Politicos in Seattle, Wash., took Earth Day to heart. Mayor Paul
Schell and the city council made an unprecedented pledge: to meet
Seattle's future electricity needs without increasing net
greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists say these gases, some of them
produced by burning fossil fuels such as coal, make the Earth's
"The mayor thinks that global
climate change is the pre-eminent environmental challenge of our
lifetime and our children's' lifetimes," says Casey Golden, who is
spearheading this project for the mayor. "It has profound local
As a first step, the city's
municipally owned utility, Seattle City Light, sold its interest in
a coal-fired power plant. To compensate for this power, it will use
geothermal, solar and landfill gas facilities to meet future
electric demands. When Seattle can't make these alternatives
stretch, it will off-set coal pollution by planting trees and
giving premiums for car-pooling.
"It won't be
easy to do this, but we're in pretty good shape," says Bob Royer of
Seattle City Light. "Most of our electricity is not fossil
fuel-based - most of it is falling water (hydropower)."
Seattle depends on coal for only 5 percent of
its energy; Denver and Salt Lake City are 90 percent dependent on
fossil fuels and, at least in the short term, it's unlikely they
will be able to follow the leader.