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Climate alternative misses the mark

After years of resistance, some Oregon Republicans may be ready to acknowledge the reality that a climate problem exists. An example of this is former Sen. Alan DeBoer’s recent guest opinion here (March 17).

It is curious that DeBoer and his fellow Republicans did not advocate for and help pass climate legislation when they had greater representation in the legislation. It seems suspicious for Sen DeBoer to suggest alternate legislation when there is wide support for the cap and trade legislation, S.B. 2020, which is under active consideration in the current legislative session.

DeBoer seems to be one of many uninformed commentators who mistakenly think that our global warming problem will be solved by reducing carbon emissions only. But the cause for global warming is an array of greenhouse gases, of which carbon dioxide is but one. While CO2 is certainly the most important, on a pound for pound basis methane is much worse than carbon dioxide, as is nitrous oxide; and fluorinated hydrocarbons many thousand times worse than carbon dioxide. So, when DeBoer starts from the premise that carbon is the problem, he immediately demonstrates a troubling lack of understanding of the problem he seeks to solve.

Furthermore given their track record on taxes, when a Republican proposes a tax as the solution to a problem, one has to be suspicious. Maybe, rather than offering a real solution, they know that a tax proposal, requiring a three-fifths majority in both chambers to pass, is doomed in the Oregon Legislature. Since many Republicans in Salem still count themselves among the less than 10 percent of Americans who dismiss the entire body of global warming / climate change science as a hoax, maybe they know their proposals are all dead on arrival.

But if we accept at face value the argument that this is a serious proposal, we also have to ask what DeBoer thinks constitutes a “reasonable tonnage” fee. It’s easy to throw out a proposal with no details, especially at this late date when the legislature is considering a detailed bill.

Republicans have argued endlessly that placing a price on greenhouse gas emissions would tank the economy - even though states with a cap and trade in place have exhibited greater economic growth than those without such a program. California, for example is achieving greenhouse reductions with a price under $20 per ton of emissions. Meanwhile a Portland State University study of the effectiveness of the tax DeBoer proposes indicated that a tax of $150 was insufficient to meet necessary targets. If they claim $20 would tank our economy, what would over $150 do? Or maybe DeBoer suggest a fee sufficiently low as to be ineffective.

DeBoer then proposes to invest 50 percent of the proceeds into forest management. Probably we all agree that Oregon forests could use more funds and improved management that promotes carbon capture and storage. However, in his excitement at solving two complex problems with one simplistic solution, DeBoer fails to acknowledge that logging in Oregon’s forests is the top activity statewide promoting greenhouse gas emissions, surpassing even transportation in its negative effects. Would DeBoer’s proposal, one wonders, somehow substantially reduce timber harvest in our forests?

Repeating previous tactics, DeBoer lauds Oregon’s record in environmental progress, despite our being woefully short of the trajectory that would achieve reasonable emissions reduction targets. He then again closes with another diatribe against the Business Energy Tax Credit which expired in 2014. Apparently, DeBoer thinks that Oregon is totally unable to learn from and address shortcomings that led to problems in previous programs.

We welcome and embrace reasonable proposals from Republicans on how to address global warming, but hasty and ill-considered plans that neither address the problem nor acknowledge the science and are timed to compete with current action in the Legislature, are suspect.

While “cap and trade” has a successful track record in the U.S. exhibiting none of the fearful outcomes opponents claim (See Alan Journet’s guest opinion, March 3), the approach DeBoer proposes has none, so Oregon would be the guinea pig.

Robert John Scheelen of Medford is a member of the board of Southern Oregon Climate Action Now.

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