Comment from Schmidt, Mindy
Oregon law calls for a 75-percent cut in 1990’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, a figure the council has determined will only be reached with a virtual elimination of coal from the power system. And while the council cannot order any coal plants to be shuttered, it can chart a course for a future that gradually reduces greenhouse gas emissions, a goal that’s proven itself to be both economically and morally necessary. Plus, cutting out coal power would have relatively minor rate impacts, according to the council’s own analysis. Simply put, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s very good draft could become a great plan. It can build on its already-solid foundation of efficiency and clean energy and build toward a low-carbon energy future that will meet growing need while shrinking its impact on the environment. The plan needs to go further. The million-ton elephant in the council’s room is coal, which produces 23 percent of the region’s electricity but spews out 87 percent of the region’s pollution. The draft plan, admirably aggressive in its pursuit of energy efficiency and renewable-energy targets, sidesteps the region’s coal use, neither advocating cap-and-trade (carbon tax) policies or CO2 reduction targets that are already on the books in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.