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Scorecard Shows Pacific Northwest Decreasing Gasoline Use Per Capita; Overall Energy Consumption Up

Per-person gasoline consumption in the Northwest US states is at its lowest level since 1967—but British Columbians still use much less.

The 2007 edition of the Cascadia Scorecard, an annual progress report on the Pacific Northwest published by Sightline Institute, shows that per capita gasoline use in the Cascadia region (including British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington state) is at a four-decade low.

Given the increase in population in the area, while per capita consumption has decreased, total consumption has remained roughly flat for the last 8 years or so rather than declining. The report points out that this represents a significant change from the preceding decade and a half, during which gasoline consumption rose roughly in tandem with population.

Per-capita diesel (due primarily to long-distance goods transport) and electricity use is rising. Overall, counting highway fuels and electricity in homes and businesses, Cascadians  consume the energy equivalent of 2.1 gallons of gasoline daily—nearly double the rate of more energy-efficient consumers such as in Germany. Germany serves as the baseline model for Sightline’s scorecard indicator.

Warming trends in the Northwest. Click to enlarge.

Energy, Sightline notes, is the worst performing indicator on the scorecard, which also includes evaluations of health, economy, population, sprawl, wildlife and pollution.

Cascadians’ energy consumption is stuck in high gear. This is the Scorecard trend most in need of redirection. The long-term threat posed by northwesterners’ energy consumption, and by associated climate-changing emissions, is among the most daunting challenges the region faces. Our over dependence on fossil fuels and electricity poses a severe and broad-ranging danger to the natural inheritance that should be our children’s birthright.




To what extent is the electricity consumed in the PacNW derived from climate-neutral sources like hydropower?

To what extent could conservation and export of that hydropower displace fossil-fuel electricity generation elsewhere? To what extent, on the other hand, is it "use it or lose it?"


NBK: roughly 80% of the electricity in BC is hydro. I believe that our hydro potential is pretty much tapped. We need wave power.

I note that gasoline usage in BC is quite a bit lower than our neighbors. Given how similar our cities are, I have to surmise that the difference in consumption is due to the higher price of gas (I'm not familiar with the public transit systems in Seattle and Portland).



Two thoughts on climate-neutral power in the NW:
1. Electric cars. They're coming. When they do, demand for elec will obviously go up...

2. The NW could certainly sell some of their surplus clean power to more eastward states if they found they had too much of it...


Georgia Basin population is about 1million less than the Puget Sound population.

The majority of the population for the Georgia Basin is in and around Vancouver (something around 25-29%) lying in an area roughly 1/3 the size of where the majority of the population live for the Puget Sound (~25%).

Transit is great down near Seattle IF you are going to and from downtown Seattle. If you work on the Eastside (where a large number of technology jobs are located) you better live on the Eastside as the mass transit is subpar and the traffic is terrible on I-405, I-90 and Hwy 520.


Until recently the PNW hydro power (mostly BPA - Bonneville Power Administration - was shipped to the SW (mostly California) during the summer (air conditioning) and power was imported during the winter (space heating). This "balance" has recently shifted some due (I`ve heard) to increased A/C use in the PNW (partly due to people moving here from A/C high use areas & keeping their unnecessary habits). The PNW probably has the highest percentage of hydro power of any region in NAmerica. Recently there has been a significant push to tap into wind power resources which are substantial. Solar is also possible but not really respected yet.

Portland & Seattle have so so public transportation systems (based on what is possible & what is done in similar areas like Vancouver, B.C. etc) which are often ignored by the local governments partly because they are dominated by heavy suburban development/highway transportation infrastructure interests, many of which are headquartered out of the area (SCalifornia & Atlantic coast). In many ways the PNW is a "colony" of outside interests & this has increased over the historical situation since the early 1980s (hello supply side voodoo magic thinking !)

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." – Buckminster Fuller


Most, 89.5%, of the electricity generated by Seattle City Light comes from hydro power and wind. Nuclear power accounts for 4%. The remainder primarily comes from natural gas and coal. (


Don, I never realised SCL got such a high percentage of their power from hydro. They own and run several hydro facilities on the Skagit river.

For the rest of the Puget Sound area, the largest provider of electricity (and natural gas) is Puget Sound Energy. I can't find figures for their renewable energy usage on their web-site or on NREL web-site. I think I've seen figures of around 40% in our bill inserts, most of that comes from BPA dams on the Columbia river. We pay about 7.5 cents per kWh for the first 600kWh per month, and 9.2 cents above that.

