Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Time for a Repost: crucial 11 minute video

On the heels of Greg Craven's great talk in Salem last night, I was moved to dig up this video, posted a couple years ago -- about 11 minutes. Helps inform your exploration of "What's the Worst That Could Happen?" as Greg's excellent book puts it.

Update on Oregon's #1 Polluter: Too Little, Too Late

A coal-fired thermal power station. 1. Cooling...A coal power plant: Schematic for a weapon of global mass destruction. Image via Wikipedia

While it's somewhat good news that PGE is now proposing to shutdown Boardman, Oregon's top pollution source, in 2020, that's at least six years too late. The right answer remains 2014 at the latest.

Note that Salem's own M. Lee Pelton, President of Willamette University, earns a very handsome fee for sitting on the PGE Board. When you see him around, you might ask him why PGE claims to need a decade to convert Boardman to natural gas when everyone else around the world can get gas turbines built in two years or less (especially when siting them in an existing power plant facility) -- and ask him what he's going to tell his children and grandchildren about PGE's lackadaisical non-rush to get off coal in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence for our urgent need to do so ASAP.

Here's an update from Environment Oregon.
Over the winter holidays, you took action asking the U.S. EPA to adopt the nation’s first major greenhouse gas regulations. I want to update you on several great things that have happened since.

On December 22, 2009, Environment Oregon and our citizen outreach team released its “America’s Biggest Polluters” report. The report highlighted Oregon’s biggest polluter, Portland General Electric’s coal-fired power plant in Boardman, Oregon. Our press conference was a lot of fun with Santa Claus checking his list, checking it twice, finding the Boardman coal plant naughty, not nice. Also speaking was Jocelyn Orr, who is one of our citizen outreach directors; Robin Everett of the Sierra Club; and of course myself. You can watch a video of the press conference at Our report was also covered by The Oregonian and the Willamette Week.

Going into the Copenhagen climate summit, we knew that states had already made serious commitments to reducing global warming pollution, and our report showed that these state climate policies meant the Obama Administration was well- positioned to put down serious commitments to the international community. An important lesson was learned at Copenhagen: the world’s states and provinces will remain the laboratories of democracy and innovation in our fight to reduce global warming pollution.

The biggest thing happening right now in Oregon to combat global warming is the effort to shutdown PGE’s Boardman coal plant. It’s amazing that as much wind and hydro power our state has, 40% of our energy still comes from coal, and nearly a third of that pollution is from PGE’s Boardman power plant. In addition, the Boardman coal plant has spewed out mercury-forming toxic air pollution that exceeds Clean Air Act levels for decades.

Environment Oregon, Sierra Club, Citizens’ Utility Board, Northwest Energy Coalition, Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Ecumenical Ministries, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, and many other organizations have been fighting to shutdown PGE’s Boardman coal plant by 2014. PGE 30-year plan for its power generation is under review by the Public Utility Commission right now and PGE’s plan is to continue operating the Boardman plant over that timeframe.

Operating Boardman past 2014, let alone all the way to 2040, is simply unacceptable. PGE’s own plans, and our studies, demonstrate the most cost-effective year to shutdown Boardman is in 2014. The electricity can be replaced with a mix of efficiency, wind, solar, natural gas, and biomass. The key is to get these technologies built as quickly as possible.

Last week, we had a tremendous win. PGE announced it would pursue a 2020 shutdown of Boardman. (You can read my statement in reaction here.) While this isn’t nearly soon enough, it’s a great step in the right direction. Over the course of the next three months, Environment Oregon will be focused on drumming up public support from thousands of Oregonians just like you to show PGE and the Public Utility Commission that the public supports a 2014 shutdown.

PGE’s 2020 announcement couldn’t have been done without our support. And not only will we need your continued support for shutting down Boardman, but also for EPA’s ongoing rulemaking to enact the nation’s first greenhouse gas regulations. We’ve sent a few action alerts over the past couple weeks on how Senator Murkowski of Alaska is trying to block the EPA’s action. Hopefully you’ve already sent a message to Senators Merkley and Wyden.

As our campaigns to shutdown PGE’s Boardman coal plant and to enact federal greenhouse gas regulations proceed, I will be sure to keep in touch. In the meantime, keep reading the papers. I expect you will see our name frequently.

