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A response to the claims of HB 2020 opponents

Whenever proposals suggest changing how we live our lives, residents — quite reasonably — become nervous. One consequence of this is a willingness to accept worst-case outcomes that special interests conjure up to maintain their comfortable status quo.

Every proposal developed to make life for low to middle income Americans better, or increase environmental protection, has stimulated special interests — mostly from the corporate sector — to orchestrate campaigns of misinformation and generate fear. Yet, when proposals pass, the corporations manage to accommodate the change and continue successfully making profits. Thus, we fought battles over Social Security, Medicare, the 40-hour work week, limiting child labor and increasing fuel efficiency. Regrettably, residents who are not well-informed about issues are often persuaded to think their lives and incomes are in jeopardy. Unfortunately, this opposition campaign is underway statewide today.

At Central Medford High School on Feb. 23, Southern Oregon supporters and opponents testified on House Bill 2020, the Oregon Legislature’s effort to put the state on a path toward reducing its global warming emissions. Those approving the Oregon Climate Action Program proposal offered comments supporting or urging a strengthened bill. Opponents focused largely on the claims promoted by an organized campaign and ignored evidence from other states where cap-and-trade programs are in place. These help us evaluate the claims of doom and gloom:

  • In 2007 Oregon established a voluntary program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with a goal of 75 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Unfortunately, we’re far from a trajectory to achieve that goal. In fact, with our current behavior statewide, emissions will be over four times greater than the 2007 program’s target. We’d all like voluntary goals to be effective, but the proof of their failure is in the data. If we are serious about placing Oregon on a path to meaningful emissions reductions, we need a more effective program.
  • When California’s cap and trade took effect in 2012, gasoline prices fell. This demonstrates that fuel prices are under a wide array of price influences; an emissions cap is not the critical factor.
  • Electricity prices in the eastern Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) states capping utility emissions fell 6 percent since cap and trade was imposed while prices have risen 6 percent in other states — so the net price benefit is 12 percent.
  • The Gross Domestic Product of California (overall and per capita) has risen while greenhouse gas emissions (overall and per capita) have fallen. Meanwhile, the cap and trade states of RGGI were 4.3 percent ahead of surrounding states on economic growth and 15 percent better in emissions reductions.
  • HB 2020 demands that all revenue expenditures serve the goals of the Climate Action Program in reducing emissions or capturing and storing greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. The program and its administration would be supervised by a House and Senate legislative committee making it accountable to our elected representatives.
  • Because Oregon’s emissions are small, we know collective global action is needed. If we wish Oregon to be protected, we need other states and nations to lower emissions. If we are not lowering ours, we’ll have no credibility or moral authority to urge others to act.
  • The Investment component of HB 2020 will stimulate green jobs. Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality calculated funds raised in the first year of operation at $550 million, of which $348 million will be from transportation fuel and thus constitutionally earmarked for highway projects that serve the purposes of the Climate Action Program (many of which will be in construction). Most of the remaining $202 million will be targeted for the Climate Investment Fund, promoting projects that generate employment in, for example: clean energy; agriculture and forestry that capture and store greenhouse gases from the atmosphere; communities (such as rural Southern Oregon) that are impacted by climate change or the transition to a clean energy economy; projects that stimulate our adaptation to climate change; and forestry management that reduces the regional risk from wildfires. Senate District 3 already has 1,500 clean energy jobs, $9 million of private investment, and 3.1 megawatts of clean generation capacity. With HB 2020 we could build on this foundation, keeping our energy dollars circulating in Southern Oregon instead of leaving the state.
  • A 2019 economic study predicted that a 2.5 percent greater economic growth would occur statewide by 2050 with HB 2020 than without it, that 50,000 jobs would be created, and $2 billion in health care costs would be saved within nine years.

HB 2020 is good for Oregon, and especially Southern Oregon. Oregon can lead by example and grow economically.

Alan Journet of Jacksonville is co-facilitator of Southern Oregon Climate Action Now.