This week’s New Yorker has a great article entitled “Obama’s Lost Year.” I couldn’t find the article on-line but here’s a summary apparently written by the author.
I recommend reading it. The focus of the article is on Virginia’s 5th Congressional District, especially those areas in Southside focused on the Rte. 58 or Rte. 220 corridors, including Martinsville, Henry, Danville and Pittsylvania.
The ostensible subject is Congressman Tom Perriello who defeat of Virgil Goode in 2008 was probably the most unexpected Congressional victory in my recollection.
Leaving aside the politics, I was most interested in the article’s focus on the Red Birch biodiesel facility on Rte 220 in Henry County. The facility produces biodiesel out of canola and sells it at a truck stop. Yes, you read that correctly — homegrown fuels which are sold at a truck stop to fuel ordinary motor vehicles.
In 2008, we heard from the folks at Red Birch on the Energy & Enviro Commission. In my opinion, their efforts deserved state support because they are literally creating jobs in Virginia out of empty fields. What could we do to facilitate this? First of all, we could make sure there was a market.
In the 2009 session, I co-sponsored the bill with Mary Margaret Whipple to make B-2 biodiesel (2% blend) a required purchase for our state fleet. The bill had an opt-out if the price was not competitive. That bill passed the Senate but then stalled in the House. The same thing happened this year.
Meanwhile, Red Birch is fighting to survive. Of course, their future is dictated by the wild swings of the foreign petroleum market. When the market is up (over $100 a barrel), their product is in demand. When the market is down (under $70 a barrel), their product struggles to compete.
I mention this because the article spoke to something larger than biodiesel or Henry County — a need for a national purpose in our economic policies.
I recommend reading this.