Kulongoski’s Energy Independence Myopia

Gov. Kulongoski and the Democrat legislature have just awakened to the need for energy independence. The governor is going to have an open forum to discuss the needs and solutions for energy independence. And there has been the introduction of a bill to “jump start” the biofuels industry in Oregon. But this is just Democrat politics and the outcome is predictable and shortsighted.

Governor, you can cancel your meeting and Mr. Speaker and Mr. President, you can abbreviate your hearings on House Bill 2210. If you just read the following paragraphs, it will provide you with a detailed list of what you have already concluded. Not only already concluded but lectured the public to no avail for the last dozen years. So here they are.

1. Oregonians should drive less and use public transportation more. To that end, the legislature and local governments should divert more tax dollars to increase light rail systems in the Portland Metro area and establish commuter rail service between Portland, Vancouver, Salem and Eugene.

2. Oregonians should use more biodiesel fuel. To that end the legislature should extend tax breaks to an industry that is not currently viable because it’s products are far more expensive than the petroleum based alternatives.

3. Because, even with tax breaks, the cost of biodiesel will still exceed the cost of petroleum based alternatives, the legislature (or local governments) should mandate that a) all service stations offer biodiesel, and/or b) a minimum percentage of fuels sold must be biodiesel. (We call this the Portland solution in honor of those pinheads on the Portland City Commission.)

4. Renewable energy products (read that as wind generation) should be encouraged. To that end, the legislature should either mandate or provide tax breaks to energy utilities to incorporate some minimum percentage of energy generated from renewable energy products. (The current Democrat love affair with biofuels for energy production will end as soon as they realize that the best source for biofuel is trees and that might provide a forest products company with an opportunity to (gasp) make a profit. In fact, you can count on some members of the legislature to be willing to provide hundreds of millions of dollars to try to capture methane from cow droppings before they will encourage the use of trees as a biofuels source.)

5. And finally, the eternally popular solution – live miserably. Lower your thermostats in the winter and raise them in the summer. Wear sweaters in the winter and go naked in the summer. Give up the convenience of your car and buy a bicycle. Never mind the rain in the Willamette Valley or the snow east of the Cascades, just imagine you are back in the 1800’s.

Unfortunately, and predictably because of their subservience to the will of the radical environmentalist wing of the party, at least half of their heads are still buried in the sand – the half that relates to developing our own, existing carbon based fuels. You won’t hear a thing from this Democrat foray into energy independence about any of the following:

1. Construction of a petroleum refining facility in Oregon to alleviate the current shortage of gasoline in the Pacific Northwest and thus reduce the cost at the pump by up to twenty cents a gallon.

2. Development of the nation’s coal reserves for use in producing electricity and conversion to biodiesel products. America’s proven coal reserves exceed the petroleum reserves in the Mideast and technology advances have substantially reduced emissions from the use of coal.

3. Along with development of the coal reserves, development of coal bed methane that can be used as a substitute for natural gas and, in fact, can, like natural gas, be used to power motor vehicles.

4. Development of new petroleum fields in Alaska, off the cost of California and in the Gulf. There are sufficient reserves in any one of these options to offset any need for petroleum from Venezuela and thus avoid assisting another tinpot dictator hell bent on perpetuating his own power through the appeal of socialism.

5. Development of our nuclear energy capabilities. Nuclear energy continues to be the least polluting form of energy production (other than the bicycles) developed to date. Technology continues to advance at a sufficient rate to make nuclear reactor facilities at least as safe as steam boilers. I don’t suggest this lightly because the results of calamity for a full melt down of a nuclear facility are catastrophic compared to other means of energy production. However, we have proven time and time again that between technological advances and vigilant oversight, the likelihood of that happening is less than being abducted by aliens.

Don’t take me wrong. I don’t want to be dismissive of all of the recommendations that will predictably come from these partisan hearings. In fact, I am a fan of commuter rail service and believe that if we hadn’t wasted all that money on Portland’s light rail service we could have developed an excellent commuter rail service that ran the length of Oregon from Medford to Portland/Vancouver. I am a fan of biofuels, including the waste from forest product mills. And I support wind generation although the visual pollution from the massive towers and blades are offensive and I hope that technology can develop an alternative based on the cylindrical sail used by sailing legend Dennis Conner several years ago.

The point is, energy independence is not going to be accomplished by any one methodology. It will require a combination of all available resources – carbon based or not. To ignore a substantial part of the equation, as the Democrats will do, is the moral equivalent of wishing with one hand and spitting in the other to see which fills up first.