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President's Ponderings: Dam Removal is Clean Energy Reduction

By Edward Luttrell - President's Ponderings Blog (7/15/11)

  JULY 17, 2011 --

The Klamath River Basin (Oregon/California) has been news for over a decade. The ongoing issues include the removal of four dams on the Klamath River Watershed to aid in fish recovery. Those four dams produce about 155 megawatts of power. I found that each megawatt provides from 400 to 900 homes with power. Assuming 500 homes per megawatt, which means those four dams, keep 77,500 homes out of the Stone Age.

Being an Oregon native, I’ve seen the importance of dams for flood control, water management, and electrical power generation. Recreational uses of the reservoirs created have also benefited local economies. I have also seen the importance of providing passage for fish both upstream and downstream from the dams.

One argument that I haven’t seen much of is the fact that when we remove a dam, we remove pollution-free electrical generating capacity. Most environmental groups oppose coal and natural gas fueled electrical generation facilities. In addition, scientists are conducting research into the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere and its impact on climate change. The release of excessive amounts of CO2 is primarily through the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. Regardless of your views or opinions on that issue, we need to be good stewards of the earth. 

The energy consumption of our country isn’t going to be reduced - especially considering the huge energy conservation efforts we’ve made over the last couple of decades - unless of course we are willing to make major changes to our lives and eliminate things like refrigerators, air conditioners, TV’s, cell phones, and computers which all use electricity.

It seems a bit short-sighted to remove non-polluting energy sources on the chance it will help endangered fish. When nuclear, wind, solar, tidal and other non-polluting forms of energy generation are in use and providing the bulk of our energy, then let’s talk about dam removal.

I do believe that we should do our best to help endangered fish, but I’d much rather have a dam producing electricity than a coal fired plant producing power. Maybe it’s time to change the topic from dam removal to clean energy reduction.

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