Archive for December, 2008

Portland works to create market for Ore. grown biodiesel

Monday, December 8th, 2008

By Margy Lynch

December 5, 2008

PORTLAND, Ore. — As the city of Portland looks to create a market for Oregon-grown biodiesel, some are questioning the cost to taxpayers.

The city uses different types of diesel for its truck fleet: Petroleum based fuel, biodiesel from out of state, and 5 percent of their biodiesel comes from Oregon farmers. The city is currently paying $6.75 a gallon for Oregon-grown biodiesel, even though the price on the street is only $3.49 a gallon.

“We do pay more for that small segment of biodiesel. But we’re also trying to create an Oregon market. So they’ve started growing more and selling more,” says City Commissioner Randy Leonard.

Leonard says the price of biodiesel is nothing compared to the price being paid for foreign oil. Leonard specifically cites the war in Iraq .

“We think we’re there to get oil. And though we’re paying a little more for this Oregon-grown biodiesel, not one child of anybody’s family has died getting it, so we’re trying to create a U.S. based industry. That’s going to be painful for awhile,” says Leonard.

Leonard says the city is working with Oregon farmers to bring the price down, but he says because it’s not an established market in Oregon, it’s tough. He also does his own math, saying with only 8 percent of the city’s fuel source, the average price of what they pay for fuel is $3.44 a gallon.

New commuting to fit families

Friday, December 5th, 2008

by Angella Foret Diehl, Special to The Oregonian

Thursday December 04, 2008, 9:02 AM

To save money and the environment, parents and kids turn to other options — and try to keep the car garaged

Jennifer Klump, whose employer provides an all-zone transit pass, rides a MAX train on her way home to Aloha from her downtown Portland office. She chose her young son’s day care based on its closeness to a MAX station.

Unemployment is up, gas prices have been on a roller coaster in the past year and the stock market remains wobbly. Oregonians — a frugal and green bunch already — are feeling the pinch. But you can only cut so much out of the grocery budget.So, what else can give?

For many Washington County residents, the answer is the daily commute. They’re dusting off the bicycles and unearthing the helmets, researching bus and MAX schedules and coordinating car pools, all in an effort to reduce the impact of a daily commute on their wallet and the environment.

It’s not just the commuters looking at alternative transportation options.

Parents, students, volunteers and senior citizens are moving to walking, bicycling and public transportation. TriMet reports MAX and bus lines continue to set ridership records, with more than 9 million trips taken throughout the Metro area in October alone. The biggest increase, the agency says, has been among rush-hour commuters, with nearly 11 percent more rush-hour trips compared with October 2007.

Last week, in an effort to reduce crowding, TriMet added service on 13 of its 93 bus lines, including the 12-Barbur Blvd line that runs to Tigard and Sherwood, and the MAX Blue Line.

We talked with some Washington County residents — and a North Portland resident who works here — and found a few surprises about why they avoid or are relying less on their cars for commuting. It’s not all about the environment or cost. It’s also about exercising, saving money, having fun and preserving a way of life.

These public transportation veterans offer their stories and advice for “greening” your own commute. They include New York transplants who didn’t own a car before moving to Oregon, a Tigard schoolteacher with surprising reasons for his two-hour daily commute and two co-workers who navigate the metro area’s trains and buses for work and errands.

Tips for families
How do busy families make a public transit, carpool or bicycle commute work for them?
Preparation is key: For Jamie Repasky, public commuting with little ones means being prepared. She packs snacks and water, and she engages her children in games. Her two children love their MAX trips, she says. “Torin is always asking, ‘When are we going on my train?'”
Carpooling: Try making your child’s day care center the meeting place for your carpool, Carpool Match NW recommends. Or meet at a central location, such as a park-and-ride lot.
Don’t forget to have fun: David Lord’s family doesn’t mind his commute — in fact, his partner, Elise, sometimes takes their daughters to school by bus. Lord’s recreational riding includes weekend bike races, and he admits to having to “tone it down” for daughter Luciana, 7. “I have to make bike riding fun for her. She’s a little intimidated by me, so I make sure we’re having a good time,” he says.

