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TriMet launches new zero emission, wind-powered electric buses

Posted by on April 16th, 2019 at 3:22 pm

Getting a charge at today’s launch event.
(Photos: TriMet)

TriMet and their partners launched five new all-electric buses at the Sunset Transit Center this morning. They claim to be the first transit agency in the nation to put fully wind-powered buses into regular service.

TriMet expects to have 10 electric buses on the road by summer of next year. The new rigs are part of the agency’s push to have a completely non-diesel fleet by 2040. And, with an assist from Portland General Electric, 100% of their power will be created from wind turbines.

At a press conference event today Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s Transportation Policy Advisor Brendan Finn said, “One of the most daunting challenges we have in our society today is our changing climate and how we’re adapting to it. 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change are from the transportation sector; and that needs to change! Governor Brown’s administration has been laser-focused on reducing carbon emissions. Investing and expanding in transit is one of the cornerstones in the governor’s strategy, as is transportation electrification.”

Funding for four of the new buses came from a $3.4 million federal grant. PGE will own and maintain the charging equipment, a move that saved TriMet enough money to buy a fifth bus. TriMet says they’ll spend another $53 million to purchase another 80 electric buses over the next five-to-six years with funding from the State of Oregon’s Keep Oregon Moving Act.

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The first all-electric bus will start service tomorrow on Line 62 in Beaverton.

In addition to not spewing out an estimated 1.17 million tons of toxic CO2 emissions into our air, each new bus will save TriMet about $400,000 in fuel costs over the 12-year lifespan of the vehicle. They have a range of 80 miles per charge and can be re-charged in 30 minutes (with a fast charger) or four hours (on a standard charger).

Asked if they’d considered safety issues related to how quiet the new buses are, TriMet Media Relations and Communications Manager Roberta Altstadt told me, “We haven’t heard a concern about that and have done numerous road tests over the last several months.” Altstadt said the new buses are about 39 decibels while idling and are “much louder than a Prius”.

These new buses will only add to the momentum to dramatically improve bus service in Portland — a key part of our efforts to encourage less driving.

For more information, check out the official announcement from TriMet. And happy breathing!

CORRECTION, 4/22: The original version of this article said each bus would save $400,000 in fuel costs each year. That was incorrect. The correct figure is $400,000 over 12 years, or $33,333 per year. I regret the error.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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126 Comments
  • Avatar
    bikeninja April 16, 2019 at 3:28 pm

    I love the drop down fast charger arm. Given how quiet they are I figure Trimet should rig them up to play a tune as they drive like an old fashioned ice cream truck. Would be quite the experience to be on the transit mall at rush hour with all the busses cranking out ” Turkey in the Straw” over their speakers.

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    Glenn f April 16, 2019 at 3:33 pm

    Nice!
    Now stop putting in rail lines!
    What about electric buses with the overhead lines also…?

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      Chris I April 16, 2019 at 4:22 pm

      Those are called trolley busses, and the infrastructure is quite costly. You might as well build light rail at that point. No point in spending a bunch of money on busses that just get stuck in traffic.

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        Glenn F April 16, 2019 at 6:10 pm

        Building a somewhat standard road and running 2 wires above for a trolley bus seems way cheaper then putting rails in the pavement, and safer for bikes.

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          Chris I April 17, 2019 at 10:35 am

          It’s somewhere between diesel-powered busses and light rail for capital costs. It can actually be quite complex in an urban environment. There are a lot of wires already in place that you have to avoid, and it’s a challenge to cross any existing light rail lines (which we have a lot of downtown). And once they are up and running, the operating costs are higher than light rail (fewer riders per vehicle/driver, rubber-tires are less efficient). This is why no one is building new trolley bus lines.

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      Al April 16, 2019 at 4:38 pm

      Light rail is more energy efficient than buses on a road. Also, not stuck in traffic. Only problem is cost per mile which requires higher population density to make viable.

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        meh April 17, 2019 at 7:39 am

        Except in Portland light rail is stuck in traffic pretty much everywhere except west of the tunnel. Running light rail on surface streets is not efficient.

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          Chris I April 17, 2019 at 10:36 am

          You must be referring the streetcar. MAX does not share any ROW with cars anywhere in the system. Operating speeds are lower on surface segments due to cross-traffic and pedestrian conflicts, though.

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            Matt April 17, 2019 at 12:50 pm

            yeah but it still gets stuck at red lights between lloyd center and goose hollow. Much better than the street car, but still limited by car traffic.

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              rick April 20, 2019 at 12:09 pm

              TriMet is looking to remove three or four MAX stops in the central city in order to save three minutes.

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      Al April 16, 2019 at 4:46 pm

      This is fantastic.

      I’m wondering what the factor is limiting bus life to 12 years. Also, it would be nice to have a side by side comparison of actual cost to purchase, annual fuel cost, annual maintenance and expected lifetime of this electric bus and a regular diesel bus.

      One thing I didn’t see mentioned is that this could potentially help PGE load balance the grid if the buses do most of their charging at night. To be effective though, that would require larger batteries. It won’t matter for a dozen or so buses but once you start replacing the whole fleet, this will have a large impact.

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        Paul Cone April 16, 2019 at 8:23 pm

        Looking at how battery storage capacity for electric cars has improved over just the past few years (e.g. Nissan LEAF 24 kW in 2013 to 62 kWh in 2019) I’m guessing by the time they have a whole fleet of these their battery capacity will be quite a bit more than they are today.

