In the wind: do we want renewable energy or foreign oil?

Another Voice


Special to the News

While conflict rages in the Middle East, national lawmakers are proposing a Renewable Electricity Standard to promote greater domestic energy independence. Oregon has everything to gain from adapting such a standard; it would direct the country to generate at least 20 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025. Oregon legislators should help make sure its provisions are included in the national energy bill.

Renewable electricity standards are a no-brainer for states like ours dependent on an agricultural economy. Yet some politicians characterize them as attacks on industry by fuzzy minded environmentalists. It’s time to put an end to this childish notion. Accelerating renewable energy development through biomass, wind, and solar utilization is principally about local job creation, national security, and a stable supply of electricity that promotes a healthy economic climate. It’s about promoting initiative and industry in our rural regions. Increasing the proportion of renewable energy for Oregon is serious business, and our legislators should treat it as such.

Thirteen states — most lying in the agricultural plains of the Midwest and Southwest — have already passed renewable energy standards. Their leaders have realized that electricity generated from wind and biomass combustion is a promising new cash crop for farmers.

Here in Oregon, the dairy industry could solve waste disposal problems by extracting methane from cow manure and piping the gas to electric generators. The necessary technology has been around for 30 years, but electric utilities haven’t wanted to buy the power — even though it’s just as reliable as electricity from fossil-fuel plants and provides a local benefit.

The availability of wind energy close to the Gorge is almost perfectly correlated with irrigation needs, and electric irrigation pumps present an attractive constant load demand. Wind turbines outside the Scenic Area could contribute to the continued viability of family farming, ranching, and orchards near to the Gorge by adding a diversified income source to offset low margin crop production. The Sevenmile Hill proposal near The Dalles, involving 33 turbines, is consistent with this vision provided Audubon concerns can be adequately addressed.

Biogasifiers and biomass turbines fueled by agricultural wastes could also contribute significantly to the Northwest’s generation capacity. It may soon be feasible to generate electricity by fueling turbines with excess crop residues or entire trees from orchard clearing. Currently, huge amounts of agricultural residues are being burned and wasted annually because operators simply have no other realistic option. Open burning also releases enormous amounts of smoke that could be dramatically reduced by high temperature turbine combustion.

Homegrown, renewable energy is not expensive. In fact, renewable power saves ratepayers money over time because wind turbines and methane plants keep churning out power at a fixed cost when drought and natural gas spikes drive up the cost of conventional generation. Plus, they pump that money into local economies rather than foreign gas fields.

Rural Oregon can be a powerful part of the nation’s drive toward energy independance. Let’s hope legislators weigh the state’s interests above those of the petroleum industry.


North Cheatham lives in Hood River.

Latest stories

Latest video:

Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

Log in to comment

News from our Community Partners