Stomv: There isn't any 'surplus clean power', it is just offsetting our 'dirty' power usage, plus there are now mandates for renewable energy usage (passed by voter-initiative 937 in November 2006). Also I don't think there are any HT lines that span the country. The west coast is isolated from the rest of the US.

The mandates are for 3% renweable energy usage in the year 2012 by ALL utilities in Washington State (public and private) serving more than 25,000 customers. It then ramps up to 15% in 2020. It excludes hydro power (for both environmental reasons and we're close to maxed-out), but can be offset by conservation measures that reduce demand.


BC derives 85% of electricity from hydro and 8% from oil&gas, WA 68% from hydro 18% from coal and 7% from NG, OR 42% hydro 41% coal 10% NG.

BC, WA, OR and north part of CA has huge untapped recourses of hydro power due to mountain terrain and gigantic precipitation from Pacific Ocean (former three account for more than half of continental US hydro electricity capacity). Enough to power ourselves and all neighbors, including California. This winter more than 26 meters (80 feet) of snow fell on Baker mountain ski resort. Hydro potential of Vancouver Island and Olympia Mountains are practically untapped, and it is mountain area of 45 000 sq. km (more than Netherlands) with one of the highest rainfall in the world – about 100 inches (2500 mm) per year, and it is very sparsely populated.

Main obstacles to increase hydro electricity generation are:

High initial capital for new hydro facilities.
High capital to construct new power lines.
New hydro dams and power lines is nearly impossible to approve due to environmentalist obstruction.

However, if follow environmentalist sentiments, we will have to demolish all existed power and irrigation dams.


Andrey: Hmmmm I'd heard from people in the industry that in BC the only large remaining untapped hydro was site C. What locations on Vancouver Island are you thinking of? P.S. don't forget that we import 20% of our electricity, mostly from coal in Alberta.


The region's cold winter nights are causing an increasing population. Don't worry, "global Warming" should take care of this. ;)


Come on, Neil, use Google Earth and your imagination.

I traveled nearly every road in southern BC and west/central WA, plus many in Vancouver Island, Olympia mountains, Oregon, Canadian Rockies, northern California. Two steps off the road and you are in total wilderness with powerful streams, too steep even for salmon. And 90% of Rockies/Coastal Mountain area is un-populated and even not assessable by ground. Trout in mountain streams does not care for dams, and couple of dozen of new artificial lakes will not make a difference in ecology of region already spotted with 10 000 natural mountain lakes. Existed hydro power stations of 100-300 MW are operated remotely without any constant personnel on the ground. Just visit Diablo dam or Stave lake.


I heard that the central coast of BC would be one of the best places for a wind farm. I guess we wouldn't want to ruin the beauty of the place, there has to some kind of compromise though. I also heard north of Pemberton has an ideal location for a geothermal plant. If out government wasn't so keen on this hydrogen thing, maybe they actually could do something so we have greener power in time for the 2010 olympics, instead of wasting time and money on hydrogen.


Andrey: I was referring to major (Bennet dam sized) hydro developments. I've seen maps with large numbers of micro-hydro sites. Were you referring to those?


The first batches of virgin land desecrators & consumers have wasted what they got from our lands. Now you, the next generation of energy starved thinkers lust to carve up more fine land(it won't be so bad because there is so much excellent land & pure waters for us to squat our butts on). Andrey traveled many roads, but by his own admission only stepped 2 paces into the wilderness. Take your thoughts & robber baron ideas & begone. You drew the line around the lands of the west as if they belong to you. But you will find us Indians & many like minded people have been waiting for you robbers to come again. You will not find these wilderness lands as empty of opposition to your ilk this time.


litesong: Pardon my skepticism but I notice that your address is in the UK and you refer to yourself "us Indians". Maybe you've been out of the province for a few generations, but no one here refers to "First Nations Peoples" as "Indians" unless they're looking for a black eye.


Bravo, Neil

Yes, I was referring to medium-sized facilities of 50-200 MW. There are plenty narrow valleys with step streams, which will actually benefit from water flow management. And 200 MW is enough for about 80 000 people.


If you take a look at the list of proposals to hydro, for private development of those resources, you will find that a large number of those development proposals are being put forward by First Nations as a way of generating income for their bands.

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