Business: The Nights the Lights Went Out

As darkness falls, the skyline of Portland, Ore., takes on an eerie cast, as if the city of 390,000 were deserted. Along the downtown streets, the familiar glow of neon signs is missing. Against the horizon, the 30-story Georgia-Pacific Building and 40-story First National Bank Tower loom like abandoned hulks, their silhouettes illuminated only by a meager handful of office lights and the winking red beacons that warn aircraft that the buildings still stand.

The desolate scene, a nightly occurrence since late September, could be a dramatic forecast of the future for other cities in the U.S., Europe and Japan. The Pacific...

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