Julia Kassissieh is proud of the fact that 6-year-old son David is, she says, “an accomplished biker,” riding to school with Dad in warm weather.

Resources

Thinking about moving beyond your solo drive to work and trying MAX, the bus, a bike or car pool? These sites can help get you started:

Metro Google Maps “Bike There” overlay program: tinyurl.com/5wvkjt

TriMet: trimet.org

TriMet WES commuter rail: trimet.org/wes/index.htm. New weekday rush-hour service between Wilsonville and Beaverton is scheduled to begin in February.

Westside Transportation Alliance: wta-tma.org. Organization of businesses and public agencies promotes transportation options that help ease congestion, support economic development and conserve resources.

Bicycle Transportation Alliance: bta4bikes.org. Promotes bicycling and improving cycling conditions in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Carpool Match NW: carpoolmatchnw.org. Car pool and ride-share matching site serving Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Drive Less/Save More: drivelesssavemore.com. Effort launched by Oregon Department of Transportation, Metro, TriMet, city of Vancouver and other partners to reduce single-person car trips. Web site includes Travel Options Guides available for download, plus a driving-cost calculator.
The Oregonian’s West Bureau: 503-294-5950; west@news.oregonian.com

Commuting: A mix of options

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

by Angella Foret Diehl, Special to The Oregonian

Thursday December 04, 2008, 3:08 AM

Julia Kassissieh and her son, David, 6, wait in downtown Portland to take the bus home to Cedar Hills. This was a rare occasion when David got dropped off at his mother’s workplace. Kassissieh alternates between taking the bus and MAX. “It’s a more efficient way to get to work,” she says.

Julia Kassissieh and co-worker Jennifer Klump agree that one of their favorite job perks is the all-zone transit pass offered as part of the benefits package through the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.”It’s a more efficient way to get to work,” says Kassissieh, 39, who commutes from her home near the Sunset Transit Center, just north of U.S. 26 near Oregon 217, to the downtown Portland nonprofit laboratory.

In the summer, Kassissieh bikes to the transit center, takes the train to work and bikes home. The rest of the time, she walks a mile to the center before hopping on a train for the 20-minute commute.

Occasionally, Kassissieh will drive 3-year-old son Charlie to preschool, after which she’ll walk across the street and take the bus to work.

The Kassissieh family moved to Cedar Hills two years ago to be near Catlin Gabel School, where Richard Kassissieh is the director of information technology and 6-year-old David is a student. When Julia Kassissieh was offered the NWRL job several months later, their proximity to the Sunset Transit Center was an unexpected bonus.

Motherhood changed the commute for Klump, who lives in Aloha. Before 2-year-old Neal came along, Klump would walk to the Quatama/NW 205th Ave. Station and begin a 40-minute MAX train ride to the laboratory’s downtown office, where she’s worked for 10 years.

Now, instead of walking, Klump, 40, drives to the Willow Creek/SW 185th Ave. Transit Center and uses the park-and-ride.

Husband Lou will have dropped off Neal at a day care just across the street, and Klump picks him up on her way home from work.

Both women cite cost as one of the reasons they use public transportation.

For Kassissieh, factoring in gas prices and the $12 to $15 a day it would cost to park anywhere close to her downtown office sealed the deal.

For Klump, location influenced the family’s choice for Neal’s day care center. “We didn’t want him to be stuck in a car for 40 minutes every day,” she says.

Klump used to enjoy walking to the Quatama Transit Center but is reluctant to do so with her toddler. “There aren’t enough sidewalks, and they’re not well-lit,” she says.

Still, public transportation is worth it. “It takes just as long to drive as it does to ride.”
Transit passes help employees commute
Julia Kassissieh and Jennifer Klump’s employer, Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, takes advantage of TriMet’s employer transit program to provide transit passes for employees.

To find out if your company participates in the program, which provides free or reduced-price TriMet passes to employees, ask the human resources department at your work place. Employers can find out more information about the program at: www.trimet.org/employers

Business owners around Eugene, Ore., see little boost from lower gas prices

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

(Register-Guard, The (Eugene, OR) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Nov. 30–Gas prices in the Eugene-Springfield area topped $4 a gallon for most of the summer. Now, just a few months later, prices are less than half that.

