Bio-fuel that Car? Troubles in Green Ville.

There was an article in the Oregonian here in Hillsboro, Oregon last Sunday dealing with grease! Yes, you heard me right…grease. It seems that going green in our country has caused some new and unusual concerns. When we find one solution for our planetary crisis another problem rears it’s ugly head. No resource is infinite and when the value of a commodity rises, criminals find a way to cash in on the need. Then when you add that to the reduction in production for food to the production crops for bio-fuels, you have solved one problem only to create another. On top of that there is the change in appearance of neighborhoods and building that reflect a change in a way of living. Water catch basins, solar panels and clotheslines should be more common but are offensive to those that have to look at them.

The fast food industry in the Portland area, not unlike some other places in the USA, is experiencing a windfall of sorts. The oil used by them for french fries and other fast food is reused by the bio-fuel industry here in the state as a source of non fossil fuel “bio-diesel” for our cars. Where, in the past, these same restaurant were paying a great deal of money to have the oil disposed of, now there is an emerging competitive market for the deep fried food bi-product. Not only do bio-fuels need the oil but cattle feed, pet food and foreign cosmetic producers are also bidding for it. As a result it is not uncommon to see theft of the contents of oil drums during the night. The restaurant operators will come to work in the morning to find them pumped dry of their contents.

The other down side is that field raised crops like corn and canola, another source for bio fuels, has the same restaurants that are providing the oils from barrels in the back of the restuarant complaining that when field raised crops are used for bio-fuel, there is an inflationary effect in the food market.

A company in Washington state called Raven Biofuels plans to open a cellulosic ethanol Biorefinery that will convert wood waste such as sawdust, construction site scraps and demolition wood to ethanol. One has only to imagine what the result of this might be. On one hand, finding a way to get rid of what might be garbage is one thing but to use reusable lumber to make gas is questionable. Constructions sites are building fencing with reward signs that invite people to turn in thieves for a reward. There could be competition in this type of reuse that would make wood bi-products more and more valuable.

We can add the recycling of metal as a part of the going green problem equation. The platinum in catalytic converters, copper pipe on construction sites and even a huge piece of play ground equipment have disappeared recently because of the need for “scrap metal”. Students went onto the playground in Kelso, Washington and found the jungle gym gone! The equipment measured 17′ in diameter. Nothing is safe from this type of thief and as the price of scrap metal rises so does the brazenness of the plundering criminals. The idea was to crush cars and worn out bridges or any scrap metal that was laying around in a pile but it has turned into a treasure hunt of sort the is spreading to urban communities.

Here in Hillsboro, Oregon the restrictions of one neighborhood would not allow the residents to use clotheslines rather than dryers, water collection systems, a compost pile or anything else the was deemed to be an eye sore. In this particular neighborhood many ways to live green were simply not acceptable.

So, while Americans try to go green, we are having to blaze new trails and find ways to make reduce, reuse and recycle, acceptable, thief proof and balanced. Each solution has it’s own set of problems.



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