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        Chase April 17, 2019 at 9:06 am

        The federal government specifies a minimum lifespan of 12 years for a transit bus, and most (diesel) buses are retired not long after that. Remember that unlike an automobile that spends 90% of it’s life parked, buses are on the road all day, every day, 365 days a year. That’s a tremendous amount of wear and tear, vibration, potholes, etc. so 12 years of that is a lot to ask of a vehicle.
        For what it’s worth, light rail vehicles last much longer, in part because there are no potholes or heavy combustion engines vibrating them to pieces.

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          Paul Cone April 17, 2019 at 12:39 pm

          Electric vehicles have much less vibration than internal combustion engine vehicles, too.

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            was carless April 17, 2019 at 10:04 pm

            True, although they will weigh much more due to the battery weight.

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    Paul April 16, 2019 at 3:37 pm

    What kind of noises do electric busses make while idling?

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      Tom Hardy April 16, 2019 at 3:41 pm

      The noise is the Air conditioning units.

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        9watts April 16, 2019 at 4:48 pm

        Something that could easily be skipped, eliminated from these vehicles. This is (still, just) a very mild climate.

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          Toby Keith April 16, 2019 at 5:10 pm

          Air conditioning units also de-humidify the air and keep the windows from becoming steamed up messes on wet days. There are plenty of warm days even here, in summer, when those buses need cooling.

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            John Lascurettes April 17, 2019 at 8:38 am

            Also, heat multiplied by many bodies standing shoulder to shoulder builds up quickly. I work in a theater where we cool it down to 68 in the summer but it easily tops mid 70s with a sellout audience (and we have LED lights).

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              9watts April 17, 2019 at 8:56 am

              I get the thermal and humidity challenges of these vehicles, and am well versed in the standard toolkit for dealing with these. The history of AC is fascinating. My point was rather that in the face of climate catastrophe, when even Trimet allowed its arm to be twisted into adopting battery electric buses(!) we should not rule out other ways to solve thes problems that stretch those electrons, increase the range, lower the cost. While specifying AC is the standard approach it is by no means the only, or the best, technical fix. We had mass transit for generations before AC was added. We need to start getting used to jettisoning some of the creature comforts we’ve become habituated to as the noose tightens.

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                RH April 17, 2019 at 9:00 am

                Haven’t you noticed that Portland gets way more days in the 90’s than it used to 10 years ago. We used to get maybe 2 days a year, now we sometimes got 30+ days.

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                9watts April 17, 2019 at 9:08 am

                I keep close track of that, yes.

                I’m not disagreeing with weather, climate, humidity, or any other conditions. I’m raising the question of whether we should reflexively use wind-harvested electrons and lithium not just to propel ourselves but also to accomplish humidity and thermal conditions within a tight range in those transit vehicles. We should challenge ourselves to figure this out with passive methods. Technical solutions that don’t compete for those electrons.

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                Middle of The Road Guy April 17, 2019 at 11:32 am

                We might run out of wind.

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                Alex Reedin, now in Albuquerque, NM April 17, 2019 at 11:45 am

                There were un-airconditioned busses in the South in the mid-20th-century, which far exceeded current or near-future Portland in humidity-adjusted summer temperatures. They worked fine. People opened the windows. Some of them also had upper decks which had much better breezes.

                Not saying I think un-airconditioned busses are currently a good idea; I think if we get a high percentage of trips via bikes, walking, and public transit; reduce building energy use; electrify building heat and possible industrial processes; do lots of R&D to find clean alternatives to current carbon-emitting industrial processes (e.g. concrete); get the power grid to essentially 100% zero-carbon; live with less stuff and less travel; and sequester carbon through regenerative agriculture and better forest management, that’s as much as we can reasonably expect politically. As long as so many people are driving cars (and ICE cars at that), I think the best carbon move is to make our buses more cushy, not less.

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                Chris I April 17, 2019 at 2:02 pm

                Bus ridership would plummet in the summer if you took away AC.

                Should I make a list of things that were done in the mid-20th century southern US that we decided are no longer a good idea?

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                9watts April 17, 2019 at 3:53 pm

                “Bus ridership would plummet in the summer if you took away AC”

                The fatalism of some commenters here is distressing.

                People who note that the car is not long for this world, or that AC is something we might consider figuring out how to live without, or that lithium batteries are not the solution to our transportation problems are shouted down…
                …apprently unmindful of the fact that lithium, AC, cars, the happy carefree, fossil-fuel drenched lives we have all gotten used to, will go away on their own soon enough, whether we agree to it or not.
                All I’m saying is since the writing is on the wall why not figure out how to wean ourselves from these conveniences, ease the transition.

                But the appetite for this kind of reasoning is lamentably thin around here.

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                Squeaky Wheel April 17, 2019 at 8:30 pm

                9watts
                I get the thermal and humidity challenges of these vehicles, and am well versed in the standard toolkit for dealing with these.Recommended 4

                Nice. A rare expertise indeed.

                9watts
                We need to start getting used to jettisoning some of the creature comforts we’ve become habituated to as the noose tightens.Recommended 4

                Oh! Oh! Now do toasters and remote controls! I love this game!

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              Toby Keith April 17, 2019 at 4:27 pm

              9watts, maybe what you find so distressing is the fact you don’t always have the last word on pretty much every discussion here that you attempt to dominate?

