One of the most interesting things that happened on my recent trip to the west coast occurred looking for a restroom. After pulling off I-5 south of Portland, Oregon, I missed the turn-in for a name brand gas station. I noticed another up ahead. My girlfriend Libby was skeptical. I peered ahead. “It has a green roof,” I noticed, “how bad can it be?” Pulling into the station we noticed solar panels, a vegetated bioswale, and sign advertising a variety of biofuels. Inside, a man sat typing on a laptop sipping a cappuccino in a cafe, and the racks were lined with organic foods. It was, as Libby observed, as if we had stepped into the future.
That’s how I visited the self-described “greenest gas station in America.” It turns out the exit was near Eugene, Oregon, and the station was one operated by the SeQuential fuel company. The station was a restored brownfield, the flagship location for the locally-owned biofuels company.
I’m generally skeptical of biofuels. Although they’re cleaner-burning, their net carbon production can equal or surpass fossil fuels. Nonetheless, SeQuential has taken pains to make their fuels as green as possible.
Using grease from Burgerville restaurants and Kettle Foods (makers of potato chips), as well as other sources, the company produces over five million gallons of biodiesel at their local plant. They boast their fuel recycles waste grease and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by “over 78%.” Their ethanol, sold pure or in blends with conventional gasoline, comes from Eastern Oregon family farmers, and they say growing “canola in rotation with wheat enables farmers to reduce fertilizer and pesticide use and to sustainable increase crop yields.”
SeQuential’s innovation is impressive. Until we can all plug our electric cars into a solar-powered grid, this might be the next best step.
Update: I found this amusing interview with one of the people behind the station on something called “Peak Moment TV,” also this blog has some information about the impact of biofuels on waste grease prices.