But local businesses say that, unlike the average motorist, they haven’t seen much benefit from lower prices at the pump. They’re still stuck paying fuel surcharges for freight, several business people said. Plus, their other costs of doing business continue to climb, and business, in general, is slowing because the economy is mired in what many are now calling a recession — all of which outweighs any benefits from lower fuel prices.

The federal government recently issued an estimate that the average price for regular gas next year would be $2.37 a gallon, she said.

“Lower fuel prices will probably be the norm — at least through the end of the year and into early 2009,” Dodds said. “The thought is that gas prices are basically along for the ride with what’s happening with the general economy. When the economy starts to rebound, it’s likely that gas and oil prices will go back up again.”

So where does that leave local businesses? Not much better off than when fuel costs hit record levels, many of them say.

“We’re doing a little better with expenses in the gas end,” said Mike Gregory, who owns Sunshine Limo Service in Eugene, with his wife, Cheryl. But business has slowed a bit, especially in the Portland market, where operators are responding to slackened demand by lowering their prices, he said. “So I’d say, if anything, it’s a wash,” Gregory said.

On all its runs, Sunshine Limo charges a fuel surcharge of 7 percent of the total bill. Gregory said for years he charged 5 percent, but increased it when fuel prices topped $2 a gallon. When gas prices peaked this summer at more than $4 a gallon, Gregory bumped up the fuel surcharge to 10 percent on longer-distance runs, north of Junction City or south of Cottage Grove. But now it’s back down to 7 percent, he said.

If gas prices hold below $2 a gallon, the surcharge could go down to 5 percent. “But I have my doubts,” Gregory said.

This past month, the limo company’s gas bill dropped by about $1,000, but that’s partly because overall business is down, Gregory said.

“It’s nothing to get panicky about,” he said. “It’s just something we’re keeping a keen eye on.”

Cummings Moving Systems, a Mayflower agent with about 10 employees in Eugene, doesn’t get to set its own fuel surcharges. They’re determined by state regulators on trips within Oregon, and by the federal government on trips across states.

Over the past year, those surcharges have been changing about quarterly, said Dan Street, Cummings’ vice president of operations in Albany.

Surcharges for moves in Oregon peaked at about 6 percent of total costs, and are now at 2 percent. Surcharges for inter-state moves probably went as high as 21 percent this summer, and now are at 4 percent, Street said.

Of greater concern than fuel prices is the overall state of the economy, Street said. Most companies aren’t expanding or hiring, and Cummings’ corporate customers aren’t moving employees around as frequently as they did when the economy was booming, he said.

Managers at GloryBee Foods, a Eugene natural foods distributor, considered adding a fuel surcharge about a year ago, but decided against it, operations manager Alan Turanski said.

GloryBee has its own biodiesel trucks, which travel on 21 routes every week throughout Oregon and Washington, he said.

GloryBee’s prices have always included delivery, Turanski said.

“We just bit the bullet in feeling like things would balance out,” he said. “If we needed to increase our prices of our products to cover (higher delivery costs), we would. But (in general) we’re not going to add a fuel surcharge, because it’s kind of a hassle for our customers.”

It’s unclear what effect distribution costs will have on GloryBee’s overall prices.

Each fall GloryBee reviews its pricing and publishes a new catalog. The company did that this year, but it’s in the unusual position of needing to issue a supplement at the end of the year or early next year, Turanski said.

“Right now commodity prices are tanking for a lot of items, so we can’t see where it’s all settling out,” he said.

Another food distributor, Inderbitzin Distributors, based in Puyallup, Wash., has a five-employee warehouse in Eugene, and delivers snack foods to convenience stores along Interstate 5 from Canada to Roseburg.

The company added a small fuel surcharge when gas prices skyrocketed, which “did not even cover what we should have done,” President John Inderbitzin said. So there’s been no great windfall as fuel costs have dropped. Now, the company is watching to see where gas prices go next year.

