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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Questioning eco-friendly fuels at I-5 rest stops

You might have heard that West Coast Governors are pushing around plans to checker I-5 rest stops with green refueling stations. The idea is that drivers would be able to use the new businesses to swap out and recharge electric car batteries, fill up with biodiesel, ethanol, hydrogen and compressed natural gas. If the plans are approved construction could begin as early as this coming summer. 

“I think people know this is coming. We have got to start somewhere,” said Susan Fahnestock, owner of Green Car Co. in Bellevue, which sells electric plug in, hybrid and biodiesel cars.

Of course Fahnestock supports the fueling stations; she’s likely to profit from them. But what about the average tax payer’s benefit? Do that many people really own electric and alternative fuel cars? Will making it more practical to own one by revamping I-5 to support their extended travel be enough of an incentive for people to trade in their gas burner and ride the green wave? 

More than anything, I-5 sure does appear to be teeming with good old-fashioned gas powered cars with a spackling of hybrids. Alternative powered cars are nearly non-existent so far as the eye can see; pint-sized electrics that buzz like hospital beds still draw stares like a Ferrari. 

It would seem then, that installing green refueling and recharging stations along I-5 is putting supply before demand in hopes of spurring demand. 

On a state level, a green I-5 could put Washington, Oregon and California in the running for some of the $15 billion of federal stimulus that awaits energy-related programs and could create green jobs in the process. Only, how much of a the $15 billion that is supposed to be spread out over the entire country would actually be allotted to our neck of the woods remains to be seen. 

If the federal government decides to have West Coast tax payers foot a considerable portion of the remaining bill, which wouldn’t seem out of order, revamping I-5 could possibly wind up being a money pit of well –intentioned optimism. The bottom line would still remain that if not enough people actually made use of the new “eco-friendly” rest stops they’ll only wind up costing us money. 

Christine Gregoire, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski are said to be in the initial stages of trying to figure out how to make the plan work. 

Let’s hope that whatever the outcome it’s the right move at the right time. If the plan passes it could be proof that trial and error really is necessary for innovation at this point. Either way it should be a learning experience.


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