Oregon Carbon Tax: All pain. No gain.

By Taxpayer Association of Oregon

Governor Kate Brown has called the cap-and-trade Carbon tax bill an “absolutely a legacy issue.” Senate President Peter Courtney has endorsed the carbon tax cap-and-trade concept, saying, “I cannot think of a more serious issue.”

There is widespread agreement that climate change can have disastrous impacts on livability in the Pacific Northwest and throughout much of the world. Nevertheless, little attention has been paid to how little Oregon contributes to worldwide carbon emissions.

A figure circulated by the governor’s staff shows that Oregon emitted about 65 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents in 2017. By way of comparison, total global emission in 2017 was about 37 billion metric tons. As shown in the figure below, that means that Oregon accounts for less than two-tenths of one percent of global emissions.

In other words, even if Oregon will to reduce carbon emissions to zero, the state would do virtually nothing to change worldwide carbon emissions, which means it would do virtually nothing to slow or stop global climate change.

At the same time, the cap-and-trade program would hit the pocketbooks of every Oregonian. An earlier version of the bill estimated the state would sell about $600 million a year of carbon permits, with the costs passed on the consumers and businesses.  Other estimates say it would increase gas prices by 15 cents and utility prices by 11%

Based on the outline of the Clean Energy Jobs bill, it looks like the program fails a basic cost-benefit test: The costs to Oregonians would be exceptionally high while the chance of slowing climate change are closer to zero.