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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

Ad Watch: Stats belie Otter ad’s claim that Idaho is among nation’s leaders in alt energy

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter's latest campaign commercial focuses on alternative energy, and claims Idaho's   "among the leaders in the nation" because he's "made alternative energy research a top priority." But the Otter campaign could offer no documentation that Idaho's among the nation's leaders, and national statistics show otherwise. Idaho's rank for installed renewable energy capacity excluding hydropower: 36th in the nation, or 20th if that figure is viewed on a per-capita basis. That's according to figures released in August by the U.S. Department of Energy, which are based on 2009 data. Idaho ranked 25th for wind energy, 33rd for solar, fifth for geothermal (though 41 states had none), 25th for biomass, and 7th for hydropower.

Idaho is home to one of the nation's 12 national laboratories, where renewable energy is among the research fields. But universities, other labs and others across the nation also are doing major research in the area, and there's no evidence that Idaho's doing more. Paul Kjellander, Otter's Office of Energy Resources director, scoffed at "tired old statistics sitting in reports that are already old before they get filed" and said, "We are moving forward."

In 2008, Idaho ranked seventh in the nation for the percentage of its electricity generated from renewables, but almost 100 percent of that was from conventional hydropower, which Idaho has used for a century - not from new research into alternatives. In that year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Idaho produced 0.7 percent of its electricity from geothermal, none from solar, 1.7 percent from wind, and 3.8 percent from wood waste. You can read my full adwatch story here at

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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