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                9watts April 17, 2019 at 4:30 pm

                Yeah, that must be it.

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        Todd Boulanger April 16, 2019 at 4:56 pm

        Per the noice when stopped: the AC units or even the brake compression units make some noise. There will be some tire and wind noise at speed. But 39 decibels is way less than 90db peak noise that a diesel bus can create when travelling.

        As for safety…It seems that Altstadt may have misunderstood the safety question, the lack of noise / less noise becomes critical when vehicles are moving more rapidly along roadways…39 decibels is pretty quiet and could surprise all blind pedestrians, most pedestrians and cyclists (without rearview mirrors). There are many international jurisdictions that add a minimal artificial engine noise (AVAS or ZOE) as a safety measure during the transition to full EV fleet adoption. (The US as postponed this requirement, per link below.)

        http://www.bullernatverket.se/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Electric-buses-and-noise_Volvo-Bus.pdf

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          Gary B April 18, 2019 at 8:11 am

          I agree there’s some confusion, I can’t tell if it was the response or the way it was quoted here. But I think the point was this: the 39 decibels stated on the promotional materials is the idling noise, which is rather quiet and great, but the bus is louder when moving (“much louder than a Prius”). I think they were saying it’s definitely not going to sneak up on a person, even if it is quieter than the current fleet.

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    Bjorn April 16, 2019 at 4:00 pm

    If each bus costs less than 1 million dollars and will save over 500k in annual operating costs the big question in my mind is why aren’t we converting faster? A 2-3 year payback on investment is pretty damn good.

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      John Lascurettes April 16, 2019 at 4:14 pm

      There are other maintenance costs. But, still, yeah. I’m guessing they’re just being prudent to see how it all works out before going whole hog.

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      Bjorn April 16, 2019 at 4:19 pm

      I am being told by another source that those savings are over a 12 year period not annual, and now that I blow the graphic up real big I see that 12 years is there in the fine print. The way they presented this seems intentionally misleading to be honest as several of the other values are annual and they didn’t bury that in fine print.

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        Pruss2ny April 16, 2019 at 8:40 pm

        Yah!!!! We are DOING reneqable energy!!!!
        We ROCK

        altho it is really expensive here
        And its getting way cheaper by the day
        So in 3yrs this commitment will look absurd

        But yea!!!!! We ROCK

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      Chris I April 16, 2019 at 4:24 pm

      They also have limited application. The route needs to be short enough, with sufficient layover time to re-charge. Trimet is right to test these out in a limited way first.

      I think we will see these on many of the routes in SW Portland. Being able to use regenerative braking is huge. They probably have better torque for steep uphill sections, as well.

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        Range? April 16, 2019 at 7:22 pm

        From the graphic they have an 80 mile range. Do most buses go more than 80 miles per day? If so, then they’d need to recharge. If it takes 30 minutes, that would mean the bus and driver are offline for that period. I wonder how it compares to a bus with overhead wires, like in other cities. The wires can be unsightly/costly, but the environmental/efficiency/cost impact of batteries is eliminated.

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          Paul Cone April 16, 2019 at 9:25 pm

          The Oregonian piece has some answers about range and charging…

          https://www.oregonlive.com/commuting/2019/04/7-things-to-know-about-trimets-first-battery-electric-bus.html

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          X April 17, 2019 at 7:00 am

          Many TriMet operators already work split shifts– a run or two on one route in the morning, maybe a completely different route in the evening.

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          Chris I April 17, 2019 at 10:46 am

          From the article above:
          “The average diesel bus logs 100 miles per day, but some put in as much as 300 miles.”

          And the listed 80mi range will degrade over time, and will be lower on very cold winter days, or very hot summer days. They are asking for trouble if they dispatch these on routes like the 2, 20, 12, etc. I think 20-40mi route length with a minimum 30min layover on each end is ideal. You need to plan for the bus being late to the layover spot, to ensure sufficient recharge time.

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      Eric April 16, 2019 at 8:33 pm

      That stat might be a little misleading because while the bus might save $400000 in fuel costs, I’m assuming that they are not looking at the cost of electricity to run the bus?

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    Jason April 16, 2019 at 4:23 pm

    The linked pdf on Trimet’s website has a lot of good detail, worth purusing.

    Also, I think the $400k savings was not annually, but I think over 12 years? Sorry can’t remember the detail right now.

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    Tim April 16, 2019 at 5:03 pm

    Less pollution is a good thing, BUT Wind turbines kill birds and bats | Wind Energy News – Wind Watch
    https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2018/09/09/wind-turbines-kill-birds-and-bats/

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      bikeninja April 16, 2019 at 5:39 pm

      Plus, the orange haired one says the sounds made by wind turbines give you cancer 🙂

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        q April 16, 2019 at 9:56 pm

        I was surprised to have to read this far into the comments to see the cancer problem mentioned.

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      james April 16, 2019 at 7:49 pm

      There is no free lunch with energy production

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        Racer X April 16, 2019 at 9:27 pm

        Second we had oxen power (carts), then whale power (whale oil), then salmon power (large hydro) and now bird power (large wind turbines).

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        Racer X April 16, 2019 at 9:28 pm

        I looked hard at the photos of the buses, but I cannot see the wind propellers that power them.

