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Portland takes the lead in creative energy solutions for a resource-scarce world.

Section Summary

Many Portlanders see the need to plan for the growing scarcity of fossil fuels by making alternative energy sources more accessible. Some think that the hydroelectric power and fossil fuels used for homes and vehicles should be replaced by alternative energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal power. People are convinced this will require a significant public education campaign on the benefits of sustainable energy, combined with an investment in ongoing research to determine the best ways to adapt to global trends on a local level.

Some respondents think utilities should become publicly owned in neighborhoods or districts, rather than being owned by private energy companies. Also, community members believe in providing more options for renewable energy such as localized solar grids for public utilities. People frequently call for alternative energy choices, particularly for home and transportation needs, that are affordable and widely accessible to all. Many Portlanders also realize the need to provide incentive options for individuals and businesses designed to encourage greater use of sustainable energy. They suggest ideas such as the use of carbon credits, easier permits for solar use and short-term tax benefits for commuters using bio-diesel or other alternative transportation methods. In this section respondents also talk about gas and gas prices.

Note: This section contains content that overlaps significantly with content presented in Government: Utilities and Transportation: Alternative Transportation.

Summary of Main Ideas

  1. Access should be expanded to a wide array of alternative energy sources.
  2. Increase bio-diesel powered transit and transportation.
  3. Gas prices should be lower.
  4. Create locally controlled and distributed power sources and systems.
  5. More incentives should be offered to support alternative energy use.

Summary of Tensions and Disagreements

  1. What types of energy should be promoted for transportation?


  1. Access should be expanded to a wide array of alternative energy sources.
  • People want Portland to conserve energy and to use less polluting energy sources in the future.
  • Many people believe there is a need to encourage wide use of renewable power and energy resources (in particular, solar and wind power).
  • Businesses, including large corporations, should commit to energy efficiency.
  • Many think an expansion of alternative energy options would require public education on the benefits of sustainable energy.
  • Portlanders imagine that in the future more homes will utilize solar/photovoltaic technologies, wind and geothermal power sources.

Sample Strategies:

  1. Make solar power grants available to the public.
  2. Use alternative energy in all government, city and county buildings.

  1. Increase bio-diesel powered transit and transportation.
  • Portland’s public transportation system can serve as a model to the rest of the city by adopting the broader use of sustainable energy sources.
  • All buses should be converted to biodiesel.
"It would be nice if Portland could become a leader in biodiesel fuels.”

"…Portland tends to be environmentally conscious, but it never hurts to support green efforts even more, particularly through the use of biodiesel.”

"More biodiesel and hybrid buses.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. "Every business that owns a food frier should have to surrender the old oil for use as biodiesel. They have to pay to haul it away anyway. It should be a condition of getting a business license."

  1. Gas prices should be lower.
  • People are concerned with the rising gas prices, and believe they should be reduced.
  • Many people concerned with Portland’s affordability mention reducing gas prices as a strategy to lower the cost of living.
"Gas prices need to go down."

“Make gas prices go down, no more wars or fights, be peaceful."

"…Shift major transportation investments toward pedestrian, walking, and streetcar infrastructure (with gas prices climbing, current vehicle congestion problems will likely let's invest the funds elsewhere)…"

  1. Create locally controlled and distributed power sources and systems.
  • Some believe in a model of public ownership of energy in neighborhoods or districts, rather than private energy companies.
  • Many people believe that local sources of power would result in energy that is more affordable and more environmentally sustainable.
  • Public utilities could include a municipal solar utility or solar grids.
    [Refer to Government: Utilities for more on this subject.]
"Publicly owned utilities - electric, water, solar and wind power.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. The public should own Portland General Electric (PGE).

  1. More incentives should be offered to support alternative energy use.
  • Portlanders would like to see a variety of tax credits and incentives offered to households and businesses to promote the use of alternative energy.
    • Carbon credits: Providing carbon credits would help reach the goal to reduce carbon output by individuals and businesses.
    • Sustainable development: This would include construction of new “green” buildings and renovating old buildings to make them more energy efficient.
    • Energy efficient vehicles.
    • Business credits: To increase alternative energy industries in Portland.
    • Permits: Have fee reductions and more efficient permit processes for private solar use.
    • Commutes: Initial, short-term tax benefits for commuters who use bio-diesel, hybrid cars or who use other alternative transportation methods.
  • Respondents justify the idea of incentives by pointing to the long-term benefits the entire city will receive from more widespread use of sustainable practices.
“…Increasing green building standards (or incentives), tax credits or other incentives for solar power and hot water, putting solar on city buildings including the airport…”

"Raising taxes for large business - not so much that they are driven out, but that they are rewarded (with tax credits) for being socially and environmentally conscious. The bad guys should have to pay more.”

“[In 2030] there will be tax credits for rainwater collection, development will move away from the river and effort to replace some of its habitat will occur. All new homes will be passive solar in design with alternative energy (solar-wind)."

Sample Strategies:

  1. Increase solar power grants and neighborhood alternative energy options. 
  2. Create locations across the city for electric cars to recharge.


  1. What types of energy should be promoted for transportation?

  2. Some Portlanders want to see public transportation running on cleaner fuel such as biodiesel. Others are convinced that biodiesel is ultimately not the best alternative energy option for the environment, and would prefer to see electricity promoted instead. Despite some people’s concerns with biodiesel, however, many feel that increased political support for biodiesel still represents a step in the right direction and should therefore be encouraged and applauded.
“…[I would like to see] governmental support for the adoption of solar, wind, and tidal energy systems--not biodiesel with all of its limitations and problems (use of forest and agricultural land to produce fuel).”

“[In 2030] biodiesel stations are everywhere, but more than 50 percent of our 1 million new residents don't even own cars, because walking, biking, and mass transit is a better option.”

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