Letter: Clean fuels will help drive Oregon to a better future

By Wes Bolsen

At Cool Planet, we harness the power of clean fuel technology and see firsthand how these innovations benefit so many people. That’s why we easily say that Oregon’s clean fuels standard is a win all around — for the environment, for consumer choice and for our communities.

As producers of high-octane renewable gasoline, jet and diesel, we see two major benefits for Oregon: First, products like ours will be blended with the current fuel supply, reducing the carbon pollution from the gas we use to get around — without sacrificing performance or increasing prices at the pump. Second, this law will spur direct investment in electric vehicles and alternative fuel infrastructure — giving Oregonians more transportation options.

We are also creating new markets for materials that used to be called “waste.” At Cool Planet, we produce fuel and a valuable soil additive called CoolTerra from nongrain plant material and wood waste. We use wood residue, including the waste materials such as rural Oregon’s timber industries like tree tops, thinnings and branches. This creates a whole new revenue stream for a homegrown Oregon industry.

We are also fighting the potential of a devastating wildfire: Cool Planet was recently awarded a grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to look at how we can turn beetle kill pine into fuels and our CoolTerra soil amendment. There are 42 million acres of dead trees in the Northern Rockies alone — an environmental disaster waiting to happen should lightning strike or wind blow a nearby fire in the wrong direction. We all know that we must clear these lands to reduce the risk of wildfire, a danger we know well in the West. By turning these trees into fuel, we can protect communities from fire while helping to reverse the effects of climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

Clean fuel technology is here and commercially ready — the renewable fuels we produce are carbon negative from a lifecycle — and thanks to the Oregon Clean Fuels Program, we can be part of Oregon’s movement to create a thriving, local, alternative energy infrastructure.

Oregon’s neighbors to the north and south, British Columbia and California, already have clean air laws nearly identical to Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program. These laws have cut air pollution while costing consumers less than one-third of one penny per gallon. We believe we can have the same success here.

That’s why we were not surprised to read that a majority of Oregonians support clean fuels: A new poll of likely Oregon voters shows that nearly two-thirds support the clean fuels standard. The poll, conducted by FM3 Research for Renew Oregon, showed that voters from all over the state back our clean air law by more than 2 to 1: 65 percent support keeping the law as it is, while only 29 percent oppose it.

Big oil companies are currently working on three ballot initiatives to weaken or repeal Oregon’s clean fuels law. These flawed, poorly written initiatives will inevitably be tied up in bureaucracy and legal battles, costing taxpayers millions in legal fees and red tape. This isn’t progress for Oregon or for our economy.

Rolling back clean fuels means rolling back progress, pulling fossil carbon out of the ground, falling back on old technology when we could be investing in new technology, new, affordable choices for drivers and new ways to preserve the Oregon landscape we love. Instead, let’s move on and move forward toward a brighter, cleaner Oregon future.

— Wes Bolsen leads business development and public affairs for Cool Planet, which is based in Greenwood Village, Colorado.

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