The opening of the Propel Biofuels public pump was a smallish affair. The crowd of about thirty people appeared to consist mostly of investors, public relations personnel, some alternative energy enthusiasts, lots of press, and at least one lawyer. Because of the twelve-hour notice, and because it was in the middle of the week, only two protesters made it.

There is going to be a bigger protest this Saturday (October 20), same place, same time (high noon, at the pump located at Bernie’s Auto Repair — see map). Keep in mind this will not be a protest against Bernie, but against industrial agrodiesel. The pump is self-serve and open to the public. Bernie’s is closed on Saturdays.

Consider dropping by for an hour or so to support those willing to publicly protest the for-profit takeover of the biosphere. It is remarkable how much impact protests can have. Imagine what a big one would do. Al Gore has called for civil disobedience. Some think Al Gore should be arrested. In any case, I’ll be there along with my hybrid electric bike. Drop by and say hello.

It seemed to me that there were two main goals at the opening:

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  1. Genuflect to Cantwell, who from the tone of the speeches has single-handedly made this whole industrial agrodiesel boondoggle possible.
  2. Give the impression that their fuel will be made from sustainably grown local crops.

Now, I voted for Cantwell and would do so again in a heartbeat. It’s not like she is the only politician in the country who has jumped on the biofuel bandwagon. Keep in mind that corn ethanol is king. Every presidential candidate is endorsing it. Biodiesel is small potatoes in comparison. In other words, a politician’s endorsement of a given biofuel obviously does not mean it is a good thing. It just means it is a politically astute thing. We can’t grow much corn in Washington State so our politicians are pushing biodiesel instead, unaware, or uncaring that it is even worse for the biosphere.

They had a Washington state farmer there who will be growing rapeseed for them (that’s his God Bless America sticker). When asked, he told us that only about 1 percent of the fuel will come from Washington state. What better way to mollify critics than by blending in small amounts of more expensive local products? Now you can argue that at least you are trying and that in the future even more of it might be locally grown (by plowing up Conservation Reserve carbon sinks, of course).

Overall this is a positive thing. A few squeaking wheels have convinced them to distance themselves from both palm oil and soybeans. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in my earlier post, two studies have just been released suggesting that rapeseed cultivation or any fuel that causes grasslands or forests go under the plow elsewhere on the planet (to make up for the oil being diverted to our cars) is much worse than diesel.

These same squeaking wheels asking what happened to the whole “local thing” have also got them talking up the local, sustainable aspect of their product (although I don’t recall hearing the words “1 percent” in any of the speeches). Cantwell’s support was based on the idea that her voting constituency would grow these crops. On the other hand, this is just a state version of our federal farm welfare program. She will probably be happy as long as voters “think” it is being grown locally. Never mind that producing our own fuel makes about as much sense as building our own cars. If it were cost effective, we would.

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At one point, and totally by coincidence, a beater biodiesel truck with maybe 10 biodiesel stickers plastered on it stopped at the corner belching smoke. I thought he was going to asphyxiate the crowd before the light turned. Nobody seemed to notice but me. Maybe they have been desensitized to the tell-tale smell of combusted biodiesel (or possibly I have become sensitized to it). In any case, I can always tell when a biodiesel car is within ten feet of me.

Although I was not handing out fliers or carrying a banner, I did end up talking with several people. Most were congenial and genuinely interested in hearing the other side of the biodiesel debate. One biodiesel enthusiast thought he would blindside Duff and myself when he said, “Okay, so how did you two get here, then?” Duff held up his bus pass, I pointed to my hybrid electric bike. The conversation ended very positively with a genuine handshake and shared smiles.

I had a total of two unfriendly conversations, both with people who were profiting from biodiesel peripherally. As a student of human nature, this does not surprise me. One guy in a dark suit jacket approached me (I happened to have my camera running and caught some of the conversation on tape) in an agitated state and asked, “What are you after here? What, what, what are you trying to get out of this?” I said, “The same thing as you, stop global warming and biodiversity loss.” Turns out he was somebody’s lawyer. He later threatened to kick me off the property if I continued to be disruptive. What was he going to do? Call the cops? That would have been a PR disaster. Not to mention that the cops probably would have showed up about an hour after everybody left. What I was doing that he considered disruptive, I have no idea. I was just answering a few questions and chatting away alongside Duff (holding the banner).

The other conversation that turned sour was with a public relations person. She must have said “Oh, come on!” a dozen times. She finally, literally and physically, backed out of the conversation. Picture that.

I don’t run around trying to make people who disagree with me into evildoers. Everybody sees a well-meaning person in the bathroom mirror in the morning. I truly do not want to see all of these investors lose their shirts. Maybe they can get some government assistance like all of the farmers?