Oregon’s Next Green Folly

By Michael Bastasch

Governor John Kitzhaber’s new “green” energy ploy, the Oregon “Cool Schools” Initiative or House Bill 2960, directs the Oregon Department of Energy to give out zero to low-interest loans and grants to school districts for energy efficiency building improvements, and also create jobs in Oregon. HB 2960 is a bad idea for at least three reasons.

First, Washington State launched a similar initiative in 2005 and found that many “green” schools used up to 52% more energy than predicted, students’ academic performance was actually lower on average than in comparable schools, and most of the money each district received went to meeting non-energy-saving requirements.

Second, Gov. Kitzhaber claims that for $1 million spent 10 to 15 jobs will be created, but he ignores total economic costs. Each job created in this initiative will be temporary and cost between $67,000 and $100,000, meaning tens of millions of taxpayer dollars will be spent to temporarily benefit a small group of people at the expense of everyone else. How will that solve Oregon’s economic problems?

Third, Washington State’s initiative has a 43-year payback time for school energy efficiency upgrades. Since schools rarely go that long without being renovated, Oregonians will never see these upgrades pay for themselves. The Legislature should have considered the economic implications of HB 2960 before it was passed.

Michael Bastasch is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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