Friday, June 18, 2010

Reporter's Notebook

Paul Leonard can be reached at

Gushing for clean energy

Watchers of Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show on Comedy Central this week may already know that every U.S. President since Richard Nixon has made a solemn vow to the American people to wean our nation off foreign oil.

The speeches – right up to President Obama’s first Oval Office address to the nation on Tuesday – are depressingly similar. And clearly the chortles of laughter from The Daily Show’s studio audience in New York are meant to signify one thing: how politicians make promises on which they ultimately do not deliver.

That’s a sentiment I cannot in good conscience disagree with. However, I gleaned something else from the repeated calls from commander-in-chiefs past and present for an America free of offshore petrol, made during times of conflict with oil-producing trouble spots, of economic crisis and our current environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.

If we are to laugh at anyone, it should be ourselves.

Sure, those calls to action coming from presidents Carter to Clinton ring hollow now. But what of the American people’s three-decade track record of failing to act, to make not only the sacrifices, but the innovations necessary to reduce our dependence on the “black gold” that is already turning against us.

Luckily, here in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere, the seeds of clean energy industry are beginning to be sown in the fertile ground of our manufacturing sector. Companies like Columbia Machine in Vancouver are proceeding with plans to apply their know-how to take advantage of a growing wind energy sector. The newly-founded Renewable Energy Institute-NW, also in Vancouver, looks to help boost the number of experienced technicians in the local clean energy sector.

Habits are changing, not just with individuals, but with public agencies as well. Currently, the City of Vancouver is studying the feasibility of installing energy-efficient light bulbs in its 10,000-plus street lamps – potentially cutting its annual electric usage by half.

The region’s business development community is also getting into the clean energy act. On Wednesday, June 30 at The Heathman Lodge in Vancouver, the Columbia River Economic Development Council will welcome one of the world’s leading clean energy firms, CH2M Hill, to help the local business community attract more renewable energy projects (for more info, visit

These innovative steps made by business leaders, entrepreneurs and local government are a good first step. But much still needs to be done.

From the everyday consumer to the President of the United States, in the face of one of the most challenging crises of our time, words are not enough. Instead, only action will do.

Young in America

In response to my column on Wednesday regarding teen unemployment, found here, Community Services NW development director Kathy Deschner passed along the following opportunity for a recent grad:

“I need a bright, talented Marketing/Communications/Development Intern. You will be working with a well-respected, experienced Development and Communications Director with a track record of mentoring bright graduates to becoming experienced professionals. I need you to help me with marketing and communications, special events and building awareness for a highly respected non-profit organization in Vancouver, Washington.”

If you or someone you know is interested in this job opening, contact Kathy directly at 360.356.3920 or . According to Kathy, this unpaid internship is applicable for college credit.