In the Governor We Trust???

By Vanessa Holguin

Climate change is happening. Whether CO2 emissions are the principle culprit, and at what point they will trigger a cataclysmic state is still up for debate though. Different groups around the world have embraced the principle of precaution when dealing with this challenge. They argue that humans should start reducing CO2 emissions as fast as humanly possible. Unlike some of my fellow Cascadians, I am inclined to applaud leaders who adopt the “better safe, than sorry” approach. What I do have a big problem with; however, is the kind of leadership that expects nothing less than religious faith from the public. This is the type of leadership espoused by the Governor’s Office through its participation in the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), a regional climate change governmental apparatus. On June 19, I attended a WCI stakeholder meeting hosted by the Governor’s Office and the Department of Environment Quality. Upon learning about the WCI’s plan to implement a cap-and-trade on carbon dioxide as part of its “market-based” approach, I left the meeting with plenty of concerns.

Having listened to John Charles testify before the Oregon House of Representatives on proposed global warming legislation and having conducted my own personal research, I know that almost none of the proposed new energy policies will come without serious consequences for many of us, especially the most vulnerable members of society. Policy analysts have found the cap and trade policy in particular to carry much more disadvantages over its rival, the carbon tax. As part of his testimony, John Charles included studies which point to an alarming increase in gas prices (56% higher) and unemployment (16,000 fewer jobs by 2020) as a result of implementing the cap-and-trade policy. The Carbon Tax Center, founded by two economists, also makes a strong case for the superiority of the carbon tax policy: “While cap-and-trade creates opportunities for cheating, leads to unpredictable fluctuations in energy prices and does nothing to offset high power costs for consumers, carbon taxes can be structured to sidestep all those problems while providing a more reliable market incentive to produce clean-energy technology.” In its special report edition on “The Future of Energy,” even the Economist openly advocated a carbon tax over a cap-and-trade policy. Naturally, I found it strange that with so many different interest groups in agreement, the WCI would choose to adopt the least popular energy policy, and would do so without justifying its decision to the thousands of Oregonians who will literally pay for these changes.

Also, I wondered about the legality of this regional initiative. The WCI website states that: “This regional initiative will ultimately be implemented through laws, regulations, and policies at the state and regional level.” Does this mean the Oregon Legislature would have to adopt WCI policies by default? If so, this would seriously undermine Oregon’s ability to develop policies which address its unique energy problems. Either way, as a tax-paying Oregonian I believe that I am entitled to know how this process works.

I forwarded these questions to David Van’t Hof, the sustainability and renewable energy policy advisor for Governor Kulongoski, and incidentally a Trinity College alum like myself. But not even our common undergraduate heritage managed to sway Mr. Van’t Hof or any of his associates to have the courtesy to address my inquiries. The thought that an average Oregon resident cannot gain access to this most basic information is eerily discomforting to say the least. More disturbing is the element of secrecy surrounding this whole process. When a policy is truly strong enough to stand on its own, there is no need to fear potential objections to it. And when the goal is to come up with the most sustainable and fair policy, than politicians will not shy away from listening to the public’s misgivings, instead they will encourage an open dialogue. The neglect I have suffered on behalf of the Governor’s Office stands in stark contrast to the rapid and informative response that I received from the head of the Carbon Tax Center. Likewise, The Carbon Tax Center website, with its comprehensive facts and question section and powerful counter arguments, is a welcome change from the WCI’s restricted website.

While I am all for the precautionary principle, this in no way signifies that I am prepared to support it unconditionally. As a rational and caring human being, it would be irresponsible of me to trust the governor to pursue the precautionary principle without first fully assessing and understanding the costs and benefits of doing so.


Vanessa Holguin is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market research center.

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Posted by at 11:55 | Posted in Measure 37 | 26 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • jim karlocik

    This is just anoher example of the progressive’s dirty little secrets:

    They hate the poor.
    They are ignorent on economics.

    Thanks
    jk

  • Steve Plunk

    Vanessa,

    The better safe than sorry approach should be applied to the economy even more than any perceived risk from climate change. A poor country can do much less to address environmental problems than an affluent one. Putting us in the poor house without absolute proof of AGW is just about as foolish as it can get.

    Every day we are seeing more information supporting the hypothesis of climate cycles as opposed to climate change. There is evidence supporting the idea of CO2 levels rising after warming not before and causing it. In short the case is not closed and the “deniers” are proving their credibility as the real scientists.

