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All must act to mitigate climate crisis

Like many, I was deeply disappointed by failure of the Clean Energy Jobs bill to become law this year.

Guest Writer

Guest writer Rick Hammond, a graduate of McMinnville High School and the University of Oregon, is a retired wastewater biologist. He and his wife, Carol, live in rural Amity. Both are active in environmental and creation care issues. Both are also regular attendees at the Nazarene Church on the Hill. .

HB 2020, aka the cap and trade bill, was a decade in the making. A lot of people worked extremely hard to get it over the finish line, only to see it fall short at the very end.

Analysts point to three underlying reasons the bill died:

1) Any action Oregon could take would make no measurable difference to the planet as a whole. Why should Oregonians inflict economic pain on themselves when the worst polluters are doing nothing?

2) The burden would fall disproportionately hard on rural citizens — on loggers and farmers.

3) The liberals pushing the bill failed to involve conservatives in the discussion or consider alternative views or proposals.  Opponents, mostly Republicans, were shut out of the process.

I would like to address these alleged shortcomings. Let’s start with the notion that any action tiny Oregon might take would not move the global climate change needle in a measurable way.

Even if that were true, is that a reason to take no action whatsoever? Are we Oregonians, all of us, not part of the problem?

If my neighbor dumps a pickup load of trash on some back country roadside, is it then OK for me to toss a Starbucks drink lid out my car window? I am, after all, a relatively insignificant part of the litter problem.

Drivers in Washington’s heavily populated King County, encompassing Seattle, emit a much greater volume of greenhouse gases than drivers here in Oregon’s lightly populated Yamhill County. Why should I add a charge to what I pay at the pump if King County drivers don’t have to do the same?

Excuse me, but we are not grading on a curve here. Besides, Oregon isn’t all that tiny compared to several places.

The act of leading often results in a benefit disproportionately greater than its cost, but compensates by inspiring others to act. Oregon has a long and storied history of environmental leadership, our bottle bill serving as a prime example.

Moving to a second reason given for the failure of HB 2020: It would hurt rural residents, loggers, farmers, etc more than urban dwellers. At first glance, it might seem so.

If I drive a fossil-fueled vehicle, my fuel bill would go up. The more fossil fuel I consume, the more I pay. And rural residents, almost by definition, drive further than city residents.

But remember, one of the primary goals of HB 2020 was to wean us off fossil fuels. To make that less painful, it included provisions to lessen the impact of higher fuel costs.

Going electric turns the rural-drivers-pay-more argument on its head.

Electric cars are here now, with more becoming available all the time, and at increasingly more affordable prices. Electric trucks aren’t here yet, but they are on the way. And any programs that make electric vehicles more competitive will only speed up that necessary transition.

Finally, reason number three: Opponents were ignored. They were given no no seat at the table.

To me, this is the most ridiculous argument of the three.

The record shows the cap-and-trade bill originated 10 years ago, and it has evolved a great deal in that time. It was the subject of countless meetings, hearings and discussions in the Legislature, all conducted in public.

Is it possible opponents and alternatives were banned from that 10-year process? Not a chance.

Both proponents and opponents were well-represented throughout, right up to the moment Senate Republicans fled the state to thwart a vote.

Was the cap and trade bill perfect? Of course not. I’m not sure there has ever been a “perfect” piece of legislation.

But does that justify killing it? I would submit, given the dire predictions arising from unaddressed climate change, immediate action is paramount.

A common refrain from Republicans, after they left the state, ran along these lines: “We aren’t opposed to action on climate change, we just want to make sure everyone is treated fairly.”  To that I say: “In 10 years, exactly how many such action shave you taken?”

As a retired biologist, I understand the interdependence of all forms of life on this planet and the vulnerability of all those forms to sudden and/or massive change in the environment.

Our planet is in the midst of such change, both sudden and massive. Clear and convincing evidence shows we humans are responsible, with our burgeoning population and ever-increasing burning of fossil fuels.

As a person of faith, I am awestruck by the rich, complex tapestry God wove when he created this place called Earth.  Sadly, we humans have ripped too many threads from the creation tapestry, leaving it tattered and frayed.

To those who still refuse to do something about climate change, let me make one final point.

We all are contributing to this crisis. Every time we fire up our fossil-fueled vehicles, turn up the heat or air conditioning in our homes or, yes, even buy navel oranges from Australia, we are contributing to climate change. 

Have we been paying for that? Up to now, no, we have not. 

Consider it this way: 

Most of us have one or more credit cards that we use to make purchases. Sooner or later, the bill comes due.

There is another card in our wallets and purses. We can’t pull it out for examination, but it’s there all the same.

It’s the card tracking the cost to the environment when we drive fossil-fueled vehicles, turn up thermostats on the heat pump, or slip a bag of those Australian oranges into our shopping cart. If you are a person of faith, you might think of it as the cost of damage to creation.

Part of that balance is now due, and we are beginning to pay it. But the vast portion of that balance is still being carried.

It will eventually be paid by future generations, which did not agree to this arrangement. We may debate exactly how much they will pay when, but whatever and whenever, they will certainly have to pay it.

So keep that invisible environmental credit card, and the very real balance we are carrying on it, in mind at all times. Do everything possible to stop from using it, for the sake of our grandchildren, who will be making payments on the balance long after we are gone.

Support causes that put the interests of future generations ahead of our own. And vote accordingly.

We have frittered away decades.

We need to act now. The longer we delay, the more painful that action will have to be.

Comments

Don Dix

From the article -- 'Electric trucks aren’t here yet, but they are on the way.'
Does that statement include log trucks, semis, tractors, cats, backhoes and track hoes, cranes, dump trucks, combines, hay haulers, trenchers, paving machines, tug boats, cargo ships, and any other commercial vehicle that needs strong, steady, and reliable pulling power?

If HB 2020 is so critical and needed, instead of the legislative Ds ramming it through at some point, why not let the people vote? Since that option never gained any ground, it's rather obvious the state government (Ds and the administration) suspects a vote by the citizens would fail -- miserably!

Jim

One thing I believe all these so called environmentalists have failed to tell the public about the dream of electric cars,trucks,busses,etc is the environmental costs of putting the system into play. How much fossil fuel will be expended into the air by first building the products batteries but how much it would take in fuel to put in all the charging stations to charge those little cars can only go 150 miles on a charge. It’s just the left wing liberals trying to control everyone’s lives again. I’m tired of the scare tactics from the left trying to control everything through their deluded haze of hyperbole about the environment. According to Al Gore half the coastal towns in the world should be under water right now. We don’t need to lead from Oregon. China and India have way more to do with pollution than a lot of countries combined. That’s where the environmentalists from this country need to start not Oregon.

RobsNewsRegister

Yeah - they rarely consider the input costs. Raw materials, to manufacturing, etc. It reminds me of the Cornell ecologist discovering there was no net energy gain from Ethanol production from corn once you considered all of the energy inputs.

Joel

I wanted to read all the way through this and really try to understand where the author was coming from...but couldnt get more than half way. The patronizing and inflammatory words liberally sprinkled throughout were just too offputting. Difficult issues like improving the environmemt will never be able to be addressed until both sides learn to start treating each other with respect and empathy.