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      Eric April 16, 2019 at 8:37 pm

      The number of birds who die by flying into glass windows vastly exceeds the number killed in wind turbines. I think that this concern is overblown. Not to say that turbines don’t kill birds, but I think with the far worse costs associated with most other forms of energy production, wind energy wins handily.

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        John Lascurettes April 17, 2019 at 8:43 am

        Depends on the kind of bird you’re talking about. Endangered, protected, and just plain old raptors don’t tend to hit windows, but there is a concern about them hitting windmills while hunting. Especially since the top of the devices are very attractive nesting grounds to some breeds. https://www.birdlife.org/worldwide/news/new-study-pinpoints-birds-prey-hardest-hit-wind-farms

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          Chris I April 17, 2019 at 10:48 am

          I don’t think there is much concern about windmills, since they are so rare these days. They tend to move much more slowly, are closer to the ground, and usually made from wood.

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      Eric April 16, 2019 at 8:40 pm

      Here are stats for those who are curious: https://www.sibleyguides.com/conservation/causes-of-bird-mortality/

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      Middle of The Road Guy April 17, 2019 at 11:34 am

      Turbines only kill the birds and bats dumb enough to fly into them, resulting in an overall smarter population of birds and bats 😉

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        Dan A April 18, 2019 at 7:21 am

        That’s what concerns me. Super smart bats.

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    B. Carfree April 16, 2019 at 5:59 pm

    First, the statement by Gov. Brown’s spokesperson falls flat when it comes from an administration that is supporting widening I-5 inside PDX and wants to reanimate the CRC zombie. Actually, it’s worse than flat, it’s pure BS. Her administration is a lot of things, but laser focused on reducing carbon dioxide equivalent emissions is certainly not one of them, not by a long-shot.

    Secondly, electric power is fungible on the grid. Someone taking “exclusively wind” is just changing the mix that other customers get to be more coal. It’s mostly nonsense. That said, it’s only “mostly” nonsense since those who choose wind or other renewables generally pay a small fee that can, and often is, used to add more renewable to the grid.

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      9watts April 16, 2019 at 6:31 pm

      I take no pleasure in agreeing with you on all counts.

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      John Lascurettes April 17, 2019 at 8:45 am

      Comment of the week.

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      Gary B April 17, 2019 at 9:05 am

      C’mon B. Carfree, obviously “laser focused on reducing emissions” wasn’t meant to imply that actions would actually follow that focus. Rest easy knowing they’re super-hyper-aware of actions that are not reducing emissions.

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        stephan April 17, 2019 at 9:37 am

        I think that calls for some inquiry about what actions Governor Brown’s laser focus on CO2 reduction looks like. Does she push any legislation forward that would meaningfully reduce CO2 levels? Like an increase in the gas tax, increase in fees for vehicles with low MPG, subsidies for transportation modes with low emissions, etc.? What about a car-free Sunday?

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          Todd Boulanger April 17, 2019 at 4:19 pm

          I vote for a “Car-free Sunday”…come to Portland but check your car at the door …on this weekly day of rest.

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            Dan A April 18, 2019 at 7:17 am

            Maybe without the religious connotations.

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      Al April 17, 2019 at 10:44 am

      Coal provided electricity in Oregon means it’s coming from Boardman. PGE announced that coal generation will come to an end there next year. I believe they will have some natural gas capacity there but it won’t be as much as coal provided. Either way, not much of that power is actually coming to Portland.

      I’m on the green renewable PGE program. Last time I looked, my electrons look a lot cleaner than electrons heading to my neighbors who don’t have the program. I don’t want to gum up my electric car’s battery. OK, just kidding.

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        soren April 17, 2019 at 1:28 pm

        Pacific power provides electricity to all of NE Portland, a large part of downtown PDX, and smaller parts of E and SE Portland. Coal makes up ~59% of its energy mix.

        Natural Gas is the largest PGE energy source. Boardman generation will be largely replaced with natural gas generation and “market purchases” (~40% coal).

        https://www.oregon.gov/energy/energy-oregon/pages/electricity-mix-in-oregon.aspx

        A transition to renewable energy would require enormous investment in new power generation. As far as I can tell there has been little progress in funding this transition in Portland. Given the lag between funding and build out it’s likely that Portland will have about the same mix in 2030 that it has today.

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          idlebytes April 17, 2019 at 3:28 pm

          Oregon is ranked number one in the US for renewable energy consumption at 47% of it’s consumption being renewable. For our production nearly 60% is renewable energy compared to the US average of 17%. So compared to the rest of the country we’re doing pretty good and heading in the right direction. These buses purchasing wind power to operate is another good move in the right direction.

          https://www.eia.gov/state/data.php?sid=OR

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            soren April 17, 2019 at 5:13 pm

            “For our production”

            Given that much of Oregon’s energy comes from out of state or decades old hydro this is hardly evidence of “progress”. Pacificorp alone owns 15+ coal plants. And while PGE may be replacing Boardman with fracked gas plants it still owns part of a massive coal plant in Idaho. The fact that both PGE and Pacificorp are building fracked gas power plants like there is no tomorrow illustrates Oregon’s pervasive climate change denial.

            “So compared to the rest of the country we’re doing pretty good and heading in the right direction.”