    The obvious red flag in this debate is the way proponents of the AGW theory quash competing ideas and use disrespectful labels to describe those who are not in line with their thinking. If they act like scientific fascists then they likely are.

    • dean

      Steve…absolute proof or disproof of a scientific prediction is only possible once the future has arrived. It took years before global warming skeptics finally accepted the proof that the world has actually warmed, based on data from recording stations. Recall all the images of weather stations in parking lots, discussions about urban heat islands, and so forth. So if people won’t accept proof of what has already happened, how would they accept proof of a prediction, no matter how strong the evidence?

      In fact a whole lot of people still don’t accept evolution as having been proved, and that theory is a lot better time tested than global warming.

      Disrespectful labeling happens on both sides by the way. People who have accepted global warming theory are labeled as cultists, as perpetuating a hoax, as “hating the poor” (see JK above,)and so forth.

      The evidence is strong enough that we are fools if we continue to ignore it. But as Vanessa points out, we are also remiss if we fail to debate the best approach to deal with the situation, so that we do not bankrupt ourselves or adopt innefectual policies.

      • Steve Plunk

        You’re right Dean, absolute proof is never attainable in the scientific sense but in politics, which this has become, a measure of absolute proof should be necessary before my government forces me to change.

        Unlike the question of evolution AGW proponents want to exercise control over me, my neighbors, and my country. Anyone’s belief or rejection of evolution has no real effect on my lifestyle or freedoms. Astronomical science won’t put me out of a job, paleontology will not displace workers, and behavioral sciences will not shutter factories. The science of AGW will do all of those. For that the burden of proof is much higher.

        No one is advocating ignoring climate or any other science. I am advocating less of a headstrong rush toward remedies of something we are not sure exists. Especially at the costs these remedies entail.

        • dean

          Steve…I agree the implications of dealing with the climate issue are substantial for all of us, and ought to be debated, analyzed, and the remedies selected with care. Where we may disagree is over whether it makes sense to wait any longer before acting. The key problem is that greenhouse gasses keep accumulating while we debate, and there is a decades long period where they stay up in the atmosphere doing their radiative thing. Thus delaying a decision IS making a decision. Every day we delay we are choosing to increase the risk we have been duly forewarned about.

          I’m relatively optimistic we can make a transition to non-carbon fuels and better conservation without ruining our economy or having to give up cars, electricity, and so forth. We will need to pay a bit more now to finance the change. Even T. Boone Pickens has come around, and he is no liberal fool. Who would have thought?

        • John in Oregon

          > *Even T. Boone Pickens has come around, and he is no liberal fool. Who would have thought?*

          Ohh I see your mistake, you believe the Gray Lady.

          *T. Boone Pickens Rides the Wind*
          NY Times Editorial -. July 22, 2008 …

          “T. Boone Pickens, the legendary wildcatter and corporate raider, has decided that drilling for more oil is not the answer to the nation’s energy problems. President Bush should listen to his fellow Texan and longtime political ally.”

          That’s false, he isn’t. Pickens told CNN;

          *BLITZER:* What about drilling offshore? There’s a debate. As you know, McCain says, yes, go ahead and drill off the coasts of Florida and California. Obama says, no.

          You’re an oilman. What do you say?

          *PICKENS:* OK. McCain says, OK off the East and West Coasts. I say East, West Coast and ANWR. Get it all. I mean, to get off of foreign oil, that is the enemy. Get everything you can get. You cannot drill your way out of it. But you’re drilling, and whatever you are able to find and put into the domestic system will help us. But you — you aren’t going to be able to find enough to take care of all the imports that we have

          *BLITZER:* What about nuclear?

          *PICKENS:* Nuclear, fine, do it. Anything in America, do it, and get off of foreign oil.

          I do agree with you, we should do as Pickens says. Do everything in an open, free, and unfettered market.

          • dean

            John…does your “unfettered” market include:

            1) Repeal of oil well depletion allowance and other tax breaks?
            2) Repeal of laws that subsidize rail coal transport?
            3) Repeal of Price-Anderson and taking the government out of the nuclear waste storage business?
            4) Selling off federal hydro power facilities to the highest bidder?

          • John in Oregon

            > *1) Repeal of oil well depletion allowance and other tax breaks?*

            What does this have to do with the NYT fabricated news and T. Boone Pickens position to do it all?

            > *2) Repeal of laws that subsidize rail coal transport?*

            What does this have to do with the NYT fabricated news and T. Boone Pickens position to do it all?

