A popular refrain from Oregon politicians is that we need to “do something” about climate change. We don’t disagree. But, it dismisses the incredible progress we’ve made by working together to advance this goal and, in particular, it ignores the major policies that have been passed but not yet implemented.
Thanks to our abundant hydropower, aggressive energy efficiency efforts, and adoption of renewable energy, Oregon is already one of the lowest carbon-emitting states in the country. Entire Oregon industries have been at the forefront of reducing energy use and, by extension, lowering the need for carbon-emitting energy sources. Food manufacturers, for instance, pledged to reduce the energy intensity of their products by 25 percent over ten years and are on the cusp of achieving that ambitious objective. These are the types of real “win-win” solutions that balance environmental protection with economic opportunity and deliver results.
As we’ve noted before, cap and trade is a system for raising money for state government. It has not succeeded in reducing emissions.
Why do we know Oregon politicians are pushing cap and trade to raise money? Because there’s already a slew of recently-enacted legislation that has barely been implemented. Here are some specific examples:
- Renewable Portfolio Standards: In March 2016 the Oregon Legislature passed SB 1547, which requires that 50 percent of Oregon’s electricity must come from renewable resources by 2040. This doubles the amount of renewable energy generation in Oregon and excludes carbon-free hydropower from the calculation.
- Elimination of Coal from Electric Grid: SB 1547 also requires utilities providing electricity to retail consumers in Oregon to eliminate coal from their electricity supply by 2030.
- Low-Carbon Fuels Standards (Clean Fuels Program): Requires oil distributors to reduce the life-cycle carbon intensity of their oil by 10% by 2025. Mandates that distributors not meeting this standard must buy credits to offset the difference in carbon intensity. Personal and commercial vehicles are responsible for 39 percent of Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions.
- Renewable Fuels Standards (RFS): Oregon’s renewable fuels standard requires that gasoline sold in Oregon is composed of 10 percent ethanol and that diesel be 5 percent biodiesel.
- Motor Vehicle Emissions Standards: Oregon has adopted California’s program for Zero Emission Vehicles. The latest zero emission regulations apply to new cars and light-duty trucks and will significantly increase the number of emission-free vehicles delivered to Oregon beginning with the 2018 model year.
- Emissions Reporting Requirements: In addition to federal greenhouse gas reporting requirements, Oregon rules require that facilities report their annual greenhouse gas emissions to the Department of Environmental Quality using DEQ approved protocols.
- Electric Utility Facility Siting Requirements and CO2 Standards: ORS469.501 through ORS 469.507 establish the state’s energy siting standards enforced by Oregon’s Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC). In addition to meeting other EFSC standards, new facilities that use fossil fuels must provide evidence of compliance with emissions standards that set an emissions cap of 0.675 lbs./kWh for both baseload and non-baseload plants. Utilities not meeting the standard must pay for offsets in the amount of $1.27 per short ton in excess of the standard.
- Public Purpose Charge/Conservation Projects and Renewable Resources: Ratepayers pay a 3 percent charge on electric bills. In 1999, SB 1149 was enacted, and required utilities to collect a 3 percent charge on electric sales beginning in March of 2002. The public purpose charge funds cost-effective energy conservation and above-market-costs of renewable energy resources. It also provides weatherization and energy assistance to low-income households and public schools. The Energy Trust forecasts $186.7 million in revenues for 2018.
- Closure of PGE Coal-Fired Boardman Plant: PGE’s coal-fired plant will be closed by 2021 after less than 50 years in operation. This makes it the youngest U.S. coal plant to close for environmental reasons. PGE is hoping to transition the plant to a renewable energy source that complies with Oregon’s Renewable Portfolio Standard requirements.
- Transportation Package (HB 2017): In 2017, the Oregon Legislature adopted a new transportation infrastructure package that includes a new gas tax increase of 10 cents by 2024. The new law creates a new 0.1% payroll tax to fund public transit and directs other funding toward relieving congestion on several of Oregon’s highways. The package also includes a new car tax to fund zero-emission electric vehicle rebates for car buyers.