Oregon: Get ready for the bad news energy bills

Sen Doug Whitsett

by Sen. Doug Whitsett

Oregonians are about to be reminded that elections do matter.

At least 45 bills relating to energy have already been introduced for the 78th Legislative Assembly. Most, if enacted, will be bad news for Oregon’s economy.

The list of bills cited here are representative of what is being planned, but is by no means complete. The measures generally fall into three categories.

1. Artificially Increasing Fossil Fuel Costs

The first class of bills artificially increases the cost of fossil fuel energy. They include bills that would amend the Oregon Constitution (HJR 10, HJR 11) and enact statutes (HB 2082, HB 2159, HB 2550) authorizing and levying what amounts to direct sales taxes on fossil fuel products. Additional indirect or hidden taxes would be levied by several other bills (HB 2192, HB 2450, SB 324). Another bill (HB 2086) would establish a new fee on fossil fuel generated electricity that will ultimately be paid by ratepayers.

2. Subsidizing Green Energy

A second group of measures would artificially reduce the cost of renewable energy by enacting or extending subsidies, tax credits and other incentives. They include: HB 2187, HB 2193, HB 2216, HB 2447, HB 2448, HB 2449, HB 2559, HB 2632 and HB 2745.

These hidden cost reductions serve to make the renewables such as wind and solar appear more competitive on the utility bill; however, the real cost is simply being shifted from the utility ratepayer to the taxpayer.

3. More Greenhouse Gas Regulation

The final class of bills generally expands the regulation of greenhouse gases emissions (SB 477, HB 2572). Their primary purpose serves to artificially increase the cost of using fossil fuel energy even more.

The alleged necessity for reducing greenhouse gas emissions has a long and tortuous history that should cause Oregonians to consider its validity.

Increasing emissions and accumulation of greenhouse gases was originally blamed for causing the general global cooling that occurred during the 1970s and early 80s. Many leading scientists were convinced that immediate reductions in the combustion of fossil fuels was required to avert the impending doom of global winter and mass starvation.

Fortunately, those scientists were wrong. Global temperatures began rising in the 1980s, in spite of the increasing emission and accumulations of greenhouse gases.

As global temperatures continued to rise, many leading scientists began using complex computer modelling to predict uncontrollable temperature increases that would result in global summer, extensive droughts, rising ocean levels and mass starvations. Ironically, they cited the same atmospheric increases in greenhouse gases that they had previously blamed for global cooling.

By 1999, global warming had ceased, even though greenhouse gas emissions continued to accelerate and to accumulate in the atmosphere. By virtually all credible empirical measurements, including atmospheric, terrestrial, and oceanic global data, temperatures have remained stable or have reduced since 2000. Their predicted catastrophic raising of ocean levels, expanded droughts and mass starvation have not occurred.

Rather than admit their failed expectations, many leading scientists have simply changed their prophecy. They now blame accumulating greenhouse gas emissions for causing climate change. The genius of this prediction is that it can never be specifically disproved. Our planet has undergone significant changes in global climate for millennia.

Some scientists and politicians now blame greenhouse gas emissions and accumulations as the cause for virtually every adverse weather event that occurs on the planet. They are able to keep up a near constant media harangue because weather is changing somewhere on the planet virtually every day.

The most troubling part of their prognostications is that they ignore both empirical global and U.S. data that clearly show severe weather events are occurring less frequently rather than more frequently. Significant increases in populations and growth in structure density often result in increased storm damage and loss of life. Nonetheless, the frequency and intensity of weather events has been declining for more than a decade at the same time that greenhouse gases continue to accumulate.

The prediction that we are near or have reached “peak oil” is another alleged reason for reducing the use of fossil fuels.  The “peak oil” assertion claims the global demand for fossil fuels has permanently exceeded the global supply. Recent innovations in drilling and fossil fuel extraction have belied that claim. Global over-supply of both oil and natural gas prices are causing a near freefall in the price of fossil fuels.

Yet another allegation is that the United States must develop alternative energy resources in order to be energy independent. However, our nation has regained its position as a world leader in fossil fuel production.

We are now producing a great deal more natural gas than we can use and our known reserves will last well more than 100 years. Our capacity to refine oil has greatly surpassed domestic production. We are now poised to start exporting some of our fossil fuel production to the global market.

Virtually all of this increase in fossil fuel production has occurred on private land. Much greater known resources remain untapped under public lands, where exploration and development have been stalled by government edict.

The final claim is that the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is a matter of social justice. In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth.

People who live in poverty pay a much greater percentage of their family incomes to secure energy. Artificially increasing energy costs will cause this sector of our society much economic harm.

In fact, affordable energy is the greatest predictor of global economic and social well-being.

Even if the doomsday predictions regarding greenhouse gas emissions were credible, unilateral action to reduce emissions in Oregon would have no measurable global effect. Oregonians represent only 1.3 percent of our national population and less than six-one-hundredths of one percent (.000057) of the global population. The complete cessation of emission from combustion of fossil fuels in Oregon would benefit no one while permanently crippling our economic ability to compete with other states and nations.

In my opinion, the adoption of draconian greenhouse gas emission reduction legislation in Oregon will only serve as an empty, useless gesture to satisfy the desires of the scientific and political elite.

Senator Doug Whitsett is the Republican state senator representing Senate District 28 – Klamath Falls