            > *3) Repeal of Price-Anderson and taking the government out of the nuclear waste storage business?*

            What does this have to do with the NYT fabricated news and T. Boone Pickens position to do it all?

            > *4) Selling off federal hydro power facilities to the highest bidder?*

            What does this have to do with the NYT fabricated news and T. Boone Pickens position to do it all?

  • NOL

    My question is can you find true independence in science, without the politics or money greed. IF so, where?

  • Rupert in Springfield

    Carbon tax, cap and trade, what does it all add up to? More taxes for you.

    Better safe than sorry? Ok, lets say we all accept that.

    I might never have a health problem, yet I buy insurance. Better safe than sorry, and if I am wrong, the cost is my own. Who pays the cost for all those taxes I will have paid if the AGW crowd is wrong? Will I be reimbursed? If the AGW crowd is so convinced they will be due praise for saving the planet if they are right, are they equally convinced they have a responsibility to reimburse those who will have paid these taxes if they are wrong?

    Who is going to repay me for the Ethanol scam? My mileage has suffered and I have had to engage in a fair amount of repair of my three year old lawnmower due to it.

    Better safe than sorry.

    We waited when Al Gore was saying years ago that the debate was over and we needed to act immediately. Clearly we were right to do so. The BS that 1998 was the warmest year on record was proven wrong. The oceans showed cooling, not the warming AGW predicted. Obviously we did not need to act right then and there when Gore advised. Yet the only thing that has changed in the rhetoric has been the renaming of Global Warming to Climate change, to account for such annoying things as our current cooling trend, which has statistically wiped out a whole bunch of global warming history.

    I feel way safer waiting until we have a little more agreement of AGW than we currently do. Having a situation where scientists are suing to have their names removed from the IPCC report, holding conventions of those who disagree with AGW and having to take out ads in the New York times that say “Stop! Wait! there isn’t this vast consensus” should give everyone pause. The fact that the main proponents of AGW, Al Gore and the UN leadership behave in a manner completely at odds with what the preach should also make everyone think a little bit about how big an emergency they truly believe this to be.

    The solutions to AGW are both vast and crippling for not only the US economy but also other countries economies and for every individual on the planet. Before we do that, we need way more evidence than we currently have.

    Better safe than sorry.

    • Vanessa Holguin

      I’m not saying that a carbon tax is the answer to this climate change predicament. But I also disagree strongly with the idea that a carbon tax and a cap-and-trade policy will simply lead to the same result. There are important subtleties, both in terms of the way these policies will be implemented and their entailed risks, which we need to consider as we discuss potential energy solutions. The following is just one important distinction:

      http://www.carbontax.org/introduction/#no-tax-increase

      “No Tax Increase? How?

      A carbon tax should be revenue-neutral. Revenue-neutral means that little if any of the tax revenues raised by taxing carbon emissions would be retained by government. The vast majority of the revenues would be returned to the public, with, perhaps, a very small amount utilized to mitigate the otherwise negative impacts of carbon taxes on low-income energy users.

      Two primary return approaches are being discussed. One would rebate the revenues directly through regular (e.g., monthly) equal dividends to all U.S. residents. In effect, every resident would receive equal, identical slices of the total revenue pie. Just such a program has operated in Alaska for three decades, providing residents with annual dividends from the state’s North Slope oil revenues.

      In the other method, each dollar of carbon tax revenue would trigger a dollar’s worth of reduction in existing taxes such as the federal payroll tax or state sales taxes. As carbon-tax revenues are phased in (with the tax rates rising gradually but steadily, to allow a smooth transition), existing taxes will be phased out and, in some cases, eliminated. This “tax-shift” approach, while less direct than the dividend method, would also ensure that the carbon tax is revenue-neutral.

      Each individual’s receipt of dividends or tax-shifts would be independent of the taxes he or she pays. That is, no person’s benefits would be tied to his or her energy consumption and carbon tax “bill.” This separation of benefits from payments preserves the incentives created by a carbon tax to reduce use of fossil fuels and emit less CO2 into the atmosphere. Of course, it would be extraordinarily cumbersome to calculate an individual’s full carbon tax bill since to some extent the carbon tax would be passed through as part of the costs of various goods and services.

      Revenue-neutrality not only protects the poor (see next section), it’s also politically savvy since it blunts the “No New Taxes” demand that has held sway in American politics for over a generation. Returning the carbon tax revenues to the public would also make it easier to raise the tax level over time, a point made nicely by McGill University professor Christopher Ragan in a 2008 Montreal Gazette op-ed. “

      • Rupert in Springfield

        What!!!?????

