Blog

Archive for January, 2007
Jan
28
PGE’s spendy green marketing
by damian | Uncategorized

Gail Kinsey Hill reported in Sunday’s Oregonian that PGE’s marketing expenses comprise more than half of the premium that customers of their green energy program pay to purchase renewable energy. She compares PGE’s costs to the amount Pacificorp pays for marketing a similar program. In other words, much less of the additional 0.8 cents per kWh PGE customers pay actually goes to purchasing green tags. The implication is that PGE is mis-using the funds they receive for green energy and, in addition, receive disproportionate attention for their green practices because of their excessive marketing efforts.

What’s missing from the story is exactly how those marketing efforts have paid off — What is the overall impact of the marketing dollars spent in terms of renewable energy purchased and promoted? This article definitely makes me think twice about the green energy programs, but I’m not jumping to any conclusions about PGE’s marketing expenses just yet.

Green Power at a Premium

Jan
28
Faithful energy lobbyists
by damian | Uncategorized


One of the emerging players in the Legislature’s renewable energy debate is the Oregon Interfaith Power and Light lobby, a faith-based effort to help curb global warming supported in part by the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon. I spoke to Jeff Hammarlund, a PSU professor and energy policy expert, on Friday who said he is representing Interfaith power and light as a consultant on the Governor’s climate change advisory committee. Jeff, who helped craft the Northwest Power Act, is now participating in the drafting of the state’s renewable portfolio standard. So far, he said, they’re encountering the largest opposition from the state’s public utilities that are concerned about the cost of implementing the standard.

Jan
26
Biofuels straight from the source
by damian | Uncategorized


Josh Tickell , author of From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank — the Bible for biodiesel co-ops and independent fuel producers — will be speaking in Portland next month at a Young Professionals of Portland event about his new book Biodiesel America. I’ll be interested to hear his perspective on Oregon’s fledgling biofuels industry and the larger issue of sustainable biofuels development.

Jan
25
Energy drinking game
by damian | Uncategorized


On a side note…those playing the State of the Union Drinking Game , here’s the final tally for energy shots:

Ethanol — 2 shots
Addicted to oil — 1 shot
Hydrogen — 1 shot
‘Nukular’ - 3 shots

Jan
25
The President’s Plan
by damian | Uncategorized

In his state of the union address yesterday President Bush presented a new energy security plan that calls for a 20 percent reduction in gasoline consumption, achieved mostly by alternative fuel use. His plan includes a mandate to incorporate 35 billion gallons of alternative fuel a year to the nation’s fuel supply by 2017. However, the President didn’t specify the source of that alternative fuel. On the Jim Lehrer news hour tonight, Clay Sell, deputy secretary of the US Dept. of Energy, said he expects 15 billion gallons of that mandate to come from corn-based ethanol. With the remainder from cellulosic ethanol and coal-to-liquid fuel conversion. All of these options achieve the President’s goal of lowering our nation’s dependence on foreign oil. The question is, are they environmentally sustainable as well? Corn doesn’t grow well in Oregon, for example, and corn-based ethanol quickly becomes an import from the Midwest, with the transport of the fuel, alone, becoming a significant environmental cost.

See my June 12 article in the DJC, “When Biodiesel Won’t Cut it”

Here’s an excerpt:

Biofuels could provide 37 percent of U.S. transport fuel within the next 25 years, according to a new report by the Worldwatch Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental advocacy group.
But growth of crops such as corn and soybeans - traditional feedstocks for biofuels production - is energy- and water-intensive. And with limited farmlands available, feedstock production for fuel would have to supplant food production.
“There’s never going to be enough cropland to replace all the petroleum we use” with biofuels, said Jan Auyong, an Oregon State University professor.

Jan
23
PGE will go halfway
by damian | Uncategorized

I talked to Mark Fryburg, PGE spokesman, today who said that in a couple of weeks his company will release a new integrated resource plan that, among other things, will increase the goal of contribution from renewables and efficiency measures to 50 percent of its overall power production. PGE’s current goal is 25 percent. The change is the result of a number of factors, Fryburg said. PGE customers are demanding more of their energy from renewables. But also they are required by the public utility commission to update the plan every five years. I suspect that the proposed renewable portfolio standard is also a factor in PGE’s decision. If they were to keep the 25 percent standard, there would be nothing to differentiate them as the green utility in Oregon when a 25 percent goal becomes a mandate.

Jan
21
Biodiesel documentary
by damian | Uncategorized


The biodiesel industry in Oregon has received enough attention in the last year that only hermits and people from Remote have never heard of it. Still, how many actually know how it’s made?

“From Plow to Pump” is a documentary about the biodiesel product life cycle beginning with the cottonseed farmer who supplies the oil for the production process to the tractor trailer that is fueled with BioWillie biodiesel.

The program aired on January 12 on PBS and can be viewed at pbs.org along with an extended interview with Willie Nelson — who I might add is an investor in SeQuential Biofuels, the first (and so far only) biodiesel production plant in Oregon.

Jan
19
Climate change and the CRB lecture today
by damian | Uncategorized

Water = Energy in the Northwest and any environmental issue that affects the Columbia River, especially, also affects our long term ability to sustain the region’s hydropower production.

Kyle Dittmer, a hydrologist and meteorologist with the Columbia River Inter-tribal fish commission is speaking today at PSU on the effects of climate change on the Columbia River Basin.

Kyle Dittmer
Friday, January 19th 12:00 – 12:50 PM
PCAT Building Room 120

Learn about climate changes in the tribal sub-basins of the Columbia River and the effects it will have on our rivers. Discover insights into the 21st Century climate and a possible new ice age from Danish climate researchers, as well as how the key to our climate’s future lies in the Greenland glaciers

Jan
17
Toyota’s risky strategy
by damian | Uncategorized


I’ve been reading Daniel Esty’s Green to Gold, a book on creating value with good environmental strategy. In contrast to Ford’s decision to lower cost and quality to remain competitive (see my post on Gov. K’s incredible hulk), in the early 90’s Toyota made the risky decision to focus on energy efficiency and build the Prius, a gas-electric hybrid car. Here’s what the book had to say about how Toyota became the now #2 auto manufacturer in the world:

“Toyota saw the Green Wave coming and responded. The company promoted value innovation and ended up with a breakthrough product that enhanced profits and sustained shareholder value. That’s what EcoAdvantage is all about.”

Jan
16
Snow day!
by damian | Uncategorized


The mountain came down to Portland today and brought six inches of snow. I braved the morning commute on public transportation only to get stuck in traffic that at times left enough pause for our bus driver to get out and smoke a cigarette. (I could have used a beer then. Now will do.)

Thank Science, though, for alternative transportation.

The Portland aerial tram, in particular, came in handy today for a couple whose baby was scheduled for a heart transplant at OHSU. The parents couldn’t make it up the hill to the hospital so the city allowed them to ride the tram up the hill and into surgery.

I heard this story from a construction manager who was leading a tour of the tram today. Bored at the office with no one to call, my editor and I decided to borrow a flexcar and drive to the waterfront to ride the tram — not yet officially open to the public, it was open today due to the weather.

Conclusion: Public transportation lowers overall carbon emissions AND saves babies’ lives.