by Sen. Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg)
The low carbon standard is nothing more than a fuel tax
Last week the focus was mostly on the Governor and his problems. I said we should let the process work, only to find afterwards that neither the Secretary of
State nor the Attorney General are going to do an investigation. This leaves it all with the Ethics Commission, which the Governor appointed. At this point I am certainly disappointed, but still willing to let the process work.
Meanwhile, in the Legislative Assembly, a major piece of legislation passed out of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee on the third day of committee hearings. It was Senate Bill 324, otherwise known as the Low Carbon Fuel Standards bill.
We were told we had to do this now because we were running out of time. I am still confused as to how we can be running out of time on day 3 of the Session, especially when the current program (which has accomplished nothing) doesn’t sunset until the end of the year. What I do know is the bill will pass in both the Senate and House without a single Republican vote. I have received many emails asking me to support this bill mostly based on the issues of clean air and jobs.
There has been a lot of “information” out there, but I think maybe it is time for some facts.
The first item is the issue of clean air. There are only two states in the US with better air quality than Oregon, so I think we actually should be proud of the work we have already done. This is a point that continues to frustrate me, and it is the fact we never really look at all the work we have done over the last thirty years on our environment. In reality we have done a very good job and we should be willing to celebrate our accomplishments rather than act like we have done nothing and implement programs that will accomplish nothing.
The second issue is carbon, which is now being portrayed as something evil. Carbon, as an element, is not found in the atmosphere. It is found in things like coal, graphite and diamonds. When we find carbon in the atmosphere it is combined with another element to form a compound known as carbon dioxide, which is essential for all life. Admittedly there are some other compounds in which carbon is an element, but they exist in trace amounts. What many people don’t know is the fact the greatest greenhouse gas is actually water vapor, which makes the attack on carbon actually nonsensical.
The third point I want to make is one I have made before, but it is worth repeating. The fact is, if we stopped all human activity in our state, the impact on the global climate would not be measurable. Oregon has 3.1% of the population of the United States and the United States has approximately 3% of the world population. In rough numbers that means Oregon has 0.000057% of the population of the planet. Just based on the numbers it is clear nothing we do will impact the big picture.
Now let’s talk about the low carbon standard itself. When you boil it down to its base it is nothing more than a fuel tax. Taxes are not evil by themselves; it depends on how they are collected and what they are spent on. For example, the current state fuel tax goes to building and maintaining roads. I have no problem with this concept as we are taxing the users to maintain the system. The low carbon tax does not go to roads; in fact the majority of the money collected will not even stay in Oregon. The proponents say this will help clean the air and create jobs. It will do neither. The discharge from biofuels is relatively the same as petroleum as is the discharge from the creation of electricity to fuel electric cars. Additionally most of the alternative energy programs can only exist with huge government subsidies, which is already an additional cost we all pay in our electric bill among other places. What jobs are created will be government subsidized, not free market, and will for the most part not even be in Oregon.
We will be passing a bill to extend a program without even having a clue as to what it costs. The estimates I have heard range anywhere from 5 cents to $1.20 per gallon. Fuel may be relatively cheap right now, but it is safe to assume the per barrel price will be back up by summer. Five dollar a gallon price on gas will hit low and middle income folks hard, without any measurable benefit in return.
This is clearly a political maneuver. If you don’t think so, just look at which candidates the environmental groups contributed to, including the Governor. The ultimate frustration in all of this is we have some very real needs in our highway system, and any money taken from the use of vehicles should be going to that purpose.
I hear talk about how “Oregon’s economy is doing well.” However, if you look at the real numbers, you will find we are still in a recession. The political agenda we see being advanced at the beginning of the Session is going to do nothing to alleviate our problems. The Democrats claim to be all about jobs, but at this point the only jobs they have created are government jobs. SB 324 is a perfect example of the moves I expect to see in the next few months that will not improve our economy, but actually will take it backwards.