King Co. council member: Biodiesel costly, risky

This may surprise you. King County Metro is buying a fuel that is significantly more expensive than diesel, may be worse for the environment, may increase local food prices, may lead to global hunger and potentially cost King County more as a member of the Chicago Climate Exchange. That fuel is canola-based biodiesel.

This may surprise you. King County Metro is buying a fuel that is significantly more expensive than diesel, may be worse for the environment, may increase local food prices, may lead to global hunger and potentially cost King County more as a member of the Chicago Climate Exchange.

That fuel is canola-based biodiesel.

Not so long ago biofuels were all the rage. The promise of a clean-burning, non-fossil fuel was compelling. In 2006, the King County executive initiated an Executive Order that would require King County Metro’s bus fleet to start using a 20 percent blend of biofuel. This requirement was included as a demonstration project in the 2007 Climate Action Plan.

But today, the scientific evidence against certain biofuels is mounting. Numerous stories in peer-reviewed journals are reporting that biofuels may be leading to rising worldwide food prices. Indeed, the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the United Nations have claimed that the use of food as a fuel has increased primary demand for corn, sugarcane and palm oil – and secondary demand as people switch to wheat and rice in their diets.

Worse, research from leading universities and institutions have shown that certain kinds of biofuels may actually increase greenhouse gas emissions. When land is cleared for biofuel crops, trapped carbon is released into the atmosphere. When land is chemically fertilized, the soil microbe interactions produce nitrous oxide (N2O) – a potent greenhouse gas that is 296 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide.

But biofuels are also having an impact right here in King County. The average cost of a gallon of canola biodiesel is $1.50 more expensive than standard diesel. Even with a federal subsidy of about $1 per gallon, we are still paying 50 cents more per gallon of biodiesel – and we purchase about 2 million gallons per year, which means about a million dollars annually may be going into fuel that isn’t providing the desired benefit.

As the chairman of the Regional Transit Committee, I recently called for a full life-cycle analysis of the biofuel from land-clearing, planting, harvesting, transporting, biodiesel conversion, production and usage. We must understand all of the impacts, not rush into something that makes us feel more green.

King County Metro now has the opportunity to re-examine all of the alternatives – including diesel, plug-in electric, solar, renewable natural gas, and non-food based biofuels. But this time, we must also consider the cost to King County taxpayers, economic impacts on food (locally and abroad) and the whole life-cycle impact on the environment.

Global warming is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. However, we can’t afford to make bad decisions that don’t actually deliver a cleaner environment. The motion I have put forward will make sure that our decisions are accountable for the environment and to taxpayers.

Reagan Dunn represents the Ninth District on the King County Council.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@auburn-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.auburn-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

The COVID-19 outbreak closed schools statewide last spring and has led to many school districts opting for remote learning in the fall. Pictured: A Decatur High School staff member takes cover from the rain while celebrating the graduating class of 2020 in June. File photo
Study: Virus cases must drop for state’s schools to safely reopen

Bringing students back in any capacity will lead to new infections, the report found.

Alki Beach. Photo by Alabastro Photography
Heat wave is on the way this weekend

Temperatures are expected to climb into the mid-90s on Sunday.

Guy busted for illegal race | Auburn police blotter

Auburn Police responded to the following calls for service, among many others,… Continue reading

This undated file photo provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows CDC’s laboratory test kit for the new coronavirus.
Latest COVID-19 stats for Auburn, King County

As of Monday, Aug. 11, this is where the city of Auburn… Continue reading

The Auburn Symphony Orchestra will go virtual at least until Dec. 20 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy photo
Auburn Symphony moves online for rest of 2020

Because of the ongoing health concerns and regulations surrounding COVID-19, the Auburn… Continue reading

Auburn School District contracts with developer to build new Pioneer Elementary School

The Auburn School District has signed a contract with the Seattle-based construction… Continue reading

Deputies find missing Auburn woman’s remains near Snoqualmie Pass

The King County Medical Examiner confirmed on Monday that a body found… Continue reading

Firefighters find vehicles engulfed in flames | Fire blotter

Between Aug. 3 and Aug. 9, the Valley Regional Fire Authority responded… Continue reading

Most Read