Sunday, November 05, 2006

initiative measure 937 (i-937)

the 17 point scale endorses a no vote for initiative measure 937 (i-937)

what is i-937?
if passed, i-937 would impose new conservation guidelines on utilities in washington state. i-937 is a statewide initiative.

i-937 would encourage utilities to explore renewable energy sources like wind. more particularly, by 2012 three percent of all utility energy would have to be from renewable sources; by 2020, fifteen percent.

sounds good, right? why a no vote?

get this: "examples of eligible renewable
resources include wind farms, solar panels, and geothermal plants. with limited exceptions, use of fresh water by hydroelectric dams and plants is not included as an eligible renewable resource." now, according to the energy information administration (apparently the home of "official energy statistics from the US government"), water is a renewable resource--it's cheap, doesn't burn fossil fuels, doesn't create pollution, and, as far as i can tell, it doesn't usually dry up--so the exclusion of hydroelectricity seems strange.

the proponents of i-937 argue that similar methods have been successful in 20 other states. i'm happy for those states, but the comparison isn't apt. washington state is unique. for example, utilities in the united states provide the majority of their energy from coal (48%) and only 8% from hydroelectric sources; in contrast, puget sound energy (like other washington state utilities) provides the majority of its energy from hydroelectricity (42%; pse stats courtesy of earthshare of washington; other sources have said that more 60% of washington state energy comes from hydroelectricity). in other words, other states (a) at baseline are depending far more on non-renewable resources than washington state and (b) it seems that washington state has a huge advantage in the availability of a renewable resource. i think it would make more sense to play to our strengths.

anecdotally, i recently met a dude from portland. as i was teasing him about the shrinking size of his wallet due to higher rent in seattle, he said that it's all balanced out because of the utilities. "what?" i asked. "yeah, the utilities are half the cost--maybe a third--of portland utilities. it's cause of the hydroelectricity...."

in closing, i tend to agree with opponents of i-937: this initiative could result in the sale of our cheaper columbia river energy to california while we fulfill our needs with other more expensive foms of renewable energy. if they revamped this measure to include hydroelectricity i'd be all for it!

andrew david. "buy a honda; they're don't necessarily use renewable energy, but they get good gas mileage" blackfeet nation bison reserve, mt.

additional info for i-91:
i-91 is a seattle-only initiative. if you're voting yes on i-91, see thurday's blog. if you're still voting yes, don't do it because of the following two reasons: (a) the sonics gouge their fans; only middle to high income fans can afford games; or (b) the sonics suck; who cares if they leave?

(a) you obviously haven't gone to a game in a while. cheap sonics tickets (with a good view) cost the same as a movie. it's $10 to see a game at the key. now, if you try to eat at the key, that's a different story. but come on, that's what dicks is for.

(b) they may be 0-2 but as of 7:05pm it looks like they might start changing their losing ways. they're currently leading the lakers 45-38. but even if they lose (and keep losing), sports are cyclical. the mariners sucked for twenty years before 1995 and 2001. now they may stink for another twenty years. therefore, the value of a team to community should not be measured based on it's record.


beth said...

If only 60% (max) of our energy comes from hydroelectricity, where does the other 40% come from? How do you know that we'd trade out hydroelectricity for some other renewable resource instead of one of our other non-renewable sources of energy? And why is hydro. not considered renewable? Does it have to do with salmon? Arron thought maybe. Either way, I'm not convinced yet.

andrew said...


i wrote out a long in-depth response and the internet said, no, let me take that away.

here's a brief response.

I. 1% renewable, the rest non-renewable. so yes, the 15% could come from thos bad kinds of energy.

i heard an interview with someone working at a power company. they claiemd that the water energy would be sold first because whoever is doing the selling would receive the most profits from water energy (since it's cheap). but who knows. you could be right.

II. the intitiative doesn't say water is NOT renewable, it just doesn't include it. the supporters of 937 say that that's because we're already maxed out with hydro--we won't be building new dams anytime soon. i haven't heard fish mentioned, but wikipedia does include damage to fish runs as one of the negatives to hydro.

III. i didn't get into this but the opponents of 937 say that there are a number of $$$ issues with wind energy. personally, if i was certain we'd still keep our water energy and our rates didn't go up substantially, i'd be willing to pay a bit more for more expensive research into wiond...i'm really a maybe on this....

Matt Basinger said...


Though I’m studying sustainable energy, I don’t claim to have all the facts, especially about Washington State. That being said…

I disagree with your position.