            Even the Oregon Global Warming Commission is highlighting Oregon’s darkly comical failure to meet its anemic targets:

            “…we are able to report a preliminary value of 64-65 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e) for the state’s total GHG emissions in 2017…This level is well above the state’s goal of 51 million MTCO2e by 2020 and the Commission’s adopted interim goal of 32.7 million MTCO2e by 2035, and it does not put Oregon on a path toward achieving its long-term goal of 14 million MTCO2e by 2050 (Figure 1).”

            https://www.keeporegoncool.org/climate-change-in-oregon

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            Al April 17, 2019 at 5:16 pm

            So the links provided by idlebytes and soren are completely contradictory. What I reviewed in the past matches what’s in the EIA link where coal makes up for a small fraction (~7%) of the total mix. Perhaps the discrepancy comes from what the state generates versus what it consumes? But Washington and Idaho also have extremely low coal in their mix. I’m stumped. Where would the 15 GWh of coal energy come from in the State of Oregon assessment?

            Play around with this map:
            https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=OR

            Other than Boardman and Centralia, there are no other coal plants in the area. Where could 15 GWh of coal energy come from? It doesn’t make sense.

            The NYT published an interesting article showing not only state by state energy mix but how it evolved over the past 17 years.
            https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/12/24/climate/how-electricity-generation-changed-in-your-state.html

            They used EIA data so this will match the link idlebytes provided.

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              Al April 17, 2019 at 5:29 pm

              Sorry, that’s over 15,000 GWh hours of coal sourced energy and not 15 GWh.

              Anyway, for reference, Bonneville provides about 4,500 GWh of energy annually. So 15,000 GWh of coal energy is over 3 times the size of Bonneville. Where are these plants? Boardman can only put out a fraction of the power that Bonneville can!

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              idlebytes April 17, 2019 at 6:24 pm

              Soren’s links mostly line up with mine what’s different is the interpretation as far as the percentages go. Where Soren sees Oregon as not doing enough, which they aren’t like everyone, I see us as doing a hell of a lot better then most everyone else. And this bus energy investment is just another positive step in the right direction.

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              Alex Reedin, now in Albuquerque, NM April 18, 2019 at 8:13 am

              I work in the electricity industry, so I’ve run into this seeming contradiction before. My knowledge is not complete, but I think I can shed some light onto what is going on. A big part of the weirdness is about “production” and “consumption” as it relates to electricity. I think the EIA statistics are too simplistic to reflect, climate-wise, what’s going on with electricity, which has multiple layers of production and consumption.

              I think the idea of place of “production” versus place of “consumption” is fairly clear for just about everyone for fossil fuels. A lot of Oregon’s natural gas and petroleum is produced in Rocky Mountain / Great Plains states further east. Then they’re shipped here, and burnt here (consumed here). That all makes sense in the EIA statistics for “production” and “consumption” when we’re talking primary consumption (burning natural gas in furnaces, or burning gasoline in cars).

              However, what if coal is mined in a Rocky Mountain state, burned in that Rocky Mountain state, and then the electricity is transmitted to Oregon and used here? (This is what happens with PGE’s share of Colstrip coal plants I and II in Montana, and with a number of PacifiCorp coal plants around the Rocky Mountain West.) On the EIA statistics, no coal is produced or consumed in Oregon. Coal is produced and consumed in the Rocky Mountain state. A “net interstate flow of electricity” shows up as positive in Oregon and negative in the Rocky Mountain state.

              However, hydro power produced in Montana and shipped to Oregon looks exactly the same on Oregon’s ledger as coal power produced in Montana and shipped to Oregon, despite those having very different consequences for Oregon’s climate responsibility. Both are a positive “net interstate flow of electricity.”

              That means that one really can’t get an accurate picture of Oregon’s climate performance from the EIA statistics. Which is why the State of Oregon and other entities such as the nonprofit from Soren’s link do their own statistics.

              Here’s an EIA table that reflects what I’ve been talking about:

              https://www.eia.gov/state/seds/data.php?incfile=/state/seds/sep_sum/html/sum_btu_totcb.html&sid=US&sid=OR

              (Yes, it is a total pain to use on the web. Best to copy/paste to Excel or Open Office or whatever, then freeze the header rows in the ‘View’ pane in Excel).

              (And, yes, Oregon’s net interstate flow of electricity is negative in that table. That’s because Oregon’s hydro dams send so much hydro electricity to California that it outweighs the quite-a-lot of coal power that Montana, Idaho, etc. send to use).

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                idlebytes April 18, 2019 at 9:18 am

                The data in that table reflects the percent totals of renewable consumption that I quoted from the other eia page. I get that it doesn’t properly reflect the all of our energy sources we consume but it conforms with Soren’s original link on the renewable consumption side of things (which adds up to 47.73% as renewable) and would still indicate that we’re doing better then most of the rest of the US. Washington is the next closest in renewable energy consumption share of total and switches places with us for first from year to year. I still think we could do more and that comparing us to states that aren’t even trying as a standard for if we’re doing enough isn’t a very good one but I also think some perspective is helpful.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 18, 2019 at 9:26 am

                >>> However, hydro power produced in Montana and shipped to Oregon looks exactly the same on Oregon’s ledger as coal power produced in Montana and shipped to Oregon, despite those having very different consequences for Oregon’s climate responsibility. Both are a positive “net interstate flow of electricity.” <<<

                I would argue the situation is even murkier, as there is no way to distinguish between these sources at a technical level — electrical potential is transmitted over the lines, and it is impossible to know or even define where that potential came from.

