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Commentaries and editorials

Power, Clean Air, and Fish

by Dan Goicoechea, Director of Information, Idaho Farm Bureau
Idaho Farm Bureau Opinions, February 18, 2000

With all the clamor surrounding the recent public hearings on salmon recovery, one topic has been almost completely ignored by the media, and as a result, the public. The rapid growth of the Northwest’s population of humans has set the course for a collision in philosophies within the ranks of the environmental community. The often-ignored topic is the dependable delivery of electricity to our new high-tech industries, our farms, and to our homes.

The Northwest Power Planning Council, the agency charged with forecasting power demand in Idaho and surrounding states, has predicted, in their most current models, that by 2003, there is almost a 25 percent probability that power supply will fall short of demand during peak periods. These peak periods are the dead of winter and the hottest days of summer.

Now, in a brilliant move, the pro-breachers, in the name of environmentalism, are demanding that we remove our hydroelectric dams, the cleanest source of power available, to any substantial degree. Will the same folks supporting dam breaching want to increase the use of coal fired power generation? Will the efforts of Vice-President Gore to meet his greenhouse agreements allow more coal smoke over the skies of America? Where do these people want to locate any future nuclear generators to replace our hydropower? Next to their homes ? I would guess not. And, who will pay for this?

Companies like Micron and Hewlett-Packard do not endure power bumps and outages quite like the average homeowner. These companies rely on a dependable and consistent power supply. The dairy industry, the number one agriculture commodity in Idaho, also relies heavily on the smooth delivery of electricity. If and when the power goes out on a dairy, the animals are forced to suffer until the power is restored. The losses can be devastating to the producer, but they pale in comparison to the anguish of a dairyman stuck watching his un-milked herd in real physical pain. The pumps that bring water to our fields will cease without electricity.

With the human migration to the Northwest, we will need more clean, renewable, and inexpensive sources of electricity, not fewer. When we hear discussions regarding the “human element” of the salmon debate, let’s remember that we are talking about urbanites as well as country folks. The impacts of breaching the four lower Snake River dams will be felt by all of us, not just the grain grower and barge operator, but by the young couple trying feed a family and make their level payment each month to the power company. All of the effort put forth by the anti-dam crowd for a radical, drastic solution like dam breaching, with only a remote possibility of ever favorably impacting the fish is careless.

Dan Goicoechea, Director of Information, Idaho Farm Bureau
Power, Clean Air, and Fish
Idaho Farm Bureau Opinion - February 18, 2000

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