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Cap-and-trade bill was a missed opportunity

During Oregon’s last legislative session we had a climate bill that was good for our rural citizens: HB 2020. This was a cap, trade and invest bill. The cap is necessary to limit the amount of pollution. The trade is to create markets that provide incentives for reduction, and the investment is to create structure that promote solutions like alternative energy research and development, social justice, green jobs and carbon sequestration and storage.

Rural Oregon is important to this state’s economic and social well-being. Rural families are transitioning from a forest economy to a fickle tourist economy and during this changeover process they have become familiar with a reduced amount of money in their pockets. Future shifts affecting rural Oregon’s economy will likely include a change in forest geographies and species composition with increases in pests and diseases. And we cannot forget our rural coastal communities that are seeing changes in the distribution of fish and fresh and marine water species. Truthfully, markets that are influenced by international policy and demographics, as well as an aging population and few diversified industries, also harm rural Oregon.

As outlined by State Sen. Mike Dembrow, the primary goal of a climate action bill is to ensure the bill protects and benefits all Oregon, including rural areas. HB 2020 did address emissions reduction, adaptation/resiliency, and carbon sequestration, and it did have a climate investments fund that would benefit impacted communities like tribes, the forestry natural and working lands industries, and support a variety of forest-health projects (thinning, prescribed burns) and the protection of lumber flow to mills.

What about direct investment? HB 2020 included provisions for career/technical youth programs in forestry and agriculture. It would have provided funds to enable fire-prone communities to be more resilient to wildfires, develop water projects such as pressurized irrigation and create programs to counter the effects of ocean acidification on shellfish and other fisheries.

House Bill 2020 included refunds for fuel used for off-road agricultural and forestry operations. It also recognized that rural communities drive more. To compensate, residents of rural counties would receive larger tax credits and money to help farmers make their equipment cleaner and better for the health of farmworkers. Also, vehicles on farms need to be cleaned up with retrofits and conversions from diesel to natural gas (as electric vehicles improve, this should be in the mix also).

House Bill 2020 provided for weatherization and energy conservation services at no cost to households.

What about transportation? The bill provided for investment in adaptation projects, like culverts, slope stabilization and bridges (job creators!).

Yes, what about rural job creation? HB 2020 provided incentives for rural energy projects such as wind, solar, geothermal and biofuels.

A cap-trade-invest system that lowers greenhouse gases and invests in clean energy can add 2.5% to Oregon’s gross domestic product and create 50,000 full-time, decent paying jobs by 2050 and save $2 billion annually in health care costs.

Not passing HB 2020 was a missed opportunity for Oregon.

Members of the public who urged voting against this were persuaded by fear, doubt and untruths. The petroleum industry has been enjoying a free ride for decades; it is time to curb their penchant for wealth at the expensive of what Oregonians love. It is easy to be against something, but it takes strength and fortitude to be for something.

Climate change management is a titanic undertaking that requires ongoing balancing, shaping and modifying.

The relationship between climate change and our society is a complex one. We need to understand this complexity. Why? So that we can modify our harmful behaviors that include harmful institutional policies, then create policies that are just and effective. HB 2020 was an attempt to create just and effective policies.

Think about it: to what degree are we willing to relinquish our consumption habits so that future generations will have the ability to consume at a moderate level?

Louise D. Shawkat lives in Ashland.

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