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"Inslee warns of blackouts, job losses"
"Washington residents, facing a deepening energy crisis that is beginning to hit them in the pocketbooks, are taking heightened interest in energy policy. This was evident during a meeting at the Silverdale Community Center Saturday, May 5, at which U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee addressed 100 constituents about his energy plan.The Bainbridge Island Democrat emphasized conservation. If residents don't cut energy use by 10 percent, Washington will face rolling blackouts this summer. In the short term we are in a perfect storm, meaning that we are faced by two things at once, Inslee said. The first is the California deregulation debacle ... The second is that 80 percent of our power comes from hydroelectric dams and we are at 60 to 63 percent of normal snowpack this year.Typically, California sells power to Washington in the winter and Washington sells power to California in the summer. This arrangement ceased when California's power problems began.Inslee said that the recent spike in energy prices could cost, Washington stands to lose 43,000 jobs in the short term. While demand for power in Washington has increased only 4 percent in the last year, the average wholesale price during peak hours has increased 770 percent.A megawatt hour that cost $23 last year, now costs at least $200 ... These rate hikes are not a fair return on an investment by the generators, but are profiteering in a dysfunctional market, similar to a merchant selling water for $200 a quart to the victims of an earthquake, said Sara O'Connell, Inslee's spokeswoman.To meliorate this problem, Inslee proposed the Energy Price and Economic Stability Act of 2001 (HR 1468) in Congress last month. The bill aims to introduce cost-based energy rates - or short-term price caps - on the West Coast. In the long-term, he called for increasing power supplies from a combination of sources, including gas-fired turbines, solar, wind and geothermal energy sources.When he completed his presentation, he invited public discussion - and there was plenty of it. People from all over the political spectrum offered suggestions for ways to improve the situation.Some criticized the focus on conservation, because discretionary energy represents a small portion of total consuption.When I looked at energy use I found one-third goes to heat, one-third goes to the hot water heater and one-third goes to the rest, said one constituent from Bainbridge Island. Lights are a small slice of the pie but they have been the center of (Puget Sound Energy's) conservation campaign.There were numerous comparisons to the energy crisis of the 1970s and revived talk of constructing new nuclear power plants.I don't know if gas turbines are a viable long-term solution because they are subject to the same price spikes, said one man. We need to look at nuclear power or trying to make coal cleaner. Others discussed the need to look at patterns of energy use in a consumer-driven economy.We want our SUV's and we want things bigger, faster and harder than any other nation. We need to start taking responsibility for our actions. We are consuming more energy per capita than any other nation, said one woman. Protesters: conservation won't cut itRep. Jay Inslee's discussion on energy prices drew a group of eight protesters, who greeted him as he entered the Silverdale Community Center with signs that read No fairy tales, more energy, We need energy to keep Washington jobs, and Remember who sent you to Congress.The protesters, constituents from Inslee's First District, said they were concerned that he has not been responsive to Washington's energy needs.I wanted to come out to let Jay Inslee know that we need alternative sources of energy, said Faye Henden of Poulsbo, who carried a sign that read Windmills kill birds. Henden said she favored an increase in nuclear power sources.Everyone wants to do their part to conserve, but we have a growing population of people, she said.Others were disgruntled over the two-term Democrat's former support for studies on breeching dams. Inslee since has come out against doing away with the dams, according to spokeswoman Sara O'Connell.I want to ask him if he still thinks it's such a good idea now, said Joan Gorner, a North Kitsap resident and former president of a local Republican women's club.O'Connell said Inslee favors of keeping all options open with regard to the dams. She countered that Inslee has been responsive to Washington's energy needs and that he introduced an energy bill to Congress three weeks ago.On a national level he has been working together with several GOP lawmakers to forge new energy policy, O'Connell said. "