                In my mind, Montana is responsible for the pollution it produces, even if its electricity is consumed here. I also know that reasonable people might disagree.

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                soren April 18, 2019 at 11:00 am

                In America, consumers are always blameless for climate change (or for anything, for that matter).

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 18, 2019 at 11:09 am

                That’s why we need a carbon tax — it fixes the “blame” and the “apportionment” problems quite cleanly.

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                soren April 18, 2019 at 11:28 am

                If Oregon mandated that its share of hydro could only be used locally several coal-fired plants would be rapidly shut down.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 18, 2019 at 11:35 am

                But, presumably, the energy we’re sending elsewhere would need to be backfilled somehow, perhaps by buying the very coal energy that we would no longer be using.

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                Paul Cone April 18, 2019 at 11:36 am

                Yes but then what would California do? Maybe the right thing In pushing more green power solutions since they are often at the forefront of being green? How does the Pacific intertie play into this?

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                soren April 18, 2019 at 11:39 am

                Carbon taxes are a joke because they assume we have many decades act.

                “Asked during an IPCC press conference on Sunday night if carbon pricing could radically overhaul the global economy in the next decade, two IPCC authors started to laugh.”

                https://www.huffpost.com/entry/carbon-tax-intergovernmental-panel-on-climate-change_n_5bbbaf55e4b028e1fe404102

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 18, 2019 at 11:42 am

                The speed at which a carbon tax would impact things depends entirely on its phasing and structure. Do you have a workable alternative that would do the trick?

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                soren April 18, 2019 at 11:46 am

                Coal plants are hanging on by a financial thread that we “consuming” voters could easily cut.

                Cutting that thread would also make Warren Buffet slightly less rich.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 18, 2019 at 12:01 pm

                How do we “cut the thread”? I can’t choose where my power comes from. I can use less (or, rather, I already do), so I’m not sure what my lever is. I can’t switch providers. Making people pay more for dirty power would provide the right incentives for utilities to shop elsewhere or invest more in developing renewables.

                The truth is that one strategy alone is unlikely to work — we need to be taking action on multiple fronts. A carbon tax is one policy that I am absolutely certain will help, even if it alone is not enough to solve the problem. It passes the costs of coal on to the ultimate consumers, who may be the bicyclists who buy bike frames made from dirty steel.

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                SERider April 19, 2019 at 9:27 am

                Kitty,
                You could always buy solar panels, or buy your power from companies that basically lease your roof for their own solar panels? If you are in an apartment/condo this does get a lot harder to do. But the option is there for some.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 19, 2019 at 10:26 am

                Yes, that is an option for some; many houses are not well suited for solar, either due to roof geometry, interior structure (some require so much reinforcement that the project becomes unworkable), nearby trees/structures, etc. And of course, as you say, if you are a renter, or live in a condo, you are out of luck.

                We need some system-wide incentive for utilities to buy less coal power. If that does not include raising the price of coal-generated energy, that pretty much leaves relying on corporate goodwill to overcome corporate profit (good luck with that), or government regulation, which is good, but requires a long time horizon and cannot even begin until 2020 at the earliest. So good luck with that as well.

                I’m an all-of-the-above kind of creature, and would take nothing off the table.

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                Paul Cone April 19, 2019 at 10:38 am

                Or put in place more incentives to lower the price of solar, wind, etc. vs. coal.

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              Chris I April 18, 2019 at 9:04 am

              Because Soren’s link is for Pacific Power’s entire network. Their network outside of Oregon is dirtier, and thus better supports their point.

              The reality is more complicated. I very much doubt we are getting power from Pacific’s coal plants in Utah. Once Boardman closes, Oregon will have a very clean power generation mix, regardless of your power supplier.

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                Alex Reedin April 18, 2019 at 9:39 am

                Well, doubt all you want, but it’s the truth. Maybe not as much in terms of literal electrons (I’m really not sure), but certainly in terms of who is paying for the coal, the coal plant maintenance, and the debt on construction and enhancement of the coal plants. Oregon consumers in Pacific Power territory pay money to Pacific Power, and a good portion of that money is used to pay for the coal power plants in the rocky mountain states.

                Also, even after Boardman closes, PGE is still getting plenty of power from its percentage ownership of Colstrip in Montana. I think the current date for ending that is 2035.

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                soren April 18, 2019 at 9:55 am

                My link shows state of Oregon data for pacificorp power consumption.

                I should also note that PGE receives ~60% of Boardman’s output from a coal plant it partially owns in Montana. Moreover around 15% of PGEs power comes from coal power it purchases on the market. The idea that PGE is going coal free any time soon is a myth.

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      Middle of The Road Guy April 17, 2019 at 11:35 am

      But it feels good!

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    Jim Lee April 16, 2019 at 6:44 pm

    Ships have been wind-powered for a very long time.

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      Middle of The Road Guy April 17, 2019 at 11:36 am

      We have a wind-powered President.

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    Ron Swaren April 16, 2019 at 10:21 pm

    What I propose as the Western Arterial Highway (Northern Connector in Washington Co study) could have bridges with large concrete piers and built in water turbine generation. The Columbia River would have sufficient current for at least half of the year; the Willamette would even have a fair amount of water velocity in the winter. The Western Arterial would benefit all modes since it significantly shortens the popular Vancouver-Hillsboro route over the present I-5 and US 26 route. It also link together four communities and intersects other major routes—-so should attract transit users and bicyclists, though maybe not too many going the entire 14 mile route! The Western Arterial even goes close to the new METRO West Side Trail system; so it enhance cycling between some of the connected communities, or combo bus/cycle commuting.

