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July 25, 2006

Biofuels Northwest Tutorial

Last evening, over at Washblog, we had an online "conversation" about biofuels in the Northwest.  It was quite an eye-opener for me.  I simply didn't know a lot about the topic although I'm becoming aware of how important it is to our future in this country and in this state as the fossil fuel age comes, possibly abuptly, to an end.  Noemie Maxwell, who is coordinating a big project for the Institute for Washington's Future called "Back to the Roots" is hosting these online conversations and doing a great job of getting participation from people who know what they are talking about. 

Last night's conversation keyed off an essay that Greg Rock, co-owner of The Green Car Company and founder of Sustainability Watch, wrote entitled "Biofuels in the Northwest".  The conversation went on from there. 

If, like me, this is pretty new stuff for you, the record of the conversation is a tutorial in itself, particularly if you add in the run-up post that Noemie wrote earlier yesterday.  She describes the importance of paying attention to this issue, starting with a quote from a great new website called Harvesting Green Energy, put together by Peter Moulton of Climate Solutions,.

Today's starch-based ethanol industry (N.M.: corn, etc.) is a transition phase to a much larger industry based on cellulose, the stuff of which most of the plant world is made. The future industry will be fed by cellulosic materials including agricultural, forest and mill residue, urban wood and yard waste and fast-growing energy crops.

Noemie then adds more about why understanding these issues is so important.

There are many questions we must answer to get this right.   The investments and policy decisions that are creating our new energy industries -- both for electrical power and fuel -- are being made very fast.   What we do now will determine our state's - and our country's - direction for many years to come. 
At the core, what I am arguing here is that food and energy - the gifts from the sun that run our bodies and machines - also run our economy and our lives.  Everything we care about is connected to how we produce and distribute this stored energy.   Environmental health, economic justice and security, national security, community livability, wilderness protection, peace.

The "Back to the Roots" project is aiming, in Noemie's words:

to help focus civic attention on the question: how do we strengthen our commons?  Building more democratic food and energy industries -- which allow more opportunities and profits for local families and communities-- is an important element of this answer.

I have taken to calling this the democratization of our economy.  For our community, our security and our economic well-being, we need for local businesses to have control over our food and energy production.  The first major event for the year-long project will be an upcoming talk by Jim Hightower at TownHall on September 14th.  You can get your tickets at Brown Paper Tickets now.

Posted by Lynn Allen on July 25, 2006 at 11:43 AM in Policy | Permalink

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