When is it a good idea to pay more for the same service provided to your neighbors? We can think of two local examples: natural gas and electricity.
NW Natural, a Portland-based utility, recently expanded its Smart Energy program to its 60,000 Southwest Washington customers. Clark Public Utilities has offered its Green Lights program since 2002. Both programs allow customers to opt in, paying slightly more for their energy and in return funding development of more environmentally friendly energy sources.
The key phrase here is “opt in.” Those consumers who are more concerned about the amount of the bill than the source of the energy are free to burn gas from Canada or tap hydroelectricity from the Columbia River.
In fact, most do.
But consider the possibilities unlocked by a few extra dollars. NW Natural’s Smart Energy program costs an extra $6 per month, which the gas company uses to buy greenhouse gas emission offsets. The Climate Trust, a Portland-based nonprofit, funds methane gas collection projects at dairy farms. Each cow on a farm produces 120 pounds of manure per day — or a total of 14 million pounds in Oregon alone.
The methane from those mountains of manure would otherwise enter the atmosphere and contribute to the greenhouse gas problem.