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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 27, 2008 12:38 AM. The previous post in this blog was Bush or Batman?. The next post in this blog is An easy way to beat the new Portland grocery bag tax. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Under our radar, at least

Here's some Portland news that we don't remember reading anywhere until we stumbled across it in this morning's New York Times:

[T]o many people, carbon neutrality is a hollow concept, because the only way to get there currently is to buy offsets, credits sold by an entity pledging to, say, plant trees in another country or invest in renewable energy....

Offsets can be meaningful. The College of the Atlantic weighed options for a year before settling on a project in Portland, Ore., that manages traffic signals to reduce idling time. The changes are expected to cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than 189,000 tons over 10 years — the equivalent of taking more than 34,000 cars off the road for a year. For a contribution of $22,570, the college can offset 2,488 tons of its emissions.

The college's own website says the project is being sponsored by something called The Climate Trust. That outfit has an explanation here, which says that there's been a contract with the city since 2002 for what was supposed to be a 10-year project.

Apparently the actual work has been going on for quite a while. According to this site --

The City of Portland has optimized traffic signal timing at 135 intersections on 16 streets in Portland. This optimization work has resulted in saving motorists over 1,750,000 gallons of gas each year. This reduction in gasoline consumption is equivalent to 15,460 tons of CO2 each year.
Huh? Re-timing the lights at 135 intersections saved 1,750,000 gallons of gas last year? Forgive us if our b.s. detector goes haywire on that one. You wonder whether the college had its scientists and engineers hit it with a stick before writing the check.

We're all for better-timed traffic lights, but skeptical of the degree of environmental benefit. And even if it works, the fact that we have to take some college students' tuition money in Maine to make this happen is a pretty sad statement about our city. Maybe we should say that fixing potholes saves gas, and hire another guilt merchant organization to scare us up some asphalt money from some other eco-sensitive Yankees.

Comments (19)

They should be getting their carbon offsets from Al Gore!
Here is what Foundation Watch has to say:
Former Vice President Al Gore’s crusade against carbon dioxide emissions could make him millions of dollars. With help from friends at Goldman Sachs, Gore has established a network of organizations to promote the “climate crisis”—and keep himself in the spotlight. From:

If we fully implement the cap & trade here is what The American Council for Capital Formation estimates will happen:
* Gross Domestic Product (GDP) losses of $631 billion to $669 billion per year in 2030
* Employment losses of 3 million to 4 million jobs in 2030
* Household income losses of $4,022 to $6,752 per year in 2030
* Electricity price increases of 101% to 129% by 2030
* Gasoline price increases (per gallon) of 77% to 145% by 2030

That is why we need to be DAMN certain there really is a problem before we mandate carbon controls.

* (Gore joins vulture capital firm)
* (Page 5 has his contract)
* (Gore’s personal wealth increased by an estimated $100 million)
* (British Court decision on Al’s film)


Could we keep this thread on topic? Al Gore's personal wealth is not really all that relevant. Proposed cap and trade systems for reducing carbon emissions are tangential at best.

Oh, how this city loves to use the Nazi big lie technique to justify the payroll for its office of sustainability. In addition to this gimmick, Tri Met busses tout the number of cars they take off the road. The city maintains that 6% of ALL traffic is comprised of bicycles from counting bikes crossing the Hawthorne and Broadway bridges. Do we attack Poland next?

They need to correct the math formula to include the additional gas consumed because E10 is less fuel efficient (my SUV dropped two MPG). And I had to make three additional trips to the lawnmower repair shop to have my carb rebuilt.

Plus all the additional gas burned when a three lane road is squeezed down to one lane (due to construction), and it's got a DOT truck changing streetlight bulbs at 8:00 a.m. (happened last week!), or following the trolley at 9 MPH in the Pearl because a 60 year old hipster is riding his bike at 8 MPH.

At 6:00 in the morning, there are lights that turn red on Sandy Blvd for no apparent reason. Look to the right -- nothing. To the left -- nothing as well. Not even a bicyclist. How is that efficient?

At 6:00 in the morning, there are lights that turn red on Sandy Blvd for no apparent reason. Look to the right -- nothing. To the left -- nothing as well. Not even a bicyclist. How is that efficient?

Its called "traffic calming". It is annoying by design, to make you frustrated enough to get you out of your car.

Maybe "Sam the Tram" can fill the pot holes with all those grocery bags?

Jack, do you have any information on what 16 intersections have been re-signaled? I sure am not experiencing them. I seem not to be able to find any CoP information about these successful actions and how they measured the gas/carbon benefits, and who did it.

