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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sam Adams, energy expert

We all laughed five years ago when then-Portland city commissioner Erik Sten tried to force Enron to sell the city its stock in Portland General Electric. Sten knew as much about running an electric company as your average professional wrestler did -- maybe less.

Now we find the city's self-absorbed and self-destructive mayor pontificating to PGE about what it should do with its Boardman coal-fired generating plant. He says they should close it rather than retrofit it for pollution control:

"I believe such a coal-dependent (resource plan) is a poor long-term resource strategy as carbon regulation and firm targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions are implemented," Adams said in the letter.
This from a guy who can't even own a rental house without defaulting on his loan.

But wait, you say. Maybe he has smart people around him who actually do know better than PGE about how to run an electric business and respect the planet. Maybe the mayor's letter was ghost-written by, say, his sustainability policy advisor, Amy Ruiz.

Too, too funny.

You don't have to have all the answers about global warming and power generation to know that you should never take Sam the Tram's word for anything except its entertainment value. Yes, let's hope the folks at PGE do the sustainable thing -- when the mayor's letter arrives, recycle it.

Comments (38)

Clean coal is a myth, Jack. Same as nukes.

Luckily, Adams has lots of free time since successfully completing his "100 Day Plan". Now, he's consulting as Mayor to other Oregon towns, cities, and major utilities.

I'm confused. Given the (very) long list of pollution problems in the Portland metro area, how is it that Adams is sitting around firing off letters about issues over 150 miles away?

And of course there's no such thing as "clean coal", and Adams' letter has no real value; This is just Episode 239 of Days of Our Publicity Whore Lives.

Myth or not, I'd rather have semi-dirty electricity for a few more years until they figure out a viable solution instead of using candles and hamster wheel-powered appliances.

CO2 is not dirty and abundant coal and natural gas make cheap energy abundant for many decades, well into the next era of energy production yet to arrive.

Ecohuman, we should be damn concerned about what goes on 150 miles away!

You can't always pick yer emissary, but he's the coin of the realm right now.

At night, I use an electric mattress pad to keep warm during our cold winters. I'm glad to get power from our coal when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining. Our coal is a very nice alternative to foreign oil also.

Additional: I keep the thermostat on my 92% efficiency gas furnace at 60 degrees at night. The electric mattress pad uses about half the electricity of an electric blanket.

Simply because Adams is against it doesn't mean Boardman's life should be extended beyond 2020. There are plenty of more knowledgeable people and organizations that have reached the same conclusion.

That said, Boardman is vital to PGE's power generation today and for the foreseable future. The plant produces 20 percent of PGE's entire power supply. Replacing that power will be complicated indeed.

Ben, do some research, will ya? Let's see your statistics about clean coal.

Mike, is semi dirty like semi pregnant?

This is coming from the guy who has called the place "Broad-man" on several occasions ...

Ecohuman, we should be damn concerned about what goes on 150 miles away!

Yep; and 1500, and 5,000. I can make a list of a few hundred *equally important* environmental issues in Oregon, if Adams is seeking a cause.

My point's simple: it's easy for Adams to fire off a letter about something halfway across the state, but hard to take meaningful, tangible action on local, equally important environmental issues. Adams, nearly always, chooses the wrong thing to focus on--because it's easier.


OK. No nukes, no clean coal.

Other than quitting cold-turkey and cutting 24% of the supply, have any ideas to replace the power output?

Can we get enough solar arrays and wind farms in place to take up the slack in the same timeframe? I'll ignore the capital costs for the time being, but someone will have to pay.

More dams? Kill more salmon?

Less air conditioning? fewer light bulbs? more CFLs?

More personal wind generators? Not very useful in the Willamette Valley.

I don't have the answers, either. But then again, neither does Sam. Better to focus on running the city more efficiently than making recommendations to companies how they should be running themselves.

Yes, I am aware that the Boardman facility is running contrary to EPA regulations due to technicalities still being debated.

In the end, realistic and achievable alternatives don't exist given the anti-nuke sentiment.

Word is that PGE wants to burn more coal at Boardman. We need to find a way to start burning less coal around here, because that is the biggest single source of CO2 on the planet. Somebody, somewhere, is gonna need to bite the bullet to reduce coal burning to produce the electricity we need.

I bet the Sierra Club is thrilled with Adam's support. Next up??

Adams wouldn't just start proclaiming stuff about a PGE practice 150 miles away unless he were setting the groundwork for some new (expensive) boondoggle in this town or contriving another giveaway to his buddies related to energy tax credits.

C'mon, Jack. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, unless it's a 24 hr clock. Then it's only once.

