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Originally published May 30, 2015 in the Eugene Register Guard

After years of hard work and public process, in March Oregon took a big step forward in the transition to a clean energy economy. In passing Senate Bill 324, the state’s Clean Fuels Program can proceed as devised by the state’s elected leaders and supported by its voters — if politics can be set aside.

While a broadly supported transportation package has already been developed, some legislators are pitting it against clean fuels in a bid to halt Oregon’s progress on clean energy.

Oregonians have spoken loud and clear: They want — no, need — both.

The Clean Fuels Program is a way for the state to create new industries and jobs from home-grown sources of fuel and diversify fuel supplies to reduce reliance on price-volatile imports. In addition, it is an important step to cleaning the air, improving public health, and reducing the state’s global warming pollution.

Oregon is rich in resources that can be converted to fuel. Eugene’s own SeQuential Pacific Biofuels sources waste products and feedstocks from Oregon producers to create low-carbon alternatives to petroleum. This keeps Oregon’s transportation dollars close to home, and creates good paying local jobs – plus, the biodiesel the company makes from used cooking oil produces 75 percent less global warming pollution than conventional diesel.

SeQuential recently expanded its production capacity in response to the recent decision to lift the sunset on Oregon’s Clean Fuels program. Other companies have been waiting for the law to give them the certainty they need to grow.

With the policy stability the program will provide, the state will continue to grow as a magnet for investment in clean fuels production. Without it, investors will take their dollars — and jobs — elsewhere.

Yet the future of clean fuels is broader than just bio­fuels. Electricity is a particularly important low-carbon fuel. The Union of Concerned Scientists’ analysis demonstrates that driving an electric vehicle in Oregon produces global warming emissions equivalent to driving a car with a mileage rating of 75 miles per gallon, and is four times cheaper than gasoline on a per-mile basis.

We believe the Clean Fuels Program is a smart policy approach because it is technology neutral, encouraging the use of all low-carbon transportation energy sources — be they bio­fuels, electricity, propane, or even oil — and rewards the most effective, efficient technology. It is a policy that provides incentives for continued innovation.

Transitioning to clean fuels is also an investment in public health, particularly for those who need it most.

Low-income communities, communities of color, children and the elderly are disproportionately impacted by traffic pollution — a major contributor to asthma, which affects nearly one in 10 Oregon children.

Yes, Oregon deserves a strong transportation funding package to repair crumbling infrastructure and support transit options. But Oregonians should not have to choose between transportation and clean fuels. By creating a stable science-based policy framework that recognizes that cleaner fuels are more valuable than dirtier fuels, Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program will support investment in, and bring down the cost of, clean fuels production.

Adrienne Alvord is California and Western states director for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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