“If fuel stays down where it is now, we’ll be fine,” Inderbitzin said.

“But if it goes back up to where it was, we’ll have to react sooner.”

If fuel prices escalate next year, “we may have to raise prices on some products,” he said, adding that many stores don’t like fuel surcharges because they can’t break out the price per product.

Record gas prices in the summer prompted Inderbitzin to restructure its routes to be more fuel efficient.

“We’re keeping (those) now because we know it’s just a matter of time before the prices go back up,” Inderbitzin said.

High fuel costs also nudged the company to look into global positioning units. The company plans to install the devices on each of its trucks early next year, he said.

“We want to save more on the fuel and keep better track of our trucks,” Inderbitzin said.

The run-up in fuel prices earlier this year forced other businesses to restructure. Many business managers said they’re unlikely to return to their old ways of doing business because the fuel-saving measures they’ve implemented are better for the environment, and the main factor behind falling gas prices — the national economic malaise — is hurting businesses in other ways.

Chuck Buster, owner of 12-year-old Sunshine Delivery Service in Springfield, said he’s down to a one-man operation and doesn’t see that changing any time soon.

A few years back he had the equivalent of four or five full-time employees. Most of his deliveries are for florists, which have slowed along with the economy.

“I just reorganized my business in such a way that I can kind of roll with it and stay alive,” Buster said.

To see more of The Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore., or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.registerguard.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, The Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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December Brewery Tour (Third Thirsty Thursday!)

Monday, December 1st, 2008

Third Thirsty Thursday is coming up on December 18th.  Do you have your tickets yet?

This month we visit Lompoc 5th Quadrant, Bridgeport, and Rogue Brewery.  As always, beer samples from Roots Brewing will be given out on the bus and a beer writer will join us to educate us about the beer.  So get your beer goggles on, Third Thirsty Thursday is just around the corner.  Tickets are $25 which include transportation to each brewery, beer at each brewery and on the bus, and tips for the bartenders.  This is a great way to celebrate the holidays for not very much moolah.  See you on the party bus!

Green highways — in an RV

Monday, December 1st, 2008

by Abby Haight, The Oregonian

Friday November 28, 2008, 1:06 PM

Ty Adams of southeast Portland bought a 1994 Safari Trek motor home and turned it into a sustainable tool to teach about renewable resources. It runs on biodiesel, has solar panels for its electricity and hot water, a composting toilet and channels to catch rainwater.

The 1994 Safari Trek motor home parked in the green-living southeast Portland neighborhood draws curious looks.

Which is just what Ty Adams wants.

Curiosity breeds questions. Questions give Adams the chance to preach his passion — for alternative fuels and energy independence, for conservation of natural resources and for creative, sustainable design and construction practices.
An outdoors enthusiast who never dreamed he’d become an RVer, Adams learned about motorhomes while working for a Coburg RV manufacturer — then launched into his own campaign to bring environmental practices to the world of motorhoming.

His unlikely pulpit is the 27-foot-long “SolTrekker,” a paragon of sustainability in an eye-catching custom paint job of orange, brown and white, with yellow sun rays reaching from the wheel hubs.

It’s the blood and guts of the motor home that so audaciously flip the RV stereotype.

The SolTrekker runs on biodiesel. Solar panels heat its water and power its electricity. Special gutters channel rain through filters and into holding barrels to use for cooking and cleaning.

The composting toilet doesn’t need to be pumped out.

Bamboo siding replaced the vinyl interior walls and eliminated out-gassing. Dense, soft insulation made from shredded denim jeans seals out extreme temperatures.

“I really like this idea of taking this symbol of consumerism and excess,” said Adams, a freelance writer and editor who counts among his sponsors Monaco Coach of Coburg, his former employer. “I like to take it and make it sustainable. If the RV industry can go this route, any industry can go this route.”

The RV industry hasn’t rushed to follow Adams’ lead, but more owners are installing solar panels for electricity and pumping biodiesel.

Meanwhile, the SolTrekker is a teaching tool for what could be.

