You gotta hand it to City Commissioner Randy Leonard—when he said he was going to give the trucking industry plenty of chances to give their input on the city's biodiesel mandate, he wasn't kidding. Thursday, September 14, Leonard convened an open powwow with "stakeholders" to talk about moving forward on his alternative fuels package—giving truckers and petroleum peddlers yet another chance to try to derail the program.
Even though the meeting was ostensibly organized to hammer out the details of the biodiesel ordinance, it ended up turning into a forum in which both sides could keep trying to screw each other. According to insiders, representatives from the Oregon Trucking Association (OTA) showed up simply to find ways to kill the bill—using outdated technical information.
According to one insider, the OTA's stubbornness is keeping the process from moving forward. Leonard, though, says he's letting them air their grievances so that no one can ever claim the city didn't listen to all sides.
Truckers' beefs aside, the mandate is moving forward—by next July, all diesel sold within city limits will have to be five percent biodiesel (unless the stations sell at least a 20 percent blend). And entrepreneurs are already lining up to take advantage of the newly created market demand. One local oil company is preparing to manufacture one million gallons of biodiesel per month, and "a major announcement about a large biodiesel plant" to be located in Portland is expected soon.
But will the petroleum and trucking industries appeal to a higher power? Leonard is convinced they'll try to squeeze a statewide preemption to the city's mandate through the state legislature next year—something along the lines of "no city in Oregon is permitted to establish independent alternative fuel standards." It may sound outlandish—in what political environment is it okay to be against cleaner air and less dependence on foreign oil?—but they've done it before. In 2005, the oil industry killed a statewide alternative fuels package in the closing days of the session.
Speaking of entrepreneurs! According to Commissioner Sam Adams' office, enterprising thieves have seized the opportunity that has come with rising scrap metal prices—businesses all over town are reporting that bits of metal are disappearing from their buildings overnight and resurfacing at local metal recycling centers. Adams and the mayor's office are working on a possible citywide solution to the problem while others are working to solve the problem at the state level.
As always, we know who to chalk this one up to: "People in real desperate circumstances, like meth users," according to an Adams staffer.