No Nukes? Have you been to France lately?

Sam telling us about how to run clean energy projects - BWAHAHAHAHA

Great background for it though - Lied to get elected, never had a private job, spent public money like its going out of style on what he wants and can't bring in a project ontime/money (tram, computer conversions, etc.) to save his life.

For those of you which are anti-nuclear:

wind ≠ baseload generation.
solar ≠ baseload generation.

nuclear, coal, natural gas, hydro = baseload generation.

You have to have some combination of those four in order to have an energy grid that works. Sun doesn't shine at night, wind doesn't blow 100% of the time.

So, pick one:
• Nuclear generation means waste which could be reprocessed and used for further generation if a Carter-era executive order was rescinded See: breeder reactors and IFR reactors. There's also a safety concern which recent reactor designs mitigate through creative engineering and physical properties of the reactor design, such as negative void coefficients and new cooling designs. See: liquid sodium cooling and pebble bed reactors.
• Coal blows nasty stuff into the atmosphere, including radioactive Thorium and Uranium in the fly ash. Oak Ridge National Labratory has published papers estimating radioactive exposure to people living around coal-fired power plants at 50x to 200x higher than people around nuclear plants. Where do you want your nuclear waste? In a ceramic cask at a processing plant, or in your lungs?
• Natural Gas also puts stuff into the atmosphere (less than coal) but requires pipeline projects that people around here also don't want. Take a drive out US 30 to Astoria and see all the lawn signs about the LNG pipeline issue.
• Hydro requires flooding lots of land due to damming, and grinds up fish in the turbines.

There's a reason why other countries are going Nuclear, and why the founder of Greenpeace is in agreement that nuclear power is the only technology we have today that will get us away from coal. It is not feasable to remove all four of these types of generation, without massive societal or technological change.

There was once a busy person who went to the Yucatan and met an eco-warrior trying to save turtles, in spite of big business interests trying to let them die.

Said person came home and made an ecological self-inventory and decided to limit airline and car travel, consume less, grow food, stop using plastic bags, and join the Ocean Conservancy.

Portland voted in a mayor who said he would rid us of plastic bags.

Funny, Mexico City just banned plastic bags. I have no idea why that idea has entered the black hole that eats so many good ideas in Portland.

It is not feasable to remove all four of these types of generation, without massive societal or technological change.

MachineShedFred, you're absolutely right.

And like the fat kid with diabetes who won't stop eating candy, it'll take a system breakdown to force that kind of change. Because technology isn't going to save us, and better living through slightly different purchasing decisions isn't either. The little blip of fossil fuel that has enabled a bloated, artificial civilization to exist for a few centuries is going away, and there ain't nothing to replace it.

But even if there was, we'd be the diabetic kid again--we'd consume until we puke it all up and start again.

Jack, I disagree with you about recycling Sam's publicity stunt, er, um, divine edict, um, proclamation. The trick to good toilet paper is that it has to have a slightly rough surface so it can be used to best effect. Besides, wouldn't flushing it in one of Fireman Randy's iLoos clog it up?

If I was a company and recieved a letter from Scam Adams I would read it very carefully, and then do the complete opposite of what he was saying.

If it was up to him we would all have to scrap our cars and have no electricity into our homes...Scam is a total nut case.

So, they want to remove the dams (the newest is The Dalles dam, which generates gobs of clean power), shut down the coal plant, and we cant build nuclear. Wind and solar generation arent nearly up to the task yet. (Not to mention its dark 1/2 the time, and cloudy most of the rest.)
How exactly should we generate power? They are building MAX trains like crazy. How do they plan to keep them moving without electricity? I just read that someone is going to put 2,000 new car-charging stations in Oregon over the next couple years. How will they power those?

The issue is that the pollution scrubbers that they are proposing will cause the plant to emit even more CO2 per unit output because there is a huge efficiency hit with the exhaust scrubbing.

In other words, PGE is proposing to spend $500M of ratepayer money on new capital investment that will only worsen the principal threat from the plant while increasing PGE's profits (because their recovery is computed against their capitalized investment) and risking having the whole thing blown to hell when the carbon taxes come, rendering the whole thing absurdly uneconomic for us but wildly profitable for them (since they will tell their servants on the PUC that they must be allowed to recover the stranded costs of the scrubbers because the PUC authorized recovery).

Short term, the solution is to shut down the coal boilers at Boardman just as soon as a natural gas turbine could be built, which would be less than 2 years and to use the rest of the money that would have been spent on scrubbers for more serious investment in building retrofits.

ecoman says:
"I'm confused. Given the (very) long list of pollution problems in the Portland metro area, how is it that Adams is sitting around firing off letters about issues over 150 miles away?"

