In the 1970s a major worry was the acid rain killing our lakes and forests. In 1982 President Ronald Reagan commissioned a study of the problem. Scientists determined the cause was sulfur from factory emissions. In May of 1983 the House of Representatives rejected the first round of legislation to control factory emissions. Things got worse. In 1990 Congress passed the Clean Air Act, using the cap and trade system to control emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. The system has been successful, dropping emissions significantly and allowing lakes and forests to flourish again.
In 2019 Oregon attempted to initiate a cap and trade system to control but special interests, supported by Oregon Republicans, killed the effort. HB 2020 aimed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to climate change, by 80% in 2050. Republicans worried the legislation would raise the price of fuel for loggers and farmers but didn’t tell their supporters the logging industry and farmers were exempt from restrictions imposed by the bill. They got everyone excited, thinking loggers would have to purchase all new equipment, but the bill exempted them from that as well. A misinformation campaign against the bill said it would dramatically increase the price of gas and utilities, in spite of evidence from other states to the contrary, and falsely accused liberal Portland of trying to inflict pain on the state’s rural areas. That made no sense as many in Portland visit and drive through these areas and would feel any “pain” they inflicted themselves. Republicans tried to argue they didn’t get to participate in drafting the bill, but several concessions were made to them even though they claimed they were ignored.
The new bill, SB1530, lessens the impact of Cap and Trade on Oregon’s rural counties, with a geographic phase-in. Cap and Trade allows for the reduction of carbon emissions while allowing, through the “Trade” part, revenue to help address climate change in other ways, job training, job development in renewable energy, wildfire protection, and tax credits for low and moderate income people adjusting to the changes brought about by the legislation and climate change.
What the bill does:
- Reduces carbon emissions by 45% of 1990 level emissions by 2035
- Reduces carbon emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050.
- High emitting industries are only allowed to emit a certain percentage of carbon dioxide.
- An auction system is set up to allow those who fall below their emission cap to sell their leftover allowance to the highest bidder.
- A climate fund, from the sale of industry allowances, is set up to fund climate mitigation efforts such as clean energy development, watershed enhancement, protection from tidal surges, restoring salmon habitat, clean energy development on tribal lands and job training during the transition to clean energy.
Exemptions to the carbon cap:
- Farming and logging
How does it affect fuel?
- Vehicle fuel, methane gas, fossil fuel electricity are allocated emission allowances that work the same way as it does for industry.
- A vehicle fuels carbon tax will be rolled out geographically, first in the Portland Metro area, then down the I-5 corridor by 2025, equaling 85% of state emissions from gasoline/diesel. Other counties can opt in after that. Counties choosing not to opt in won’t be eligible for funding from the transportation fund generated by the tax to help develop transit systems or help low to middle income people with tax credits.
This is a complicated bill and is considered just a start at this point. People will argue that Oregon doesn’t contribute that much carbon compared to the rest of the world, but as climate scientist Alan Journet said at a presentation at the Josephine County Democrats’ meeting last spring “if I poop in the pool just a little bit, it’s still poop in the pool.” He also said we can’t complain about how changes in the climate are affecting us unless we do something about it.
Democrats and environmentalists don’t think this bill goes far enough to prevent further temperature rise, but recognize change takes time. We now know that a net-zero emissions goal by 2050 is needed if we are to keep temperatures from rising almost 3 degrees by then. The program should be statewide to be effective, and some allowances tightened up for maximum impact.
Sulfur emission reduction took years to implement and met with much opposition as well. However, it worked and later people wondered why it wasn’t done earlier before so much destruction happened. Those opposing carbon reduction are setting themselves up to be asked the same question, especially if a comprehensive plan takes so long it is too late to have much of an impact.