Route 66 News

Not in my Valle Vista

I recently received e-mails from a group, Concerned Citizens of Valle Vista & Surrounding Areas, that is opposing a proposed biodiesel plant near the subdivision of Valle Vista, about 15 miles northeast of Kingman, Ariz.

The group said the plant would “potentially degrade a nice stretch of historic Route 66,” and advocated relocating it “more appropriately” to an industrial park in Kingman.

But the more I checked into the group’s stance, the more it rubbed me the wrong way:

— First, it seemed disingenuous for Valle Vista to talk about an “appropriate” location for a biofuels plant when the subdivision boasts a very prominent 18-hole golf course. Golf courses are a notorious hog of an indisputably valuable resource in the desert — water. Meanwhile, the proposed Sun West Biofuels will reportedly require no water for its operations. So the “appropriate” stance seems, at the very least, specious.

— Second, the group’s contention that the plant will “degrade” a stretch of Route 66 is a huge assumption. Historic Route 66 has always been a road of commerce throughout its history and its 2,200 miles. In addition to splendid scenery, the ever-diverse Mother Road is dotted with car factories, oil refineries, cattle feed lots, junkyards and other exploits of American free enterprise might be considered as unsightly, but are job-producers. Also, the proposed Sun West plant reportedly will not be a smokestack-type operation and will produce no harmful byproducts or emissions. So the biofuels plant will “degrade” 66 … compared to what?

— Third and finally, it’s been apparent that a recent growth in NIMBY has been seen regarding alternative-energy projects. For example, one group opposes a solar project in the sun-rich Mojave Desert just off Route 66 on environmental grounds — while essentially ignoring the apparent environmental damage by the continued use of fossil fuels.

But Valle Vista residents aren’t making that claim. The opposition is mostly two-tiered — the plant is a safety concern, and the plant is going to hurt property values.

The safety concerns aren’t entirely without merit. Kingman was the infamous site of a horrendous rail-yard explosion that killed 12 people, and a few Valle Vistans might be afraid a tanker car loaded with biodiesel might blow up, too. But diesel isn’t nearly as volatile as the propane that sparked the 1973 tragedy. And, honestly, if Valle Vistans were truly concerned about safety, don’t you think they would have thought twice about putting a community next to an extremely busy Burlington-Santa Fe rail line that carries all sorts of hazardous materials?

That leads me to believe that most of the opposition is from those who claim property values will drop because of a biodiesel plant. I’m sure some homeowners in Valle Vista are feeling on the defensive these days — Arizona is one of the states most affected by the bursting of the real-estate bubble. But, again, with open land and a highway and a busy rail line nearby, didn’t it occur to them that industry might one day be calling?

Let’s look at the big picture. Oil is a finite resource that will run out or become scarce — perhaps in this century. Gasoline and diesel prices have settled down after surging to $4 a gallon last summer, but there’s every reason to believe prices will jump again once the recession ends. These factors are why it’s important to expand and diversify energy sources. The fact such diversification would make America less dependent on oil-producing countries that are sympathetic to terrorists would be a bonus.