Lawmakers say Dams
by John Trumbo
Hydroelectric power in the Northwest and the potential to develop more across the nation could help reduce the effects of global warming, according to two Washington state members of Congress.
Rep. Doc Hastings and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers both said Friday that electricity generated by dams should be considered renewable energy along with wind and solar power.
The two Republicans spoke at a conference of the Northwest River Partners held at Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick.
Both also said removing the dams on the Snake River would be counterproductive to efforts to reduce carbon emissions, one of several contributing factors in global warming.
"We have the lowest carbon footprints in the country because of these dams," McMorris Rodgers told the audience of about 100 people representing public utilities, power consumers and government agencies.
"We need to start saying yes to American energy," she said, noting nuclear and more hydroelectric generation should be added to the nation's energy portfolio.
Hastings said some climate change activists refuse to accept hydroelectric power as a clean and renewable energy source. "Two years ago, hydropower was excluded from the 2006 ballot initiative sponsored by these activists on renewable power mandates in Washington state," he said.
Removing the Snake River dams would end barge traffic on the river, putting diesel trucks on state highways for 700,000 trips to carry what have been river-transported goods, Hastings said. That would mean more fuel consumed and increases in carbon emissions.
(bluefish notes: "700,000 trips" would be needed if the entire Columbia/Snake rivers were closed to barges. Closing the Snake river to barges would require about 140,000 truck trips to Pasco on the Columbia and some wheat would likely move by rail.).
"Instead of trying to remove dams, our region should look for ways to maximize hydro benefits," he said.
McMorris Rodgers said the only reason hydroelectric power doesn't get a renewable energy seal of approval is because opponents of dams are more concerned about saving fish than reducing carbon emissions.
Hastings also plugged for nuclear power, noting Washington's legislature and governor have "been hiding" from it so as not to offend environmentalists.
As a member of the House Subcommittee on Water and Power, McMorris Rodgers said she has created a congressional hydropower caucus to help educate members of Congress about hydroelectric power benefits.
Without dams on the Snake River, she said the Northwest would have to rely on hundreds of new coal-fired and nuclear plants to replace the lost megawatts.
(bluefish interjects: "hundreds" is an incredible overstatement here. See Idaho Power(2001) - Ranking Dams)
Both representatives said prospects of carbon capping and trade regulations to be considered by Congress next year could hurt clean energy regions.
A cap and trade system for managing carbon emissions, which are referred to as a carbon footprint, would reward entities with high carbon outputs for working to reduce them. Hydropower users would not have as much room for improvement.
"The Pacific Northwest would be penalized by cap and trade while the coal states would be rewarded," Hastings said.
McMorris Rodgers said she was pleased all of Washington's delegation supported her recent resolution commending the 75th anniversary of the Grand Coulee Dam.
She said the Sept. 22 vote recognized how hydropower can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Among the state delegates who co-signed the resolution was Rep. Jim McDermott, who for several years has called for removal of the Snake River dams, McMorris Rodgers said.
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