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Sunday, June 01, 2008

s_Robin ROBIN DOUSSARD

“Oregon could be the clean energy capital of the free world, but ...”

“The solar industry is a locomotive that has already left the station, and it is accelerating.”

Both of these quotes have appeared on our cover. The first, by clean energy investor Nancy Floyd, was in June 2006. That month’s cover story detailed how Oregon was falling behind in the emerging alternative energy sector and lacked the political will to change. Gas prices were hitting $3 a gallon, oil was selling at about $77 a barrel and global warming was making headlines. I believe I used the phrase “gutless weasels” in my column that issue to describe my tender feelings about the state’s inability to get behind clean energy policies.

Exactly two years later, the second quote, by Solaicx CEO Bob Ford, is on this month’s cover. The story that associate editor Ben Jacklet writes about the growth of the solar industry couldn’t be more different than the June 2006 cover story. Spurred by tax incentives passed in the 2007 Legislature, the industry has exploded over the past year and Oregon is one of the leaders.

Only time will tell if solar will make a significant dent in the country’s energy needs, but time also is running short. Gas is approaching $4 a gallon, oil is above $120 a barrel and global warming is making headlines. Like they say, déjà vu all over again.

Energy costs are of great concern to our readers, who weigh in on related topics on page 8 in this month’s online survey. They’re alarmed over global warming,  and economist Joe Cortright on page 10 analyzes how the right incentives can help climate change.

Readers are worried about the price of oil, but there also is nervousness over the increasing costs of energy in general. Rising fuel costs are playing out in many ways across Oregon. In Around The State this month, we have several reports tied to spiking prices: Coburg’s Monaco Coach has cut 600 jobs; food costs at farmers markets are headed up; and traffic was down at Mt. Bachelor as Portland metro skiers stayed closer to home to save on gas. Every facet of business right now is grappling with some aspect of energy.

Oregon is making some progress on alternative energy, so I’ll rescind (for the moment) the “gutless weasel” label. But I’m keeping it handy. I figure I’ll need it when the debate over health-care reform heats up later in this political season.

 

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