What Do Brazil and Washington State Have in Common?

The answer isn’t that surprising in retrospect, but I’d never thought about it until I visited Seattle the other day and saw some statistics assembled by the Washington Policy Center. Here are some hints:

1. It has something to do with a post I wrote about Brazil not long ago.

2. It has something to do with water.

3. It has something to do with energy.

Yes: the state of Washington and Brazil both produce most of their electricity via hydroelectric power.

In 2004, Washington produced 70 percent of its power via hydroelectricity, although this share is down from nearly 86 percent in 1990. The biggest interim spike was in natural gas, but coal and nuclear also increased their shares. Here are the shifts over time:

Hydroelectric:
85.7% (1990)
80.7% (1995)
74.2% (2000)
70.1% (2004)

Coal:
7.2% (1990)
5.8% (1995)
8.7% (2000)
10.2% (2004)

Nuclear:
5.6% (1990)
6.8% (1995)
8.0% (2000)
8.8% (2004)

Natural Gas:
0.3% (1990)
4.8% (1995)
7.1% (2000)
8.3% (2004)

Other Renewables:
1.1% (1990)
1.2% (1995)
1.4% (2000)
2.3% (2004)

Although it has lost hydroelectric shares, “Washington’s hydroelectric power industry is the largest in the Nation,” according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, “and generates more power each year than any other state’s entire renewable energies program.” Take a look also at this interesting but outdated U.S. Geological Survey site about hydroelectric power.

During my visit, I got to spend a few hours fishing for salmon with my brother on Puget Sound. We didn’t catch anything, but it was great to be out on the water, and also a little weird. Why weird? Because even though our little motorboat was surrounded by seals, seagulls, and other seabirds (every animal, it seemed, except for fish), in the midst of this incredible nature scene we were passed by a gigantic OOCL (Orient Overseas Container Line) cargo ship, carrying what looked like enough merchandise to stock 10 Wal-Marts. The juxtaposition of nature and commerce couldn’t have been starker, as you can see:

OOCL

The trip got even weirder when we started getting buzzed by a couple of helicopters and a Coast Guard cutter. On the radio, we heard that four life jackets had been spotted floating in the water, along with a couple of oil slicks. But in the paper the next day, I read that no one had been found or even reported missing, so hopefully it was a false alarm.


Webster

Have you considered that one of the main reasons there weren't any salmon for you to catch is because of the dams providing all that hydroelectric power?

squidbot

I thought maybe the similarity was "Major export products include aircraft, coffee" :)

discordian

NJ will never have a high percentage of hydroelectric power. Too many bodies would clogging up the turbines.

Nile

I wonder if all that electricity Canada exports south is priced in USD or Loonies?

If it's Canadian Dollars, then a rising oil price - which is accompanied by a rise in the price of all fossil fuels - will be accompanied by a perverse reduction in America's use of hydro power.

Because high oil prices strengthen the Canadian Dollar, make anything priced in Loonies less competitive compared to locally-sourced goods and services. Like (say) coal-fired power stations.

MM

an interesting story about Brazil is why it is Portuguese speaking while the rest of south America is spanish-speaking. It is for the same reasons that Macau and Jakarta were first settled by the Portuguese. Read about it here.
http://geography.about.com/library/weekly/aa112999a.htm

Jesse

Webster,

None of the rivers that pour into the Puget Sound are providing a significant part of the hydroelectric power that he is speaking of. Instead, most of the power is coming from dams on the Columbia river. Therefore, the lack of salmon on the Sound has to be of another reason.

Toni

The seals and birds would not have been there if there were no fish. We need to discuss technique. If you ever visit the beaches of NC, let me know.

Crash

Sitting here in Seattle with the rain pouring on us right now, it's comforting to know that it's at least turning a few turbines on its way down from the mountains.

Forrest Rane

They are also both known for their rain forests!

Shawn

The OOCL cargo ship might have been massive but the ones they pilot into the puget sound are tiny compared to the Open ocean Ship headed for LA.

Bertil

I know of another common point between Brazil and DC:

http://jleo.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/22/1/87

Casey

Would you prefer we breached our dams and went back to coal and diesel fired power plants for the 70% of our electrical production that is currently produced with zero pollution? Oh, and btw, since when is hydro-electric no longer considered a ‘renewable resource?'

Casey in Spokane (pronounced Spo-can, as in, 'are you from Spokane or Spo-can't?) Washington.

Island Republican

Fishing for salmon in the late fall will almost always produce the same result as you achieved. Salmon come to shore in the summer, June, July & August. The dams, pollution and other reasons why the salmon were not in Puget Sound in November are misleading. It was the time of year.

Ohmar

The lack of salmon is due to the huge japanese population in Brazil.
To much sashimi!

Mike

Webster @6:

It is very untrue that no western slope rivers - i.e. those that feed into the Puget Sound - produce hydropower. Seattle City Light actually produces quite a bit of juice from its three dams on the Skagit River.

If the electricity that they generate is truly that negligable, then I hope for nature's sake they tear all three down - the Skagit is a magnificent river and could be home to an even more amazing salmon run each year.

Webster

Have you considered that one of the main reasons there weren't any salmon for you to catch is because of the dams providing all that hydroelectric power?

squidbot

I thought maybe the similarity was "Major export products include aircraft, coffee" :)

discordian

NJ will never have a high percentage of hydroelectric power. Too many bodies would clogging up the turbines.

Nile

I wonder if all that electricity Canada exports south is priced in USD or Loonies?

If it's Canadian Dollars, then a rising oil price - which is accompanied by a rise in the price of all fossil fuels - will be accompanied by a perverse reduction in America's use of hydro power.

Because high oil prices strengthen the Canadian Dollar, make anything priced in Loonies less competitive compared to locally-sourced goods and services. Like (say) coal-fired power stations.

MM

an interesting story about Brazil is why it is Portuguese speaking while the rest of south America is spanish-speaking. It is for the same reasons that Macau and Jakarta were first settled by the Portuguese. Read about it here.
http://geography.about.com/library/weekly/aa112999a.htm