We need to build clean energy infrastructure, a lot of it, and rapidly. We need to stop any new fossil fuel infrastructure projects from being built. New fossil fuel projects commit us to 20 to 40 more years of fossil fuel energy. We already face a possibly irreversible climate crisis due to the fossil fuels that have already been burned. Now is the wrong time to commit to burning lots and lots more.
One project that needs to be stopped is the Jordan Cove LNG plant and Pacific Connector pipeline. As many of you know, this entire project will have a greenhouse gas footprint that is 15 times the size of the current biggest greenhouse gas emitter in Oregon, the Boardman coal plant, which we are closing because of its pollution.
The fossil fuel industry has proven itself to be a relentlessly bad actor. It would like you to believe that natural gas - methane - is natural. What's natural about fracking? It would like you to believe that methane is cleaner than coal. Unless the total methane emissions from an entire project are less than 3% it is as bad as coal for climate change. For the first 20 years of its life methane has 80 times the heat trapping effect of carbon dioxide. It's climate change strapped to a rocket. Oregon recently passed the “coal to clean” bill which included participation by our utilities. Immediately after this bill passed, the same utilities moved forward with plans to build new methane based power plants.
Why else do we need to build clean energy infrastructure?
After the initial investment, clean energy is cheaper.
Clean energy infrastructure costs the same to install as fossil fuel infrastructure. But – there is no cost to the delivery of the raw material – sun, wind – and so amortized over time the cost of the clean energy delivered decreases. The cost of fossil fuel will always be more than sunlight or wind, and so fossil fuel will always be more expensive than clean energy – following the initial investment.
With clean energy we can make more clean energy. If the cost of electricity from solar panels decreases over time, and we use that electricity to make more solar panels, then each generation of solar panels becomes less expensive.
With clean energy we can make methanol, which can power a car or a tractor. The Indianapolis 500 runs on methanol. Using this strategy we would be able to reduce the greenhouse gas footprint of our transportation system without buying new vehicles. We can make long chain carbon fibers – for example graphite – to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
Cheap electricity is good for business. Low cost electricity is what brought Alcoa to the Dalles. Low cost electricity has the potential to draw additional manufacturing as well as other energy dense industries to our state.
This clean energy infrastructure should be owned by the taxpayers. The revenue should be managed for the benefit of Oregon citizens just like the Norwegian north sea oil profits are managed for the benefit of ordinary Norwegians.