the film
Commentaries and editorials

Thirst for Energy Can Be
Quenched with Conservation

by Editorial Board
East Oregonian, May 23, 2010

The American oil patch has moved from the flat lands of Texas to the deep canyons of the Gulf of Mexico over the past few decades. Our quest for oil to fuel cars, power homes and drive the American economy keeps pushing technology in a desperate attempt to find a new source of "black gold."

The tragedy of the current British Petroleum disaster is only the latest and, by far, the worst to strike U.S. shores. There have been others off the California coast and in Alaska. Of course, this spill gets a lot of attention because it is so close to our beaches. We tend to spend less time worrying about spills in countries such as Ecuador or in Africa. More than half of America's oil is imported.

The White House has announced a special panel to study the latest spill in the gulf. This is important work and will, no doubt, help prevent future disasters should deep water drilling be approved in the future. And such drilling will happen; our demand for oil will drive it.

A recent plan to develop a liquified natural gas (LNG) facility near Astoria on the Columbia River has been cancelled due to environmental issues with the site and the financial problems of the company planning the development. This would have taken liquified natural gas imported from distant fields and shipped it in a pipeline around the Northwest. Perhaps, the plan's demise has prevented a pollution problem in Oregon.

But, still, the need for energy will go on and on. That is why a power line, proposed by Idaho Power, will be built from Boardman to Southern Idaho. It is needed to move energy.

The Boardman coal power plant must continue or a substitute of natural gas must take its place. There are other alternatives that are being pursued. These include wind, solar power and, the biggest opportunity of all. This is to conserve and use less energy through reducing waste by building greener buildings, retrofitting old ones and driving energy efficient small or electric cars.

Nuclear power plants also need to be put back on the table. France, amongst others, is operating increasingly efficient nuclear facilities to power much of its energy needs. Compared to this oil spill in the gulf or the pollution from a coal plant, nuclear power does have some appeal. At least it is time to take another look.

Our part of the world in northeast Oregon has clearly benefited from the water and power provided by the Columbia River. This is true despite the many problems associated with disruption of salmon runs and other issues. Without the power from the dams and the water for irrigation, much of it driven by the electricity necessary to run pumps, our own economy would be a tiny fraction of its current size.

Every source of energy needed to drive the economy comes with issues. Drilling for oil deep in the ocean or hauling liquified natural gas in huge ships to plants like that proposed for the mouth of the Columbia may be amongst the worst choices to solve our energy future.

We can hope that the presidential panel can lead to safer ways to drill for oil. But the current disaster has proven no drilling plan is foolproof nor any emergency handbook to deal with a spill a sure thing. Technology does break down and many suffer as a result.

The answer lies in conservation and finding the least destructive ways to satisfy our energy needs. It is time to curb our thirst for oil and the frantic attempt to find the next oil patch. The popular phrase of some politicians to "drill, baby, drill" has lost its political appeal.

Related Pages:
Wright Testifies Before Congress by Staff, BPA Journal, 4/10

Editorial Board
Thirst for Energy Can Be Quenched with Conservation
East Oregonian, May 23, 2010

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