Rep. Klicker’s House bill of 1871 to limit new or expanded alternative energy projects is shortsighted for at least three reasons.
First, and most importantly, any attempt to limit clean energy adds to the effects of global climate change, including harsher weather, more wildfires, higher sea levels, more acidic oceans, and death. direct and indirect millions of people. Therefore, in addition to energy conservation, we need more clean energy of all types in as many places as possible. Klicker mentioned the possibility of wind turbines in Elliott Bay. Indeed, wind farms should be considered in Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and off Washington. We are far behind many other developed countries. For example, the United States has seven offshore wind turbines; Europe has more than 5400.
Second, resources are not distributed equitably. If eastern Washington has additional wind power, we should sell it to western Washington. If Washington has a surplus of electricity from dams, we should transmit the electricity to California.
Suppose Canada doesn’t want to bring water down the Columbia River to the arid east of Washington? What if Western Washington lumber owners didn’t want to send lumber for construction in the treeless Tri-Cities?
Resources must be developed economically and ecologically where they are, and then distributed equitably.
Third, I don’t think Klicker takes into account the economic benefits of wind farms for rural landowners in eastern Washington. He argues that land use patterns are permanently affected to provide carbon-free energy to the state’s most populous counties. Is it a problem? Wheat is grown just under the wind turbines; cattle graze in the shade of wind turbines; farmers and ranchers benefit from payments from wind energy companies. He rightly states that wind and solar projects have a different impact on communities than fossil fuel power plants: those who live near coal-fired power plants and oil refineries suffer from horrible air pollution. and unhealthy.
Kudos to the people of Puget Lowland for their huge appetite for clean energy. So are many people on the east side of the Cascades, with solar panels on their roofs and wind power support through Blue Skies programs. If Rep. Klicker wants to propose meaningful energy legislation, I suggest requiring consideration of photovoltaics and solar hot water for all new construction.
The Union-Bulletin points out that the Horse Heaven Hills wind farm project would have an estimated economic output of $70.6 million, including 458 jobs, plus millions of dollars in school-related property taxes.
Eastern Washington stands to benefit from this wind farm project. Our region is blessed with some abundant natural resources: lots of sunshine, large rivers, strong winds and good soils. We need to share resources, especially to reduce the effects of global climate change.
Bob Carson’s upbringing in Rockbridge County, Virginia led him to a life of geology, mountaineering and whitewater. He taught geology and environmental studies at Whitman College for 40 years, and now teaches for Quest at WWCC. His books include “Hiking Guide to Washington’s Geology”, “Where the Great River Bends”, “East of Yellowstone”, “Many Waters”, and “The Blues”.