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Risch Asks Gore: How Long do We Got?

by Rocky Barker
Idaho Statesman, February 3, 2009

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch had an amusing exchange Jan. 28 with Al Gore.

It wasn't the first time Risch had met the former vice president with different labels for different people. To right wing climate change skeptics he's Algore, Rush Limbaugh's answer to Alvin the Chipmunk. To the world he is the Nobel Laureate. To the Washington Post's Dana Milbanks, he's the Goracle.

Gore testified Wednesday to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, of which Idaho freshman Sen. Risch is a member. Milbanks reported on their exchange:

"What does your modeling tell you about how long we're going to be around as a species?" Risch asked.

"'The Goracle chuckled,'" Milbanks wrote. " 'I don't claim the expertise to answer a question like that, Senator.' "

You might remember that Risch said he planned to convene a forum to address the salmon issue just as he got the Forest Service to approve an Idaho roadless plan with both timber and environmental support.

Risch told me Friday he has discussed the issue with Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who expressed an interest in working with the Idaho Republican.

Risch said any forum will have to include the entire Pacific Northwest. He's also working with Chris Wood, chief operating officer of Trout Unlimited, and a possible assistant secretary of Agriculture for Forests and Conservation in the Obama administration.

But Risch said he's moving slow to see whether a lawsuit by the Wilderness Society aimed at killing the Idaho Roadless Rule succeeds.

If a minority can stop what he said had overwhelming support, he's not sure it would pay for him to spend a lot of time trying to resolve the salmon debate.

"I'm as person that's results oriented," Risch said. "Simply going through the motions has no charm for me."

Idaho Office of Energy Resources Director Paul Kjellander wants to encourage alternative energy and economic development in Idaho.

That's why he is writing a bill to create Idaho Renewable Energy Enterprise Zones. Inside these zones the state will offer a series of incentives for developers, local governments and others to build alternative energy projects.

Initially he was looking at setting up an energy enterprise zone in the Magic Valley, based on turning manure from dairies into natural gas. But led by the efforts of Republican Rep. Eric Anderson from Priest River, Kjellander included much of northern Idaho to encourage the development of biomass fuel projects from the region's forests. The bill also will include a zone covering most of eastern Idaho, already a center for wind development and the home of the Idaho National Laboratory.

Southwest Idaho, including the Treasure Valley is left out of the bill initially, but Kjellander said the bill authorizes up to 20 zones statewide in the future. And obviously Idaho lawmakers will be able to add or subtract whatever they can get approved.

Rocky Barker
Risch Asks Gore: How Long do We Got?
Idaho Statesman, February 2, 2009

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