    There is a Montreal based company which build very high quality conversion systems for ICE buses. It i a susbsidiary of Hydro Quebec called TM4. What is lagging is the long distance battery technology and there are some breakthrough on the horizon,Kitsap Transit agencies connverted some disel buses to electric and the complete, refurbished vehicle were under 90,000 dollar.

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      Granpa April 17, 2019 at 7:23 am

      The Western Arterial is a terrible idea. Wrong thinking based on an antiquated development model. Huge infrastructure costs, horrific immediate environmental consequences and huge climate change negatives. Ron, i think you are preaching to the wrong choir

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      Gary B April 17, 2019 at 9:09 am

      Wait, “sufficient current” for what? I infer you’re talking about generating some electricity. You’re not seriously suggesting the modest energy recoverable from a few in-current turbines on bridge piers is enough to offset the energy/emissions impact of a new highway?

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      rick April 17, 2019 at 9:47 am

      Are you advocating for the Western Bypass freeway ?

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      MTW April 17, 2019 at 12:26 pm

      Build a new freeway on the Westside? Nah, I’m good

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    David LaPorte April 17, 2019 at 8:28 am

    Do those buses have 3 spots for bikes? That could be a game-changer in bus+bike commutes!

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      ChadwickF April 17, 2019 at 10:46 am

      I noticed that in the photo as well.
      This is a really important element that needs to be considered.

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        Ryan April 17, 2019 at 11:59 am

        The spots look to be more offset as well. Should make it easier to get a bike in/out of the inner rack if there’s another bike on an outer one.

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          Paul Cone April 26, 2019 at 7:28 am

          Yes, three bikes, offset. I noticed that yesterday at that one they had parked on Pioneer Square.

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    Terry D-M April 17, 2019 at 10:32 am

    At SE Uplift, we have been lobbying Trimet to buy 60 foot electric busses for the newly funded Division High Capacity Bus Transit project. Spokane is electrifying their new line being funded at the time. Spokane’s line is only 7 miles, while ours is 15. At our request, Trimet contracted out a viability study that showed electric 60 foot buses would be viable and save money long term.

    Trimet however is reticent about investing in new technology. They are getting bids for the 32, 60 foot articulated buses for diesel only, electric only, and a mix of the two. With an estimated 16 year lifespan, the most likely result is a mix, then after extensive on the road testing, hopefully the next enhanced bus corridor will be all electric.

    http://www.seuplift.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/SE-Uplift-Board-Letter-TriMet-Electric-Buses.pdf

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty April 17, 2019 at 11:03 am

    I find the lack of sails to be disappointing. Wind powered indeed.

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      Middle of The Road Guy April 17, 2019 at 11:38 am

      HK, when it’s not windy, the bus riders start rowing.

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    q April 17, 2019 at 1:42 pm

    The electric buses I’m familiar with were the ones I grew up with in Seattle, which were much quieter than standard ones, inside and out, and exhaust-smell-free. Obviously, that’s good for passengers. And the noise and smell of standard buses are a big drawback of living on a bus-route street, so anything that improves on that is good for people living in the city on busy streets, and better urban livability benefits everyone.

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      todd boulanger April 17, 2019 at 4:23 pm

      Yes, I believe you are referring to those Seattle buses (hybrid propulsion) that used to run the bus tunnel – I think they were made in Italy…I know the METRO operations were very happy to retire them…a bit too beta for them per keeping a fleet moving while meeting route headways.

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    q April 17, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    Actually I was referring to the ones from much earlier that were all-electric.

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    Lowell April 18, 2019 at 11:32 am

    As someone who lives in a first floor apartment next to a bus stop, these quieter, cleaner buses cannot come soon enough. Those diesel engines vibrate my bedroom when they’re idling at the stop.

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      q April 18, 2019 at 2:52 pm

      Lowell, yes, on almost all the streets I’ve lived and worked on, buses have always been the loudest vehicles. I worked for a couple years on Seattle’s monorail street, and it was almost silent, despite being only a few feet from our windows.

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    soren April 18, 2019 at 1:05 pm

    “The truth is that one strategy alone is unlikely to work…A carbon tax is one policy”

    Ironically, you are pushing for only one strategy here (e.g. relying on our glorious “markets” to fix the problem they caused is a dubious strategy in my opinion).

    “that I am absolutely certain will help”

    Authors of the IPCC 1.5 C report laughed when someone asked whether it would help.

    The “pathways” to mitigating climate change are not impossible. They simply require political will. PGE can be forced to shut down its fracked gas plants via the PUC. Voters can establish a public utility. It’s just a matter of enough people actually giving a @#$%.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty April 18, 2019 at 1:14 pm

      Your proposal would neither contradict or be contradicted by a carbon tax. A carbon tax would impact a great many other areas as well.

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        soren April 18, 2019 at 3:38 pm

        Carbon taxes and caps are a matter of too little and too late. In practice, they are marginal approaches that put too much of the burden on those most affected by climate change.

