|TREES: Transportation, Energy, Environment, Sustainability|
for Peak Oil
Protection and Restoration
for the Year 2025, Region 2050
is not efficiency, it is post-petroleum
THIS PAGE IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION
|Renewable energy for economic development|
One "win win" solution that the region could have is to change the (now canceled) plans to build a fossil methane ("natural gas") generator near Coburg into an economic development strategy for solar and other renewable energy industries. The half billion that would be needed to construct the Coburg Power generators, and the money needed to buy the enormous amounts of increasingly expensive natural gas, could be invested instead in new factories for making solar electric and solar hot water panels, windmills, and expanding Lane Community College's renewable energy educational program. This would create LOTS of good jobs at living wages, and make the region more energy self-sufficient, much prepared for the era of expensive electricity as the natural gas runs out. (Weaning ourselves from cheap petroleum will be more difficult, but buying locally made products, local agriculture, implementation of a biodiesel Bus Rapid Transit network, bicycles, carpools, and better land use decisions are pieces of the puzzle to mitigate the problem.)
Natural gas is used to power a substantial part of the western power grid, and as its depletion becomes more obvious, there will be increasing pressure to reserve it for home heating, especially in colder climates (such as Alberta, where a lot of the Northwest's gas is extracted).
The Coburg Power station would have generated 900 megawatts, which is much
more than Lane County consumes -- the power would be sent to Portland and /
or California communities (or more precisely, used to offset the cheap Columbia
river hydropower we currently consume via BPA). Coburg Power means that Eugene
/ Springfield would give up decades of cheap electricity to get power from a
generator whose fuel source is about to soar in cost -- and is a direct threat
to everyone who heats their homes with natural gas.
If Coburg Power shifted its investments from the gigantic power generator toward solar panel factories, everyone would benefit. Coburg Power's investors could make a profit. Lots of quality jobs would be created. The environmentalists would be pleased. The labor unions would be pleased. Local businesses concerned about electricity supplies would be pleased. The only entities that would lose in this scenario are the manufacturers of the natural gas combustion equipment, but they could redirect their efforts into windmill manufacturing, since wind is an energy resources that is not likely to be depleted over the next couple decades ...
For more information on natural gas depletion, see http://www.postcarbon.org (The Post Carbon Institute) and http://www.fromthewilderness.com (several articles in the energy section focus on natural gas).
|Grass Seed conversion for biofuels and food|
80% of Lane County’s agricultural production (by acreage) grows grass seed for export. This is probably the most ludicrous use of farmland possible, with severe health impacts (allergies, smoke), the waste of soil, and the waste of water as desertification becomes more obvious. A few cities have started banning the watering of golf courses due to drought (Denver did this for a short while), which puts the grass seed farmers in long term jeopardy.
The most popular substitute crop I have heard suggested is hemp. While legalizing hemp production would be a good thing, it would not be a substitute for grass seed, since grass seed is a winter and spring crop that does not need artificial irrigation and hemp is a summer crop that does need watering in our climate. Grass farmers who water their grass in the summer in the Willamette valley grow cows and sheep, not grass seed. But there are numerous crops that would make good substitutes. Overwintering vegetables. Fava beans. Meadowfoam (a native wet prairie plant that makes a seed oil useful for biodiesel). Willamette valley adapted strains of winter wheat.
With careful planning, it should be possible to have this region much more able to feed itself by the time the cheap oil becomes expensive oil and long distance shipment of food becomes less practical. Grass seed conversion is an issue that transcends political ideologies, since allergens and smoke effect everyone regardless of political affiliation. If we are going to cope with the transition from cheap, abundant oil to expensive, scarce oil, the region will need to become much more food self-sufficient.