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Saturday, February 20, 2010

What are they smoking?

A couple of alert readers have pointed us to this story, which makes some wild claims that are news to those of us who actually live in Portland:

with more than 20,000 clean-energy jobs created in 2007 alone--the most in the nation--it's clear that sustainable Portland is the place to be. The city gets half of its power from renewable energy sources, 35 percent of its buildings have been certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, and a quarter of the workforce commutes to work by bike, carpool, or public transportation. The city's $50 million "Grey to Green" initiative, which began in July 2008, aims to add 43 acres of ecoroofs, plant 33,000 yard trees and 50,000 street trees, and restore native vegetation while halting the spread of invasive plants to better manage stormwater--all of which will help create a green-collar workforce for Portland's already green economy.
If it were only true.

Comments (13)

That old, salmon-unfriendly BPA hydro has to be a big part of the statement about the city getting half its power from renewable energy sources. I'd be surprised if that wasn't an understatement.

I haven't seen any drastic invasive plant removal conducted other than your typical ivy clearing that goes on from volunteer groups. Unless I am somehow mistaken.

Well, ODOT is doing their part, but for other reasons:


That old, salmon-unfriendly BPA hydro

I'd love to see what the carbon footprint of the dam construction was.

The first thing to understand is that despite our proximity to all those "BPA Dams" (let's back up a step: The BPA doesn't own a single dam, not ONE. The BPA is a power marketing agency that takes power from various federally owned dams and power plants, plus the Energy Northwest nuclear plant on the Hanford reservation, and then sells it - generally at preferential rates to public utilities, and then any excess power is sold at market rate to private utilities and large industrial customers) that PGE and Pacific Power, the two electric utilities that serve the Portland metro area get very little power on contract from the BPA.

PGE is by far the prominent provider in the Portland metro area, so let's take a look at PGE's energy mix:


As you can see:
27% comes from natural gas
24% comes from coal

Those two sources equal 51%.

17% comes from "long term hydro contracts) - in other words, the BPA.
9% comes from PGE's own hydro plants.

Hydro equals 26% - just over one-quarter of PGE's needs.

12% comes from spot market purchases (from any source)
7% from long-term market purchases (from any source)

19% comes from unspecified sources outside of PGE's own generation, and not including BPA sources.

4% is wind.

So using PGE's own data (which is audited by the Oregon PUC), you can only calculate 30% of "clean" power.

Pacific Power doesn't currently post their energy mix online, but historically PP&L has a greater reliance on coal; plus they just (as of this week) signed an agreement to decommission several hydro plants along the Oregon-California border, in addition to two dams owned in the Columbia Gorge (one in White Salmon already removed, another in Hood River scheduled for removal in the next few years). Unlike PGE, however, PP&L owns no coal power plans in Oregon or Washington (they are located in Utah and Wyoming, with partial interest in plants elsewhere.)

Now...let's look at Seattle as a comparison. Seattle has a municipal owned utility, Seattle City Light.


88.83% - Hydro
5.68% - Nuclear (presumably from the Energy Northwest reactor at Hanford)
3.43% - Wind
1.38% - Coal
0.58% - Natural Gas
0.1% - Other

Who's the greener city now?

Seattle: 88.83% Hydro plus 3.43% Wind
Portland: 26% Hydro plus 4% Wind

This whole article is a fraud. They should be charged and convicted. Let's be reasonable, then a more reasonable discourse can occur about environmental issues.

This whole article is a fraud.

Unfortunately, that's mostly true. The "clean energy" jobs depend a lot on hand-waving around what a "clean energy" job is, and even more qualifying statements to try and claim half of Portland's power from "renewable" energy sources. In fact, the largest source of Portland's energy (about 40%) is coal. Adams even said so publicly last fall.

And Grey to Green? Mostly a failure--because it's a boutique initiative that consists of pretty things, but little environmental impact. One common fallacy, for example, is that planting a lot of trees somehow deals with significant amounts of pollution. It doesn't. And the green streets? Not really happening. But the initiative looks nice if you're quoting the city's website about what they *hope* to do, like they did.

The part about creating a "green collar" workforce is too silly to debunk. Let the repetition of keywords continue, while the real problems fester unanswered.

Glad to hear someone is actually reading the CoP press releases. Don't forget, they probably included Sam's staff in that jobs-created number.

The claim about a quarter of workers taking transit, bikes, or carpools to work is easily checked. Go to http://tinyurl.com/yln7l66

Out of 291,579 workers, 24,450 carpooled; 36,666 take transit; and 17,365 cycle, for a total of about 27%. So the claim is accurate.

But it is not particularly impressive. Portland's carpool rate is not spectacular; 8% vs. a national average of 11% and 10% in Seattle, the closest thing Portland has to a peer city.

The transit number isn't particularly impressive either: 13% vs 18% in Seattle. Only the cycling number stands out when compared with peer cities - 6% vs 3% in Seattle. Despite Portland's high rate of cycling, more than 30% of Seattle workers carpool, cycle, or take transit to work vs. 27% for Portland.

And with all that green-ness so benignly fertilized by Portland's ubiquitous flying pigs. Up next, sustainable MLS!

Once again the city gets high marks for having a PR team that is number one on the BS meter.

But it is not particularly impressive. Portland's carpool rate is not spectacular; 8% vs. a national average of 11% and 10% in Seattle, the closest thing Portland has to a peer city.

Seattle is well known for having the largest vanpool system - King County Metro, the largest transit agency in the region, owns a fleet of 700 vans for vanpool purposes:


Here in Portland, TriMet basically ignored the carpool/vanpool system so Metro took it over, and isn't doing much better. Metro will help you start a vanpool, but it's up to you to contact one of two private companies to lease a van.

Portland has the benefit of having a "free-market" system in place with competing companies provide the vans (VPSI and Enterprise), but in terms of vans in operation and ridership - Seattle blows Portland away.

What are they smoking?

Don't know for sure, but I'm willing to bet it's also "green".

Hey, we should actually commend these folks for pulling those statistics out of the appropriate orifice. With most people, you reach up that far, you have a good chance of snagging your back molars in the process.

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