Collaboration will be the key to figuring this all out.

Home » Collaboration will be the key to figuring this all out.

“Collaboration will be the key to figuring this all out.”

Thus concludes a recent article by my colleague Dave Gering from Seattle’s Manufacturing and Industrial Council (MIC).  Although he and I approach the problem of permitting Shell Oil to do business in Seattle very differently, his conclusion is the right one for a decision as complicated as the one before the City and Port.

Polar Pioneer

The 400 foot tall Polar Pioneer Arctic Drilling Rig seated on the 712ft ship, Blue Marlin, in Port Angeles.

Gering writes in his “Slippery Slope” article linked above that a “quick look at the Seattle city budget for 2015 shows the city receives nearly $13 million per year directly from the state gas tax. This year the city is also scheduled to receive about $38 million in federal and state grants for transportation purposes.  Some or all of those grants could be based on fuel taxes.”

Dave follows with this question:  “So, how can city elected officials make a case that the Port must forgo arctic-related revenue while the city accepts tax revenue from the same Arctic source?”

We make the case because there are other strategic ways to bring in revenues while protecting our long-term environmental interests.  It’s time to make a quantum leap forward resulting in a significant regional change.  That leap will bring us to true sustainable prosperity, provides new family-wage jobs, reduces reliance on fossil fuels and puts Seattle in the vanguard of solutions, where we belong.

Shell Oil’s trans-ocean drilling rigs the Noble Discoverer and Polar Pioneer are headed our way, along with supporting equipment.  Because of their scheduled arrival in Seattle, people in our city, state and nation are paying attention to the implications of Arctic Drilling like rarely before.

In an unintended way, Shell’s pending arrival is inviting us to look anew at how we generate energy, and in a strange twist, may push us to collaborate regionally and develop alternative energy sources affordably that hasn’t happened to date.

Although many businesses and organizations are investing in research and development for affordable solar, wind, geothermal, biomass energy sources in our region, we haven’t brought it to scale.  Some limited tax incentives are available in our state but are insufficient.

That’s a pity because we have willing investors, businesses, skilled labor, the educational institutions, researchers and training programs available to leverage research and development dollars for alternative energy.

No doubt with incentives and public demand we can successfully develop affordable alternatives right here in Seattle.

We have a head start because the Port of Seattle, the City, local business large and small, educational institutions and our labor leaders agree on the need to collaborate to develop alternative energy sources.

A few years ago, our Puget Sound Regional Council drafted Vision 2040 and promoted a more aggressive approach to energy efficient transportation. About the same time, a group of local civic and elected leaders signed an agreed regional vision called “Shared Vision of Sustainable Prosperity.”

The goal was to improve our local economy in multiple ways, by leading in many industries including alternative energy.

Our Port leaders also agreed to this vision and drafted energy alternatives into their Century Agenda (which is why it strikes me as both odd and wrong that they voted for a contract that promoted Arctic Drilling when they are committed to be leaders in alternative energy development right now).

In the Port’s Century Agenda the Port leaders state one of their strategic objectives is to

“Be the greenest, and most energy efficient port in North America”.  To do this, they want tomeet all increased energy needs through conservation and renewable sources.”


As my friend Dave Freiboth, head of the Martin Luther King Labor Council said, “Sustainable jobs can easily fall into the trap of being a buzzword. In this case, [the Shared Vision of Sustainable Prosperity] is anything but the flavor of the month. It is a true commitment by our community to create good, family-wage jobs that protect and preserve our quality of life.”

Kulluk, the Shell Oil Arctic Drilling rig that drifted aground in late 2012 in the Gulf of Alaska.  Days earlier the U.S. Coast Guard evacuated the 18 member crew. Source: U.S. Coast Guard

Kulluk, the Shell Oil Arctic Drilling rig that drifted aground in late 2012 in the Gulf of Alaska. Days earlier the U.S. Coast Guard evacuated the 18 member crew.
Source: U.S. Coast Guard

If we invest big as a city, state and region in energy alternatives, we can 1) Create the energy alternatives we need; 2) Create new and sustainable family-wage jobs; 3) Reduce our reliance on fossil fuels 4) Be world leaders in alternative energy development.


Environment leaders agree. As KC Golden from Climate Solutions said recently in his op-ed in the Seattle Times “We are exercising that choice now – reducing fossil-fuel dependence and building a healthy clean-energy economy that can produce broadly shared economic opportunity.”

To truly be the greenest and most energy efficient port in North America, and to create the energy alternatives and sustainable jobs we need, the Port, City of Seattle, region and State of Washington must collaborate on the solutions.

This is a call to action for Mayor Murray, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Port Executive Director Ted Fick, Governor Inslee and the rest of us.

Stop the infighting, stop the Arctic Drilling, and work closely with Foss Maritime and our other industry leaders, labor and education leaders and our innovation businesses to help us develop and generate the needed energy alternatives.  Like our MIC leader said, “Collaboration will be the key to figuring this all out.”