News Oct 29, 2009 at 4:00 am

Despite Green Dreams, Oregon Is Fueled by 40 Percent Dirty Coal

Photos by Jeremy Okai Davis


Out of curiosity, why is Pacific Power not mentioned in this article? They provide for over 500,000 customers in Oregon and have a much larger reliance on coal generation (that they produce in Wyoming).
Bonneville is promoted at this huge primary source of power in the Northwest... so why do we have to have coal? I see the thing from PGE where I can pay more for my power to use a renewable energy source. I don't think I should have to pay more... its not like they are going to guarantee all my power comes from those sources. All the generated power comes through the same wires eventually.

How much power (what percentage) do the Dams along the Columbia really generate? PGE also has a dam operating off the Clackamas river.

Although it has a vast generating capacity, the BPA does not produce enough power for the region. This coupled with public utility districts (PUD's) having first dibs through contractual agreements, leaves PGE and Pacific Power having to generate their own energy to supplement what little they receive from the BPA.
The paying more for renewable energy aspect that both PP&L and PGE offer is somewhat of a joke as they are mandated to have a certain percentage of their generating capacity be green within the next couple of years. Thus, the public is being solicited to pay for something that these companies will have to do eventually anyway. As you astutely point out, the energy all goes into the same grid, and thus this feel good measure is almost duplicitous in that the energy produced from a wind turbine in eastern Oregon, that you are paying for, does not go directly to your house, but rather is simply added to the grid that day.
You need to get your facts right, folks. Oregon does NOT get 40 percent of its energy from coal. According to the Oregon State Department of Energy, 70 percent of the state's energy is generated by hydropower. That only leaves 30 percent for all other sources of generation combined: coal, natural gas, wind, biomass, geothermal, etc.
Thanks, Curtis, for pointing out yet more incompetent reporting from the Merc. The article is probably getting it's numbers from PGE (… ) which gives PORTLAND's energy mix at 38.9% coal and only 36.6% hydro, even though the article's title says "OREGON".

I saw this info when I got my first PGE bill, asking me to pay more for renewables. I don't think this is a secret at all, unless things people are oblivious to are suddenly "secrets". Secret poverty, secret genocide, and on, all hidden by a conspiracy of reality to not magically populate the mind with information, but actually requiring one to read something. Dastardly!

Anyway, I support pressure on energy producers to switch to carbon-neutral sources, and I support paying more for it, which we will have to do. I do not like the idea of natural gas. It's better than coal, but still contributes to global warming. Maybe we should give the Feds a couple six months to put out some Cap'n'Trade legislation before we decide how to generate our energy? Just a thought.
I'd also be curious to see how much electricity we need if we seriously conserve. Maybe we don't need the coal plant at all! But we don't even try. It's embarrassing.

Having perused the department of energy's website, I have not found the reference to 70 precent aspect being generated by hydro that you refer to. Do you have a specific weblink?
I ask as coming up with this number would be questionable as the western states our all on the same grid (the other two are the eastern grid, and Texas of all things having its own). If we all share the same grid, the statement that Oregon has a specific percentage in generation is arbitrary, and subsequently misleading as it is combined with all the other western states and thus is a moot point.
This having been said, one would then look to a specific provider (PGE, Pacific Power, EWEB, etc.) to see what their generating mix is into the shared grid.
Here it is, Grouchy.…
To paraphrase the page, coal supplies roughly 9% of Oregon's energy.

The 40 percent number in the article comes from the Oregon Department of Energy, not PGE. You can download the pdf of their 2007-2009 energy plan confirming the resource split at this website: http:/…

Thanks for bringing up that Portland's energy mix is slightly different than Oregon's as a whole. According to PGE, 24 percent of the energy they provide to Portland is straight from coal sources. But another 20 percent is bought off the market from other provides and that energy is from 15-16 percent coal sources. So energy provided to Portland from PGE breaks down to being about 39-40 percent coal, too.
The numbers quoted in the document you referenced are from 2005. If you go to the (updated weekly) page referenced in my post and look under "Coal, Electricity and Renewables", you will that 2/3 of Oregon's electricity is hydroelectric, 1/4 is LNG, and the rest is split between the remaining resources. No one is arguing that 40% of Portland's electricity is coal-produced, but the title of your article states that 40% of Oregon's electricity is coal-produced, which is incorrect.
With all due respect, where on earth did you get your statistics?? If you visit it shows you the sources of energy in OR, and the coal portion is no where near 40%, more like 3.5% (also, there is evidently no coal production in Portland either)! And first you say "oregon is fueled by 40% dirty coal" and then you say "Forty percent of Portland's energy comes from a very un-green source: coal". Portland or Oregon?? They're very different! And are your facts really spot on? I would check.
Yeah, energy is shared around the region. It's just silly and self-centered to talk about where "your" electricity comes from If you use more of your precious "green" electricity, some hog somewhere is then forced to use more coal. Good job! Reality is you must average at least your region's connected grid if not the whole country or maybe the planet.

If you want to green up your power your choices are: Conserve/Reduce and add solar/wind to the grid. Everything else is rearranging the deck chairs.

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