March, 18th, 2009
by Rocky Barker
The Pacific Northwest can reduce greenhouse gases that are warming the Earth while preserving endangered salmon threatened by the changing climate a report released today says.
The report, "Bright Future," says the region will need 6,500 megawatts of new electricity by 2020. The report, sponsored by environmental groups, says energy efficiency and renewable energy sources can meet the need even with the removal of four dams on the lower Snake to save salmon and the retirement of 1,000 megawatts of coal power.
The International Panel on Climate Change recommends a 15 percent cut in greenhouse gases by 2020 and an 80 percent cut by 2050 to stop and begin to reverse the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere it says is causing global warming. That warming already is reducing the effectiveness of the region‚s hydroelectric dams and threatening to make much of its salmon habitat uninhabitable.
The report says that energy efficiency programs along with wind, solar, geothermal and biomass generation plants can meet much of the new growth for the same price as alternatives like natural gas. The energy program will create thousands of jobs and help the economies of both urban and rural Northwest communities, the environmentalists say.
The report is produced by the Northwest Energy Coalition, the Sierra Club, and Save our Wild Salmon.
By 2050 the region will need to add another 19,100 megawatts while retiring all of its coal fire plants in Oregon, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming to meet the 80 percent reduction.
To meet its goal the groups recommend the region set an annual goal of saving 340 megawatts a year through energy efficiency programs that give incentives to people and businesses to use less energy. It also recommends the Bonneville Power Administration set as its goal the development of 240 megawatts of renewable energy annually.
It urged Congress and the Obama administration to cap carbon emissions and urged state to set aggressive renewable portfolio standards through 2050. Idaho is the only state in the region that has no portfolio standards, which require utilities to produced so much of their power supply with renewable technology.
It argues that carbon-free generation technologies like wind create up to four times more jobs than fossil fuel alternatives.
The report advocates removing the four Snake River dams because they will continue to decline in utility. They are run-of-the river dams and have little storage above them.
But the salmon that live above them have some of the best changes of survival because so much of the spawning habitat is in well protected, high elevation wilderness and roadless public land, the report said.
"Because their spawning habitats in eastern Oregon and central Idaho are by far the highest, coldest, healthiest, best protected and best connected in the lower 48 states, these species have a better chance than other stocks of surviving global warming," the report said. "Protecting their migratory passage is like building a Noah‚s Ark for salmon survival."