Brock Howell
State Policy Advocate
Environment Oregon
1536 SE 11th Avenue, Suite B
Portland, Oregon 97214
Cell: (503) 421-9936
Work: (503) 231-1986 x314
Fax: (503) 231-4007
Twitter: http://twitter/enviroregon
UPDATE: Letter to the Editor -- Well said!
Here they go again

PGE's announced plan to shut down Boardman in 2020 reminds me of Yogi Berra's quote, "deja vu all over again." In 1992, two ballot measures proposed to permanently shut down the Trojan Nuclear Plant due to a lack of high-level nuclear waste disposal and persistent corrosion in Trojan's steam generator tubes. PGE had operated Trojan for 16 years and desperately sought to keep it open. Yet four months before the election, it announced it would voluntarily shut it down in 1996 and any effort to close it before that time would cause massive cost increases, combined with blackouts and brownouts. Both ballot measures failed.

Six days after the election, a radioactive leak from a steam generator tube shut down Trojan. Then a leak from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission showed that NRC scientists had opposed a waiver allowing Trojan to operate in 1992 with its deteriorating steam generator tubes. On Jan. 3, 1993, PGE permanently shut down Trojan. No massive cost increases, blackouts or brownouts occurred.

Fast forward to Boardman. This coal plant is a dangerous polluter and the risk of catastrophic climate change is driven in part by the 5 million tons of carbon dioxide that Boardman emits annually. According to many scientists, we do not have much to time to prevent a tipping point in global warming. While PGE willingly admits that this warming is taking place, its actions are similar to the case of Trojan.

We should not let PGE gamble with our future. It has had more than enough time to massively invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Operating Boardman until 2020 spews 30 million more tons of carbon into the atmosphere, lasting a thousand years. The Sierra Club analysis is correct. PGE should close Boardman in 2014.

The writer is executive director of the Oregon Conservancy Foundation.Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

A harbinger of Spring's Abundance: Minto Island Growers CSA Signup

The Willamette River ValleyImage via Wikipedia

Salem is smack dab in the middle of the Willamette Valley and its superb growing conditions for myriad crops and animals. Living here means that, compared to most places, it's easy to enjoy food that is far fresher, tastier, and more nutritious than people can get elsewhere.

One of the best ways to do that is to join in as part of a community-supported agriculture (CSA) venture, such as the one offered by Minto Island Growers here within the Salem city limits. CSAs are different, because you're not a mere customer -- you're a shareholder, an investor who provides two vital ingredients for a successful small farm: patient capital and an eager market. Unlike a customer who trades cash for produce at the store (often from California, Chile, or even beyond), a CSA shareholder is an integral part of the operation, because you join the CSA and invest your capital up front, assuming some of the risk of the farming operation, while gaining the benefits of abundance and making small, human-scale farming remain possible in these days of very high land costs and excruciatingly tight lending.

In return for your capital investment, you get a regular produce box of whatever is in season, typically once a week in June - October, where your investment is more than repaid with interest with fresh, just-picked fruits and vegetables from right near home. You are still investing, not buying -- if there's bad weather and production is down, you will get a smaller box, and maybe some crops will fail entirely. But, on the other hand, when conditions are good, as they so often are here, you will get way more than the value of your investment share back as ultra-good eating.

CSA share investment opportunities go fast, because many people are learning to recognize a good deal when they see it, despite its slightly unconventional nature. There may be a few shares left in the Minto Island Growers' CSA -- check with them first. (And check out their newsletters from years past, where you can see the contents of each week's produce box.) But if not, keep looking and asking around--the more of us that want better food, the more people will want to provide it, and together we can restore local, responsibly grown food to our tables.

Another good way to promote good food is to help support the Salem Saturday Market by joining with and volunteering with the Friends of Salem Saturday Market. It's a fun group of local folks who are intent on polishing our local market, already a gem, into something even finer. They're looking for more folks to help out, and it's a great way for you to get plugged into the local food scene.
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Good rundown on our peak oil predicament

A bouncing ball captured with a stroboscopic f...Follow the bouncing economy -- oil prices drop, demand rises, prices spike, sending demand down with prices to follow, and so on. Note that the "good times" get less good each iteration of the cycle. Image via Wikipedia

Just like the Butterscotch Man couldn't run till he got warm and could only get warm by running, we're in a fix -- now that the easy oil is gone, the cost of getting the remaining (deeper, more distant, more sour) oil translates into a price that the economy can't sustain.

Excellent writeup on this in the mainstream press here.
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