Energy Plan

Idaho has an Energy Plan . It was written in 2007 as a legislative response to a planned coal power plant in Southeast Idaho but its scope was broad. It is supposed to be updated every five years so the Energy, Environment and Technology Interim Committee had this as its task this summer and fall. I was glad to serve on this committee. And I was glad I had a vote.

We met a week ago and went through each section. The minutes are posted
and are revealing, but as always, they don’t tell the whole story. I’m not sure there is a whole story, but I’ll tell you my side.

The plan had been turned over to the Idaho Strategic Energy Alliance,
a non-profit independent energy group with many working groups and a board of directors appointed by the governor. We received a draft of the working groups’ revisions in September then a further revised plan from the directors in October. Last week we went through each section as a committee and edited and voted.

Truth be told, I abhor writing by committee. I struggle with writing all by myself but when I have to do it in a group I really get blocked. Then we would vote. Sometimes we were voting on whether to include one word or not. “Conservation should be “the highest” ( or “a”) priority. Our first few votes were split 7-6. For some reason winning a vote 7-6 makes you feel your vote has some importance, more than winning 8-5 or losing 9-4. The early votes felt good.

We got to the transportation section late in the day. It is estimated that a quarter to a third of Idaho’s energy is used for transportation. Our recommendations for conservation were gutted. We eliminated support for CAFE standards, a federal mileage standard for car fleets. 

The lines became clear when we discussed local option taxes. The recommendation from 2007 encouraged the legislature to consider local option taxes for municipalities and districts to improve public transportation. Most of the committee reacted like there was a foul odor in the room. I suspect it was in response to the “T” word, taxes. Keep in mind there is an election next year and most members of the Idaho legislature have signed Grover Norquist’s pledge.  I argued that my city officials wanted this as an option to place before the voters. And by including this we would be enhancing local control. The head wagging and downward looks preceded the 8-5 no vote.

The very next issue suggested the legislature should encourage cities and counties to consider transportation issues in their land use planning. Multi-use zoning lets shops we can walk or bike to be built near houses instead of out in strip malls. Most of the committee argued we would be imposing too much control from Boise and not allowing local decisions on land use. Again it failed 8-5. I have come to learn that logical consistency is not a requirement for public office. 

We finished right before 5:00 p.m. and we had been scheduled to work the next day. I was able to get a flight back to Lewiston that night and saved the state $200. But I still felt disappointed. If I could have done the meeting by a web cam from my living room I could have saved a ton of energy and some money for the state. But I might not have gotten the sense in the room, full of nuance, who looked down, who looked at me when I spoke. As I sped up Vista for the airport I appreciate that this is a conservative state. We need to be looking to the future.

Getting there down the long road

About ddxdx

A Family physician, former county coroner and former Idaho State Senator
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