Port commissioner aims to set example by going green

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — When it comes to saving energy, one person can make a difference, hopes Steve Tucker.

“I began thinking about getting rid of all my gas machinery when I saw someone who had developed an electric lawn mower,” said Tucker, who has drastically curtailed his use of gasoline in the past few months.

“So maybe when people hear about what I'm doing, they will change how they do things.”

Tucker, 62, who is serving his first year as a Port of Port Townsend commissioner, has so far sold his motorcycle in favor of an electric bike, and replaced his lawn mower, weed whacker, chain saw and leaf blower with electric components.

He also plans to outfit his boat with an engine in which he can use biodiesel fuel.

He owns two cars but restricts their use to out-of-town trips.

And he keeps his gas-powered chain saw “for when I'm out in the woods and don't have a long enough cord.”

The change was motivated by a desire to reduce greenhouse gases and save fuel, but there was a secondary payoff.

“After I started using electric yard machinery, I noticed how much quieter everything was,” Tucker said.

“When I work in the yard or mow the lawn, it's a lot easier on my ears, and you don't get that powerful gas smell and don't have to breathe in all of that.”

Tucker's garden machinery runs on batteries, and he has bought them all from the same manufacturer — Ryobi — so the batteries are interchangeable between the components.

When battery-operated machinery first came on the market, the batteries often lacked the power of gas-driven components and didn't run for very long.

That has changed, Tucker said.

“I can mow my whole lawn and the battery gauge only goes down a little bit,” he said.

Tucker said that the impact of charging a battery array will be negligible on his electric bill.

The real cost will come when the batteries need to be replaced.

Tucker, who was unopposed in his bid to take over as port commissioner from John Collins, who retired, said the job takes a lot more time than he previously expected.

“When I was going to run I asked John how much time it was going to take and he said about 10 hours a week,” Tucker said.

“I end up spending around 20 or 30 hours a week but I'm still learning, I'm the new guy.”

Tucker said that his interest in saving energy at his home originated from his involvement in the monthly energy lunch, which takes place the third Tuesday of every month.

“These lunches are a pretty big deal,” Tucker said.

“We get people from all over the country to come speak, and it inspired me to get rid of all my gas-powered machinery.”

The next Energy Lunch will be at noon Tuesday, Oct. 16 at the Port Townsend Community Center, 620 Tyler St., and will feature Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Sequim, who represents the 24th District, which covers Jefferson and Clallam counties and part of Grays Harbor County.

Rick Van Auken, who helps to organize the lunches, said that Tucker “gave one of the best speaker introductions at any one of our lunches” in September.

Van Auken said that alternative energy awareness is increasing in Port Townsend and Jefferson County, and that each person makes a difference.

“If one person changes their behavior, it paves the way for others to follow,” he said.

“And we are 1/30,000th [the population of Jefferson County] closer to achieving energy independence.”

Van Auken said that Jefferson County could become self-sufficient in its energy needs through the use of solar energy.

“The thrill of using electric instead of gas is that there is no pollution,” Tucker said.

“I feel like I'm really doing something.”

Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: October 01. 2012 6:16PM
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