I think you hit the nail on the head that in you point ii response to Beth: “the intitiative doesn't say water is NOT renewable, it just doesn't include it. the supporters of 937 say that that's because we're already maxed out with hydro--we won't be building new dams anytime soon. i haven't heard fish mentioned, but wikipedia does include damage to fish runs as one of the negatives to hydro.”

From my understanding (based on a water management class I took last semester) we’ve pretty much reached the “balance” as far as industrial size hydro power in the US. In that, were we could build them, we pretty much did…everywhere in the continental US that is. And I would also guess that it is likely that any expansions, or small pockets of untouched potential hydro sites, are pretty much off limits because of the perception of what hydro power does to ecosystems (i.e., salmon).

So basically, I think your premise that hydros provide a good source of renewable energy is 100% correct. But I thinking voting against the proposition does a lot more harm, and no good. (Not living in Washington anymore, I haven’t even read this proposition, and completely base any knowledge of it off of your blog.)

Here’s a pretty bad analogy:

Little 10 year old Jimmy has cancer, not the kind that is instantly fatal, but in about 5 years he is going to die unless his cancer is treated. Jimmy also has strep throat as a result of his weekend immune system. Do we choose not to treat the strep throat because it won’t cure the cancer? Or do we tell little Jimmy, “sorry buddy, this strep throat is indirectly related to your terminal illness, but since treating it won’t directly cure your cancer, you’re just going to have to suffer the intense pain, sorry buddy.”

OK, so this analogy doesn’t apply on several levels, and is pretty extreme…but here’s my opinion: The US is horribly addicted to cheap energy derived from cheap oil. There are all sorts of sick geopolitical dimensions to this that go well beyond the scope of this blog (see the movie Syriana for a fictionalized representation …to get your mind going), but even ignoring that, something needs to be done. ANY move toward renewable energy is good.

I agree with you that hydro should have been included. But why does it matter that it wasn’t? Couldn’t another bill be added, or this be amended next year so that it is “more encompassing”? Why would you want to shutdown a good thing that wasn’t perfect but still good?

I don’t see how voting no will do anything except take a step in the wrong direction? Even if the bill only took half a step in the right direction, at least it was in the right direction.

Furthermore, look at your energy bill. What are you paying per kWhr? I bet <12 cents, right? In NYC I’m paying 20 cents, but frankly, even on a tiny student budget in one of the most expensive cities, my utility bill is still a very minor part of my overall expenses. The community I worked with in Africa had to pay closer to $2-3 per kWhr!!! This is only slightly higher than much of Africa. There are a lot of reasons for this disparity – the rich pay less while those that can’t afford it pay more – that again go beyond the scope of this conversation. Additionally the REAL climate change impacts that WE brought on with OUR addiction to cheap energy are being felt in the poorest places in the world, like Darfur for example.

We can afford to pay more for energy; we should pay more for energy. We need to stop requiring the rest of the world to foot the bill for our addiction. (I hate it when people talk about the US as a “super power” or “leader”, that being said…) The US should stop acting unilaterally on issues of Energy (both issues that include military action as well as R&D). The US needs to wake up, and look around and follow in the footsteps of other countries that are putting more efforts into finding sustainable energy solutions.

Hydros are good, and micro hydros should continue to be explored. But frankly, the technology is mature, and in the US, I’m pretty sure, we’ve pretty much tapped all the large scale locations we can at this point.

Our greatest hope for a sustainable energy future, I think, will come from solar power…(from a straight up physics type energy / matter balance perspective this is the biggest source of energy) not hydro, not biodiesel (even though biodiesel type fuels is ironically what I’m going to be doing my PhD on), not wind…but solar PV (photo voltaic) cells…eventually, not tomorrow, not in 10 years, but maybe in 50 years if we start today…. PV is still too expensive to be cost competitive with our addiction to cheap oil, but sooner or later it will come down. Let’s help get the price of PV solar down…maybe this initiative will lead to Pudget Sound energy funding research at UW, and maybe some great breakthroughs will happen…and maybe then we can have cheap, responsible energy, and even share the technology with the rest of the world…but even if that doesn’t happen, voting NO doesn’t seem to do anything except take a step in the opposite direction.

Even if its not perfect, I think you should vote YES for this proposition, not against it.


andrew said...


thanks for the editorial. it's funny; i actually thought about emailing you about this measure. but i didn't want to bother you with a debate and i kinda' thought there was a chance you might respond. it was just lucky that you happened to visit my blog yesterday. anyway, although i wasn't entirely convinced by your comment, i ended up reversing my vote. they're starting to count the votes now and it's still really close....