Oregonian: Opinion — Keeping climate bill alive benefits Oregon’s economy and environment
Author: Randy Bluffstone and Sahan T.M. Dissanayake
Posted: June 26, 2019

To read the original story, visit the Oregonian.

Senate President Peter Courtney’s decision not to put the cap and trade bill up for a vote is a serious setback for Oregon.

Our state already is starting to experience the devastating impacts of climate change, with record hot temperatures, out of control wildfires, erratic rain and temperature patterns. Recent reports from the federal government and multiple international organizations highlight that these effects are only the beginning and will accelerate, potentially making our planet very difficult to inhabit within a human timescale.

It is critically important to take measures to reduce Oregon’s emissions and for the Senate to follow the House and vote on this issue.

Critics of the bill argue that it will drive employers away and drastically increase fuel, energy and food prices. This is not true; this bill is designed to minimize economy-wide impacts. Industries such as natural gas utilities and electric utilities and industries that serve global markets that could otherwise leave Oregon, are initially not required to reduce emissions. The bill also helps minimize impacts on low-income households that otherwise would face higher energy bills.

House Bill 2020 is designed to protect jobs in Oregon and reduce negative impacts. The Climate Investment Fund and the Transportation Decarbonization Investments Account, which are financed by proceeds from allowance auctions, will support companies facing increased costs due to the bill and will help the economy transition to a climate-friendly future.

Firms and industries have enormous flexibility under this bill, because allowances can be bought and sold; firms can buy allowances if needed, or reduce CO2 emissions if reduction costs are cheaper than buying allowances. And, some forestland owners and farmers can sell allowances by sequestering carbon.

The current price of emitting a ton of CO2 into the air is zero, and we all know that when things are free, people can overuse them. Right now, our atmosphere is effectively a free place to dump our CO2 and free is not the right price when we are facing the terrible effects of climate change.

We also currently get no reward for not emitting carbon. HB 2020 will reward those who reduce emissions, because they won’t need allowances and would change the dynamic in a sensible and measured fashion. Our economy will get important benefits as it tilts in a more climate-friendly direction.

It’s true that Oregon only contributes a small part to global emissions, but as a state we have the opportunity to lead the way. Oregon can be a road map and guide for other states evaluating carbon emission options and policies.

Our firms will have direct incentives to innovate for the future, moving Oregon ahead of the curve on green technologies and jobs. Oregon firms focused on renewable energy and energy efficiency will help others reduce their need for allowances, spurring those industries. Farms and forest landowners will be able to generate carbon offsets that they can sell, creating revenue streams that currently do not exist. The bill supports these and other important economic innovations and incentivizes green investments using the revenues from the allowance auctions.

This is a bill that allows Oregon to be a leader on climate change and potentially generates new jobs and revenues. It is a bill designed to reduce the impact on firms and industries, and to mitigate economic impacts on households.

We urge the Senate to consider voting and passing this bill. Our future – and our children’s future – as well as our quality of life and our livelihoods depend on what we do now to take action.