The inherent vulnerability of the Pacific Northwest’s energy infrastructure to terrorist attack is a strong reason to expand energy efficiency and conservation programs to lessen the general public’s dependence on centralized oil, natural gas and electricity supply sources, according to the Seattle-based Northwest Environment Watch, a research organization, in its annual report released earlier this month.

Called “Cascadia Scorecard 2005,” the Environment Watch report assigned grades to the Northwest on seven indicators of environmental health as the context for concluding that the region’s energy system is exposed to considerable risk of terrorist attack and vandalism.

Each of the separate infrastructures for oil products, gas and power are “difficult to defend” against attack, the Northwest group said, and this vulnerability is worsened by the fact that each depend on one another. For example, the energy pipelines need electricity to operate pumps and controls.

“The pipelines are literally underneath the wires,” the Northwest environmental group said. “In at least one place in the region — prudence argues against naming it — a night’s work with a backhoe could sever regionally vital arteries for oil, natural gas and electricity.”

Noting that they are “not trying to peddle fear,” the report authors said they want the security vulnerability to be used as a wake-up call for state policymakers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho to make energy conservation a higher priority for both its security and economic benefits. Specifically, the report recommended:

Adding to the concerns of vulnerability is the fact that energy use in the three-state region is increasing/capita, the report noted. Gasoline use/person, for example, increased in 2004 to 762 gallons/person from 750 gallons/person a year earlier. However, the gasoline use is still below a peak reached in 1999 (783 gallons/person).

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