        “Maybe one day carbon pricing will be the best tool for fighting climate change. But the planet doesn’t have time to wait. To the extent that the carbon-pricing experiment lets policymakers and the public delude themselves that they are meaningfully addressing global warming, it’s not just ineffectual; it’s counterproductive. The time has come to acknowledge that this elegant solution isn’t solving the problem it was designed to solve. In the toughest environmental fight the world has ever faced, a good idea that isn’t working isn’t good enough.

        https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/world/2018-06-14/why-carbon-pricing-isnt-working

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty April 18, 2019 at 3:56 pm

          I wish I shared your confidence that we are going to be saved by government fiat. I think we’re much better off using the market to facilitate at least some of the change. Maybe the politicians will come through this time, but I wouldn’t bet the world on it.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty April 18, 2019 at 3:58 pm

          PS “a good idea that isn’t working isn’t good enough.” Has it even been tried?

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        soren April 18, 2019 at 3:57 pm

        The IPCC special report estimated that a carbon tax would have to be up to $5000 per ton to keep warming below 3 degrees Fahrenheit by 2030. Climate science strongly suggests that a carbon tax would have to be so high that it’s basically a marginal mitigation mechanism. A carbon tax is, at best, a long-term “kick the can down the road” solution to a medium-term crisis.

        Carbon taxes are also incredibly unpopular these days due to their distributional biases :

        Washington just soundly rejected a paltry carbon tax of $15 per ton (a bill put together by a coalition of environmental groups, labor groups, and community organizations).

        To quote Bill Mckibben:

        “Meanwhile, Exxon recently announced a plan … to back the fight for a carbon tax of forty dollars a ton. At a press conference, some of the I.P.C.C.’s authors laughed out loud at the idea that such a tax would, this late in the game, have sufficient impact.”

        https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/11/26/how-extreme-weather-is-shrinking-the-planet?fbclid=IwAR1EeUOUEN6u6gY0GLSXN_VstpFlFWIZD48EJ_-bGJhT7NdUD2If1vvhj9A

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty April 18, 2019 at 4:03 pm

          That article is rather short on better ideas.

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            soren April 19, 2019 at 3:05 pm

            “short of ideas”

            why discuss something that is very clearly delineated in the mitigation literature? here is a good start, if you are genuinely interested:

            https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/2-0/

            after you have read that report it should be *obvious* that some combination of these things will address energy generation-associated GHG emissions:

            * shut down our many fracked natural gas plants
            * shut down our coal plants and large coal power imports
            * mandate conservation and renovation
            * build more hydro and, especially, pumped hydro
            * build more wind generation and, especially, in other states and/or offshore to balance load
            * build geothermal plants
            * build solar plants (less potential in OR)
            * deeply incentivize micro-grid renewables
            * build biogas plants that reduce the warming potential of the massive amounts of methane we generate as trash (we’ve been attempting to do this for 3 decades, FFS)

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty April 19, 2019 at 3:26 pm

              These are all fine ideas for addressing the power generation part of the problem, and I would support all of them where feasible and appropriate. All will require some sort of incentive structure to make happen.

              That’s what a carbon tax would provide. If that’s out, what’s a faster-acting, more politically feasible alternative incentive structure going to look like? What other incentives would we need to impact other sectors, such as reducing the amount of concrete (for example) that we use?

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                soren April 19, 2019 at 4:19 pm

                If we want to make these kinds of changes within the next ~11 years we don’t have time for incentives to work. IMO, we need to municipalize utilities or use the PUC to mandate change.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 19, 2019 at 4:55 pm

                And that could happen soon enough? Where will the money come from to “municipalize” PGE ($4.5B) and PacificCorp ($49B)? How long would it take to organize that, then terminate long-term contracts, and then replace all that lost capacity with something new? 11 years? We’ve been talking about municipal broadband for longer than that, it’s still years away, and that’s a much easier target.

                In any event, we need something that works nationally. We definitely need incentives, even if we need other things as well.

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                soren April 19, 2019 at 7:54 pm

                I also mentioned working through the PUC but there are other options than buying a utility:

                City Council voted 8-1 to re-authorize the condemnation of the utility’s assets to proceed with creating a municipal utility, while taking credit for pushing the company in a greener direction.

                http://www.dailycamera.com/news/boulder/ci_32311056/boulder-moves-forward-municipal-utility-xcel-sets-clean

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 19, 2019 at 8:08 pm

                Good for them (seriously). I’m sure this was at least partially advanced by ill will towards the power company over their smart meter fiasco a few years back.

                Still not sure how widely that will be replicated, or whether that’s a generally applicable model that could be applied in enough cities across the US to make a difference in the next decade. And this possible success (the deal is not done yet) does not speak to the necessity of a general set of incentives to turn away from coal and other fossil fuels.

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                soren April 20, 2019 at 12:23 pm

                One example of a large and successful model:

                Touchstone Energy Cooperatives (Touchstone) is a cooperative federation composed of more than 750 local, consumer-owned utility cooperatives in 46 of the 50 United States. Touchstone Energy co-ops serve more than 30 million members.

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    Scott Kocher April 18, 2019 at 11:02 pm

    That e-bus still has a way bigger price tag and carbon footprint than ‍♀️‍♂️‍♂️⛵️‍♂️.

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    Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 22, 2019 at 7:44 am

    CORRECTION, 4/22: The original version of this article said each bus would save $400,000 in fuel costs each year. That was incorrect. The correct figure is $400,000 over 12 years, or $33,333 per year. I regret the error.

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