Adams’ journey to green RV pitchman followed an equally unusual path. Raised in Bozeman, Mont., Adams, 30, is an outdoors enthusiast who had no interest in the RV experience. “My thinking was why take it all with you? You want to leave it behind.”

After graduating from the University of Texas with a degree in journalism, and working as a newspaper reporter, Adams was hired as an editor and writer for Lifestyles, a travel magazine published by Monaco Coach Corp.

The company, with headquarters in Coburg and one of its manufacturing plants in Hines, is the leading manufacturer Class A diesel motorhomes, the type built from the ground up rather than attached to a truck chassis.

“Never in a million years” did Adams imagine he would grow to appreciate RVs and their owners. As his affinity grew, so did his curiosity about using biofuels to power the rolling homes.

Although many RV’s run on diesel, few owners had tried biodiesel, Adams learned. Intrigued by the possibilities of alternative fuels, he made a pitch to his bosses in 2005 to build a biodiesel-powered motor home.

Monaco officials were interested, but without consumer demand they couldn’t justify the project. Instead, they helped Adams buy a motor home at cost — he sold his house to pay for the $108,000 RV. He outfitted the rig with a heated tank so it could run biodiesel in cold weather. Adams quit Monaco and hit the road in 2006.

Over more than 20,000 miles, he talked to RV owners and anyone else interested about biofuels. Although he’d left Monaco, Adams continued to write for its magazine. And he shared with the company insights he gained from other RV owners.

As Adams drove, he wondered: Could I do more?

The answer was, Yes.

“I tell people that biodiesel was my gateway drug,” he said with a laugh. “I started meeting people who were into solar thermal. One thing led to another. I met a guy in Texas who wrote a book about harvesting rainwater and he said, ‘I think you can get 70 gallons off an inch of rain.

“The world was my classroom.”

Adams sold the BioTrekker to a like-minded biofuels advocate, who continues to tour the East Coast.

Back in Oregon, Adams joined his partner, Allison Hintzmann, and Adam Stadtlander to create a non-profit organization, SolTrekker, to promote sustainable practices.

Adams paid $25,000 for a 1994 Safari Trek with 8,000 miles and went to work.

“It really felt like building a home,” he said. “A thousand trips to the hardware store.”

Greg Holder has installed solar electric systems on RVs for 20 years through his Eugene-based company, AM Solar, Inc. He helped Adams outfit the SolTrekker.

“He’s an early adopter,” Holder said. “He’s pushing it and taking it out and exposing it. That’s how changes happen.

“It used to be you bought a new RV and all the out-gassing from the carpet and the walls — you couldn’t live in it for the first few months. Ty is making it a lot more green.”

RV owners choose solar to explore and “boondock” on public land away from crowds and services, Holder said. Easy-to-use solar panels provide an average 400-600 watts of power, filling batteries that take over on cloudy days.

“The user shouldn’t have to do anything but follow the sun south in the winter and north in the summer,” Holder said.

Adams and the SolTrekker made appearances at Portland’s Fall RV and Van Show and Build It Green Home Tour, and the Tacoma Fall RV Show.

Among SolTrekker’s biggest boosters is Adams’ former employer.

“We truly believe what he’s doing helps our industry to develop ways to help our customers RV, whether it’s solar panels to lower the cost of your electricity or other ways to lessen your carbon footprint,” said Ryan Lee, director of marketing for Monaco Coach, which helped pay for the paint job on the Sol-Trekker.

A survey on Monaco’s website showed that owners were interested in — and might be willing to pay a little more for — sustainable additions to their motor homes.

“He’s doing a lot of things outside the box,” Lee said. “But this is a way to fund someone who’s out there and being an ambassador for our industry.”

Adams has a few finishing touches before he shows off the SolTrekker to Monaco. The trio of volunteers then plan to take a short break before resuming school tours in the winter. SolTrekker will hit the road next spring.

Adams already imagines more for the tricked-out RV, like harnessing the wind or installing a hybrid electric engine.

And maybe a little boondocking.

“I’d love to go to Eastern Oregon,” he said. “Selfishly, I’d love to take this out for about a year.”
Abby Haight: abbyhaight@news.oregonian.com

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