Yeah, like all those BabyRuth chocolate bars floating in downtown Portland's Willamette River after a rain storm.

What is the status of that problem, Mr Mayor of Portland?

Adams and Ruiz's are amazing bedfellows when pontificating on environmental issues. They know little about it but the catch words.

Sam should stay in his own living room and focus on environmental issues locally like:
1. Stephens Creek still dumping sewage and other pollutions into the Willamette just south of Willamette Park;
2. The Baxter toxic site below PU;
3. The Portland Harbor Superfund toxic sites.....just to name a few.

Wind turbines can only provide 7% of the daily 24 hr cycle of energy needed-that's with the wind blowing at full throttle. Solar, if the sun in out on Dec 21st, only produces for 8 hours; actual less because panels are only effective for about 4 hours of the 8 hours of sun during the dead of winter when especially need the energy.

What is lacking in government on the level of Sam/Amy's level is practical knowledge and common sense. I've participated in the past decade with several committees with City Council staff that have no experience in about anything but schooling, and usually not even in the subject matter they are dictating and determining the committee's outcome. Case in point is Amy's credentials-total zip, on top of Sam's zip.

If Sam wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, he could start by getting rid of his own dinosaur.


Hmm, I wonder what the closing of this plant would be on the average Portlander's pocket book?

Their bill would go up?

Hmm, I wonder if Adams has even thought about that?


I propose we modify the Tram to be bike-powered , then put the
mayor to work pedaling.

Sam Adams is the Zelig of policy fads. If he found out his coterie wanted to burn babies in a furnace to power the city, he'd be the first in line with a shovel in his hand and offer a challenge to Gavin Newsom to see who can shovel the most.

Mike M., there are solutions! Instead of cutting 24% of the supply, we can conserve 25% of what we are using. As MachineShedFred said, it will most definitely take "massive societal change."

for starters, Mike (the other Mike), instead of using an electric mattress warmer, you use... extra blankets! Big life style changes, personal sacrifice, I know, but pretend we're at war. Oh wait...

So set yer t-stats on freeze and get out those ugly Christmas sweaters all ye diabetic Baby Ruth tossers. Gonna be a nuculer free winter.


Lead the way. Walk the talk. Dump that power consuming, hard to recycle computer you use to preach to the rest of us. You've never enjoyed a candy bar? That explains a lot.

I don't use an electric warmer, that was some other post. But thanks for thinking of me.

"Semi dirty" means less dirty than it is now. I assume that installation of pollution control systems are intended to do just that.

By the way, are there no production or material costs in the manufacture of newer "green" technologies such as solar panels, nickel-cad batteries (for all those Prius drivers), etc.? Someone already noted that hydro power is great, except if you care about the fish. Natural gas is great, except if you live in Clatsop County and are worried about land use and possible explosions (so they claim).


I said CO2 isn't dirty. It's not pollution despite the alarmists dishonest misrepresentation that it is.
As for Creepy.
Imagine the carbon produce to build the Streetcar to the Tram only to later tear it out, raise it 14 feet and rebuilt it.

I said CO2 isn't dirty. It's not pollution despite the alarmists dishonest misrepresentation that it is.

You're right, Ben, CO2 isn't classified as a pollutant. But CO2 in the atmosphere isn't the problem; it's *excess* CO2 in the atmosphere.

In other words, it doesn't matter whether it's a pollutant or not--what matters is that there's too much of it, and that level is growing.

ecohuman it has been estimated that we can reduce CO2 by opening the transit market to private operators such as ride sharing cabs and jitneys by as much as 30% or more. Simple and not gonna happen as long as the minds are closed and the pocketbook are in need of cash at cityhall.

it has been estimated that we can reduce CO2 by opening the transit market to private operators such as ride sharing cabs and jitneys by as much as 30% or more.

That's interesting, given that automobiles account for only about 40-45% of manmade CO2 emissions. The "it has been estimated" folks in your example have somehow discovered a way to remove about 90% of all cars and trucks from the road.

The threadjack onto jitneys is much like the rhetorical use of nuclear power in all these discussions -- the point is always to distract the conversation away from the crucial issue (ending use of coal before it ends us) and move it to something where some decision made somewhere by somebody sometime means supposedly means that we should all just go about our business, sure that our monopoly utility of multi-million dollar payouts to young retiree CEOs has our best interests at heart.

As a person who holds a PHD in plasma physics, I can affirm positively that Skeezus has never taken an advanced science class in his life.

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