Country-music star Willie Nelson wants Oregonians to get on the road again ... cars and trucks fueled by used cooking oil and homegrown...
SALEM, Ore. — Country-music star Willie Nelson wants Oregonians to get on the road again — in cars and trucks fueled by used cooking oil and homegrown crops.
Nelson was in Salem on Friday to celebrate the expansion of a biodiesel plant in which he has invested. The singer and songwriter said Oregon was helping shape the national agenda for renewable fuels.
“This is a great day for Oregon, this is a great day for the nation, when once again Oregon shows the rest of the people how to go, where to go, how to think,” said Nelson. “They are very progressive here.”
Wearing a black T-shirt, shiny black cowboy boots, wraparound sunglasses and a lei of white and purple flowers, Nelson talked and joked with dozens of fans, signing guitars, album covers and caps.
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Earlier this year Oregon lawmakers passed a series of bills aimed at kick-starting the state’s biofuels industry, including a requirement that all gasoline sold in Oregon be mixed with 10 percent ethanol after in-state production of ethanol reaches 40 million gallons per year.
A similar production target for biodiesel crops used for biofuel production will trigger a mandatory 2 percent blend in all diesel fuels sold in Oregon.
Supporters of the bill, including Gov. Ted Kulongoski, say the measure will help revitalize rural agricultural economies, because farmers will be able to grow canola and other crops that can be converted into ethanol and biodiesel.
But some have expressed concern that the bill will result in the conversion of high-value farmland used to grow food to farms that grow crops for fuel, thereby increasing food prices.
Nelson and his wife, Annie, said homegrown biodiesel helps farmers. “We need to have our local producers producing for local consumers and keep the money in the community,” Nelson said.
The 74-year-old singer and songwriter singer was born and raised in Abbott, Texas. He shot to fame in the early 1970s when he was one of the leaders of the “outlaw country” music movement that combined hippie aesthetics with songs about hardworking Americans.
In 2004, Nelson partnered with Bob King to help fund two Pacific Biodiesel stations, one in Salem, the other in Carl’s Corner, Texas.
The SeQuential-Pacific Biodiesel plant in Salem was the state’s first biodiesel production facility when it opened two years ago and produces about 1 million gallons of biodiesel a year. The plant collects its feedstock — primarily used cooking oil — from restaurants and food processors like Burgerville and Kettle Foods.
After the expansion, the facility will have the capacity to produce 5 million gallons of biodiesel a year. Company officials say they plan to ramp up its production to meet demand driven by the new Oregon laws.
Nelson has also formed Willie Nelson Biodiesel, or BioWillie, a company that markets biodiesel made from used vegetable oils and soybeans to truckers.