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Electric cars still have tailpipes

by: ©2008 GREG WAHL-STEPHENS, 
Dave Thompson drives his modified GEM electric car, complete with a sign about moving beyond gas consumption, on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard. One letter writer asserts the electric car owners of Portland are just as guilty of furthering air pollution in the Columbia Gorge each time a car is plugged in.

What's interesting is that electric car owners believe they are driving around 'green' and not putting out any greenhouse gas emissions (Electric cars: Around corner or stalled in driveway?, Dec. 11). The only difference between an electric car and a gasoline powered car is where the tailpipe is.

Electricity is almost always generated by burning fossil fuels. Yes, even in 'green' Portland, the majority of our power is generated by burning coal or natural gas. Don't believe me? Go to the Web sites for PGE and Pacific Power, our two electric utilities.

So, when you electric car owners are charging up your cars, thank the good folks in Boardman, Ore., for breathing in your carbon output, because that's where YOUR tailpipe is. The idea of 'I can't see it, so it doesn't exist' isn't true. You, the electric car owners of Portland, are just as guilty in promoting, encouraging and furthering air pollution in the Columbia Gorge each time you plug in your car.

Erik Halstead

Southwest Portland

Future will make way for electric vehicles

Electric vehicle usage curtails high-energy driving habits (Electric cars: Around corner or stalled in driveway?, Dec. 11). The developments in battery technology indicate an even more efficient future. Lithium ion batteries are a very, very recent development in automotive use. We can expect amazing improvements equal to LEDs (light emitting diodes), which were not more than a curiosity 12 years ago and now have been developed into the coming lighting for our nation.

People buying and demanding economy and electric vehicles will force the market to develop in leaps and bounds.

Ogden W. Lafaye

Starbuck, Wash.

Making urban areas more pedestrian friendly

The positive aspect of low-intensity electric vehicles is their impact on changing the way we experience and view our physical environment (Electric cars: Around corner or stalled in driveway?, Dec. 11). Yes, some of these vehicles may be uncomfortable in certain climate conditions (hot/cold), but the more important impact is their influence to evolve our urban environment to a more pedestrian scale.

Slower speeds and smaller vehicles mean safer streets and more compatibility with the mix of pedestrians and bicyclists. Travel lanes for smaller vehicle means less public capital improvement needed for asphalt, concrete, rebar and surface water management.

With a 5-foot-wide electric vehicle at a maximum speed of 30 mph, we can start thinking about how we would live with less separation between homes along the street and the possibility that more people might be willing to use the street for walking, playing and bicycling.

Pat Russell

Clackamas

Walk the talk, build electric cars locally

I am disappointed that Gov. Kulongoski did not seek out an American source for the state's new batch of electric cars (Electric cars: Around corner or stalled in driveway?, Dec. 11), but I do think it is a step in the right direction. If Oregon is going to promote itself as the place for green companies to relocate, we need to walk the talk and do so in as many ways as possible.

Carmen Lohkamp

Gresham

Wind industry can mitigate bird loss

Your article, 'Chasing the Wind' (Dec. 18), included one line about how wind turbines kill birds. This is actually a fairly large and growing problem, according to the American Bird Conservancy, which estimates that 30,000 to 60,000 birds are killed per year by the turbines.

The group testified to Congress in May 2007 that adding enough wind power to help meet a goal of 20 percent renewable energy supplies by 2030 could kill 900,000 to 1.8 million birds a year.

As your article suggested, siting wind power projects to avoid major bird use areas is likely to reduce bird deaths to some extent, relative to haphazard siting. However, the growth of this industry still will threaten numerous species of birds that are facing heavy losses due to habitat loss, predation by feral and domestic cats, collisions with glass buildings and other factors.

There may be a way for the companies building these wind farms and the cities buying their electricity to mitigate their damage to bird populations.

More than half of the 800 species of birds that breed in North America migrate annually to winter in Central and South America. These birds depend on intact tropical forests, which are being cleared rapidly for tropical woods like mahogany, and for agriculture and cattle ranching. At least 55 species of birds, including flycatchers, thrushes, vireos, warblers, orioles and tanagers, are declining at rates of 1 to 4 percent per year due to loss of their wintering habitat in tropical forests.

The wind energy industry and the governments supporting its growth could offset at least some of the impacts on wildlife by financially supporting conservation programs that preserve and restore tropical forests in Latin America.

The industry and its supporters should immediately begin a study that explores how to develop a mitigation program that effectively protects tropical forests in the habitats most important to migrating birds, and that explores how to calculate damages and required offsets. This program will have an added benefit of reducing the release of greenhouse gases when these forests are cleared and burned.

Jeff Lockwood

Director, Northwest chapter, Rainforest Relief

Wind unpredictable; needs to be helped

Please keep in mind that for every kilowatt of wind power generation built, you must also build or have an equal kilowatt capacity of conventional power generation (Chasing the Wind, Dec. 18). That means coal, natural gas, hydro - whatever. That's because wind power is the most unpredictable power source. When the wind stops, you need to be able to instantly switch to a conventional power source.

Joseph Kelly

Milwaukie

Solar power has a place, too

Wind isn't supposed to be the only solution to reducing our oil addiction, just part of the answer (Chasing the Wind, Dec. 18). I think 20 percent is realistic, but it probably won't go much beyond that. Solar will be a player, too, at some point, as it becomes more cost effective.

I don't think wind power is perfect, but rampantly burning fossil fuels has far greater consequences.

Andrew Longeteig

Northeast Portland

Keep the jobs in Oregon

Our leaders, Kulongoski and Adams, are dropping their shorts on these wind subsidies (Chasing the Wind, Dec. 18). The $11 million in tax credits should go only to wind generators that are manufactured in Oregon. This is what everyone misses. The manufacturing jobs are what we need, not just a few maintenance people and some office workers in corporate headquarters.

John Benton

Northeast Portland

Punish the abusers

God, how sad it is that so many people treat so many children so badly (Restraint, seclusion of kids now tracked, Dec. 11). These psychiatric facilities should be shut down and all of the psychiatrists involved should have their licenses revoked. There also should be a child abusers list and a law that says never again will these people work with or be allowed around children.

Dan Maher

Southeast Portland