Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Contract with the Earth 11: Portland

For my write-up today on A Contract with the Earth, by Newt Gingrich and Terry Maple, I will highlight a passage that's on pages 94-95:

"Municipalities throughout the nation continue to take small but important steps. No city has been more active than Portland, Oregon, which coalesced around green action decades ago. Portland's greenhouse gas emissions have receded to 1990 levels compared with a national increase of some 16 percent. By all accounts, the measures taken by local industry and government have actually improved the economy. City fathers advocated conversion from diesel to biodiesel, and they have legislated a 10 percent ethanol requirement for other vehicles. The city will also implement wind and solar for government vehicles by 2010, and they have altered streetlamps to use low-power bulbs. For years, Portland citizens have used bicycle trails and an expanded mass transit system to discourage the use of automobiles. This municipal model demonstrates that innovation doesn't have to be costly or complicated. Moreover, Portland's green initiatives illustrate that American cities can start small to improve the environment in their communities. In an interesting footnote, Portland citizens have expressed considerable pride at their growing reputation as America's greener cities."

In Portland, the government does appear to play a significant role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions: it has an ethanol requirement for certain vehicles, government vehicles use solar and wind power, there is mass transit, etc. But, according to Newt and Maple, this is done in a manner that improves the economy and avoids costliness. Governments can have a role in helping the environment, but some ways of going about that are better than others.

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