        Wait a second, to sum up. You are saying the Federal Government is going to collect a carbon tax, from someone with a big carbon footprint, Al Gore as an example, though taxes on his jet fuel, SUV fuel and electric bill. Then its going to divide up all these revenues, and return them to me either in the form of direct payment or a reduction of some other tax I pay such as SS? In other words, I am expected to believe that the Federal government will be given a huge bag of money through carbon tax receipts, and then will not spend it but instead will send it back to the taxpayers? Oh but with some small amount deducted to help the poor.

        Pardon my cynicism but I have never known the government to have the slightest concept that I might be more capable of spending my money than they were. I currently pay half my income to the state and federal government. A big chunk of that is to help “the poor”. The net result has been the bottom half of taxpayers now paying virtually no federal income tax, and me paying half my income. I’m supposed to expect that math is going to change any time soon? Pardon me but my trust level on this sort of thing was exhausted a long time ago.

        You want a revenue neutral tax plan that encourages conservation or development of energy solutions? Fine. Here are two you can do overnight.

        Instead of this carbon tax redistribution plan, do something real simple. How about no corporate taxes on the first few years of corporate profits from new energy patents? That’s revenue neutral and doesn’t involve cumbersome apparatus. How about full income tax deduction for hybrid car and motorcycle sales? That seems pretty doable.

  • Bob Clark

    I rather like the idea of warming for the Oregon Willamette Valley I live in. As it is today as it was 40 years ago, I spend 10 months of the year wrapped in multiple layers of clothing trying to keep warm and dry. I think the riskier action is to actually be successful, and cause the earth to cool such that more people and animals freeze to death than would have been killed by heatstroke.

    The anthropogenic global warming cause is built on junk science, and there is no consensus among scientists as there are as many skeptical scientists as grant grabing yes-people scientists. How can you honestly take the likes of fat boy Al Gore seriously when he’s making millions off the hysteria he has set off. When the state of Oregon silences the likes of meteorologist George Taylor, how can one not be skeptical of this new form of eugenics.

    The way the California economy is going right now, California is going to begin clamoring soon for economy first and environment second. The governator is talking of freezing or reducing state government employee wages inorder to get the state out from under an ever growing mountain of debt. When state workers begin realizing the cost of fighting climate change, their tune will change very quickly.

    • Vanessa Holguin

      Hi Bob–Hailing from the Dominican Republic, I strongly identify with your wishes for a warmer climate in the NW! However, I’m surprised that no one has yet brought up the issue that there is another powerful argument to be made for reducing our dependency on fossil fuels like oil (regardless of climate change considerations), and that of course relates to national security reasons. I would like to hear what you and others think about that.

  • John in Oregon

    The precautionary principle is interesting, something I learned as a Cub Scout; Be Prepared.

    I have a 72 hour emergency supply kit. I did seismic upgrades to my house when I replaced the siding.

    Nowhere in Scouting was I taught to run around hysterically screaming we can’t wait any longer before acting. Act now, stop the debate, jail the deniers. The world is ending.

    All that hysteria was reserved for the
    scruffy bearded guy in the park
    waving his sign in the sky,
    *the end is nigh.*

    The precautionary principle is not do something now, the precautionary principle is do something appropriate.

    Example, should I buy insurance for my car? Well yes and no.

    If comprehensive and collision costs $2,000 a year and my car is worth $50,000 then YES.
    If comprehensive and collision costs $2,000 a year and my car is worth $3,000 then of course not.

    The precaution has to be worth the cost. And those are real costs for real people, the least of us and the fortunate, not those of privilege and power who know for the rest of us what is best.

    • Vanessa Holguin

      Hi John, I am in full agreement with your statement. Basically, politicians have perverted the precautionary principle by using it as an excuse to further their individual agendas without having to deal with issues of accountability and public scrutiny. As you suggested, the precautionary principle in itself is not bad…it’s the reason we have savings accounts and take out life insurance, and so forth. With something as complex as the subject of climate change, it’s difficult for the average American to estimate the real costs and benefits of implementing this or that energy policy. A lot of people that support the precautionary principle, do not as some previous commentators allege, “hate the poor.” Au contraire, they are social activists who given the large amount of information (albeit one-sided) which they have received on the potential disastrous impacts of climate change, they feel compelled to push this cause forward. It is true that a lot of these same people are ignorant of the economy, but calling them stupid and other offending labels is not exactly going to make them more likely to renounce their views or to embrace critical thinking (which for me should be the end goal). If we want to reach some sort of reconciliation, then we need to move beyond petty accusations, and start concentrating on getting people to reconsider a lot of the assumptions that they take for granted. That is what my article intends to do.

