall has been flooded with lobbyists from the oil industry, slipping and sliding through commissioners' offices, leaving slimy footprints all over their nice tile floor.

Why has the petroleum industry sent an army of policy peddlers to shake down our elected representatives? Blame City Commissioner Randy Leonard, who's pushing a city ordinance that could very well take food out of the mouths of oil company CEOs and their families.

The plan: to require all diesel fuel sold in Portland to contain at least five percent biodiesel—fuel that comes from biodegradable plant material like soybeans and the unfortunately named rapeseed. By 2010, that would increase to 10 percent.

Unsurprisingly, the petroleum industry isn't thrilled about losing that much money. But, of course, that isn't on the lobbyists' list of talking points.

"They're using every trick in the book," says Leonard. "They're saying biodiesel is untested, full of contaminants, that babies will be born with three heads, that God will come from the sky and smite us all. Now they're saying that the fuel market should only be controlled by market demands. I had to look at them and say, 'Are you fucking kidding me?'"

Coincidentally (or not), a Vancouver, WA-based biodiesel company called Northwest Fuels is planning to announce a massive, 120-million-gallon biodiesel plant that will open in Portland by next summer—right in line with Leonard's July 1, 2007 start date for his ordinance.

Leonard believes he has support for his plan on the city council—the vote happens next Wednesday, July 5.

At least the oil industry can thank city council for one thing: potentially slowing the growth of Flexcar, the car-sharing company that—according to one recent study—takes almost 15 cars off the road per Flexcar vehicle. Last week, council voted 4-0 to slash city subsidies to the company, requiring "full revenue recovery" for the free spaces the city provides for Flexcar vehicles downtown and capping the number of spaces at 50. Why, you may ask, would city council handicap a company that it so often references as the kind of green business the city needs more of?

It might have something to do with the $60,000 per year the city claims it loses in meter revenue—a figure Flexcar strenuously argues is exaggerated.

The new rules are being drafted by the Portland Department of Transportation—contact them directly with complaints.

Hey! Check portlandmercury.com/blogtown for daily news and politics!

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