Thursday, October 2, 2008

Local politicians tackle energy issues

On the eve of the VP debates, the nonprofit Future of Energy and the Oregon Environmental Council held their own knock-down forum last night for local candidates focused on energy issues. Several hundred concerned citizens showed up at the Bagdad theater last night to hear candidates for City Council and Multnomah County Commission as well as a few elected officials duke it out over regional energy policies. Here are some of the more interesting tidbits I heard:

City Council candidate Amanda Fritz said one of the best ways to educate Portlanders about greenhouse gas emissions is to provide safe walking and biking routes for kids to school. "We can't pretend a top-down solution will work." She also called for reliable public transportation and accountability for the city's green job programs.

Her opponent, Charles Lewis, said the city and county should lead by example by installing solar panels on all publicly-owned buildings, starting with City Hall. Unlike Fritz, Lewis didn't see the point to tracking green job creation programs, saying the reports are just bragging, "let's just do it." Lewis said the city's revolving loan program for small businesses is the best way to grow the green workforce.

When asked for his "energy confession", candidate for County commission Mike Delman said he knows food production is energy intensive and confessed a penchant for eating red meat. But he said he's trying to cut down on that and he's installed rain barrels at his house. Delman was against a city green building policy that would penalize developers for not meeting certain energy efficiency standards, saying it would hurt small businesses. He also confessed to recently learning what LEED is.

Judy Shiprack, Delman's opponent for the commission, admitted she drives to the grocery store. But she said her travels in Europe have opened her eyes to the possibility of biking everywhere and she'd like to create safer city streets for bikers. She suggested a European model that automatically faults the driver in the event of a collision with a cyclist. Shiprack supports rewarding developers for energy efficiency and penalizing them for falling below a city standard. She also supports creating local improvement districts to help homeowners pay for energy efficiency upgrades.

City Commissioner Randy Leonard said he would support a tax in the Portland region to provide free public transportation for all, saying "I don't think it would cost homeowners much money."

When asked whether he supports building new LNG pipelines in the region, Metro councilor Rex Burkholder said he didn't know enough about the tradeoffs to answer that question.

No comments: