The threat of human-induced climate change is driving public policy towards attempting to reduce human emissions in the state. It is important to put Oregon’s “carbon footprint” into perspective in order to understand that state emission reduction policies make no economic or environmental sense.
Oregon only contributes about 0.7% of total emissions in the United States and has the third lowest per capita emissions in the nation, which is about half the national average. Oregon is also the third lowest in transportation and residential emissions per capita and well below the national average. In addition, the Oregon economy has seen a 91% increase in energy efficiency in the past 40 years, compared to the national average of 46%. Increases in Oregon’s energy efficiency ultimately lead to fewer emissions per product produced in the state.
Since Oregon plays such a minor role in emissions in the world and the nation, attempting to reduce the small amount here in the state is an ill-advised goal. Any additional reductions in Oregon emissions through a carbon tax, cap-and-trade program, or any other greenhouse gas reduction strategy would not provide Oregonians with any measureable benefit. These policies will not lead to any noticeable decline in global emissions or global temperatures but will certainly lead to significant costs imposed on Oregonians.
Todd Wynn is the climate change and energy policy analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research center.