Is this carbon credit like PDC claiming that for every dollar spent creating bio-tech jobs in SoWhat, that it generates ten to twenty times return, but after spending $10 Million not one bio-tech job has been created, let alone the $200 Million in return?

The idea that Portland is selling carbon credits for our improvements so that other entities can pay to be excused from reducing their own carbon footprints is nauseating. This is especially nauseating because citizens have been calling for "green wave" light coordination here since the '70's. Can we please find out whose fingerprints are on this one? All involved should be ashamed.

mmm, Carbon offsets, the new Catholic Indulgences.

We have traded Jesus & the Pope for Gaia and the Gore-acle.

All in all, I think indulgences are a better investment. Same chance of a payoff (i.e., none), but the indulgences have a bigger payout if they do payout.

"The changes are expected to cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than 189,000 tons over 10 years"

there's no way to measure or verify that--and it's a *cumulative* amount. it's misleading. sounds good though, doesn't it?

the equivalent of taking more than 34,000 cars off the road for a year.

too bad that's more than made up for in increased auto pollution levels in the area, according to the EPA and oregon's own measures.

This optimization work has resulted in saving motorists over 1,750,000 gallons of gas each year.

no way to measure or verify that. it's an abstraction and a wild estimate, nothing more. kind of like "10,000 biotech jobs."

This reduction in gasoline consumption is equivalent to 15,460 tons of CO2 each year.

...making the same difference as dropping a single live salmon into the Columbia does on the salmon population.

offsets are part of the absurdity of what I like to call "Better Living Through Slightly Different Purchasing Decisions."

the ultimate hope of those promoting carbon offsets are that offsets lead to a ratcheting down of pollution levels.

they don't. they won't. last year, America had more cars on the road than ever before and polluted more than ever before--despite a significant growth in "renewable" energy use and (ab)use of "offsets". that's a global phenomenon, too.

An informative description of this project is available at The Climate Trust was created as a result of Oregon's requirements that all new power plants in the state offset their carbon dioxide emissions. They have been buying offsets from a variety of projects for a number of years and have rigorous accounting standards for calculating the emission reductions they buy. They audit every project they fund.

The City of Gresham is actually a leader in installation of "smart traffic signals" to reduce congestion. Their program is described at

There is an excellent alternative to offsets, which are nonsense.

Buy carbon allowances and retire them.

Oregon's requirements that all new power plants in the state offset their carbon dioxide emissions. the Oregon requirement is several pages of exceptions, special cases and loopholes that add up to new "power plants" offsetting a portion of their emissions.

besides--new power plants are only a fraction of the problem--making them an meaningful difference.

meanwhile, power consumption in Oregon continues to skyrocket (possibly doubling in the next 20 years) and pollution levels are rising far, far faster than any development of "clean" or "renewable" energy. those two facts comprise the dirty reality that policy makers (and citizens) continue to ignore--like the annoying fact that buildings--not cars, not power plants, but buildings--are the largest source of pollution.

guess what we can't seem to build fast enough?

power plants are only a fraction of the problem--making them an meaningful difference.

that is, "no meaningful difference."

Just to put 15,460 tons of CO2 into perspective:
Assume an adult human takes 10 breaths a minute, each with 1 liter of air. Exhaled breath is 4.5% CO2. In 1 day, s/he produces 600 liters of C02, or about 3 pounds. That's 1000 pounds a year, or half a ton. So 15,460 tons of CO2/year is about 1/3 what the 85,000 residents of Beaverton produce, just by breathing.

"So 15,460 tons of CO2/year is about 1/3 what the 85,000 residents of Beaverton produce, just by breathing."

People exhaust pollution?

Well they should be required to either pay a carbon tax for what they spew or attach filters to their faces to catch it.

Sure glad that the "Progressives" here in Portland are catching up to what Salem did over 15 years ago.

You can drive from the Marion St. Bridge all the way to 12th street (a.k.a. all the way across downtown, west to east) in Salem and never see a red light, as long as you go exactly 28 mph.

Why? The lights are timed, and have been for quite a while. Same thing happens all the way from South Salem to Keizer on Liberty / Commercial.

It's always made me want to vigorously shake the traffic engineers in Portland / Beaverton for not doing this years ago.

I read a few months ago that Portland's traffic engineers have deliberately timed the signals on some streets to be out of sequence, so that cars would have to stop every several blocks, and be less menacing to pedestrians.


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