  • Anonymous

    dean “The evidence is strong enough that we are fools if we continue to ignore it”

    Don’t you mean the evidence is strong enough that we should ignore it because the dedbate is over?
    And just move on to extreme policy making?

    The evidence is such that it demands scrutiny whic is exactly what it has received.
    “We” are fools if we accept the evidence without skeptisism and critiqing. Where in we find the evidence to be fatally flawed, and distorted with the conclusions politicized and flat out wrong.

    You’ve got serious judgment issues pal.
    Your wrongness permeates a variety of issues with you naively clinging to theoretical notions forevery stuck in your theoretical world.

  • Crawdude

    Global cooling is a naturally occurring cycle of environmental events that have occurred numerous times, in varying intervals / speed throughout the history of this world.

    The sky isn’t falling, it was an acorn………..will those grow around here? I’m in a tree planting frenzy lately.

    Great picture Vanessa!

    • dean

      Vanessa’s description of how a carbon tax could work in a revenue neutral way, or one that favors the poor is spot on. Those who chose to keep burning carbon would in effect be subsidizing those who choose to use less….sort of like the lottery. Thus Al Gore would pay a lot more if he uses a lot more, and I suspect he would be fine with that. We should be taxing things we want less of, and not taxing things we want more of.

      Vanessa…you other point about additional reasons to use less energy is also important. There is only so much oil in the ground, and not much of it within the territorial jurisdiction of the US. We are spending a lot of money and lives trying to secure the part of the world that has most of the oil.

      I would not assume those of us pushing a tax on carbon or a cap and trade are economically ignorant. First, we live in the same economy and depend on its functioning. Second, every serious proposal to reduce carbon use has been economically vetted by experts.

      • Crawdude

        Dean, you generally only agree with “experts” that agree with you. Who would vet these claims? Only people you agree with or agree with you?

        What if I can produce a paper signed by a multitude of scientists that don’t believe ‘Global Warming” is man made or that it is anyting but a natural cyclic phenom. ?

        • dean

          Dude…I did not say I agreed with their conclusions. i was just saying that those of us who are supporting reduced carbon use and a transition to alternatives are not all naiive about economics. Frankly I’m a little skeptical, but I hope they are right (on the economics).

          I know you can produce such a paper. Sure…it isn’t hard to find experts to support a preconcieved position. What I try to do is investigate all sides. I start from a left of center political philosophy, true enough, but I don’t necessarily buy into every claim made by someone who says something convenient for my position.

          And frankly… I never claim to know I am right. I try to be right, but am never sure about it. I actually hope I am wrong and you are right on global warming.

  • Anonymous

    dean,
    What a piece of work.

    “… I never claim to know I am right. I try to be right, but am never sure about it. I actually hope I am wrong and you are right on global warming.”””

    Your personal campaign here involves endless propogandizing out the left’s message on aevery issue. Land use/M37/M49, transportation, AGW, education and more.

    You never claim you know you are right?
    You’re never sure?
    You hope you are wrong about AGW?

    Well I know you are wrong, a liar and a propoagandizer.

    You buy into every dysfucntional lefty policly and program while drum beating out the bromides and clinging to the theoretical.

    You approach to Metro planning and AGW have NOT been a process of investigatiing all sides any more than Metro and our governor does. Your endless yammer is idelogical fanatisism that produces the usual rhetoric that twists without logic.

    • dean

      As me dear departed mother used to say…”it takes one to know one.”

  • Crawdude

    Its all over for the ” it wasn’t an acorn that hit me on the head” crowd.

    Penn and Teller hace officially called the Global Warming hypothesis BS or t least the part about it being man-made. I saw it tonight on their Bullsh_t series. Its a series that highlights scams and frauds in a very pratocal manner. It was very convincing, in fact, those who clung to it in the face of facts…………looked like the crazed liberals they are.

    Keep stockpiling the MRE’s you bought before Y2K. the next decade is only a year and a half away………I’m sure there will be a new catastrophe for you to shiver at….

    1 fear theory a decade, thats all we ask!

    Ouch! Darn acorns!

    • Crawdude

      Oops, a couple typos, my bad!

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