Democrats and the Oregon Economy in a Changing Climate

By Tracy Farwell, PCP

In 2016 Oregon Business Leaders convened their Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Reduction Task Force to formulate a 5-year plan to recommend strategies to reduce in-state emissions.  These leaders did not question the link between business climate and state emissions.

Legislators, mostly Democrats, energetically responded to the carbon pricing strategies recommended in the task force report found here, pages 17-19.

This is what the business task force recognized:

The longer we delay, the more climate change adaptation and mitigation will cost.  Taking the wrong actions today could also increase costs; increasing energy prices would hurt the pocketbooks of Oregonians and reduce the competitiveness of Oregon businesses in the global marketplace. 

There was nothing unconventional about this strategy.  Notably, it provided evidence that declines in GHG emissions were attained with no adverse trends in economic measures like GDP.  Legislators, mostly Democrats, energetically researched and compiled a comprehensive bill and gave it a priority in the 2020 session in Salem.  It offered relief from economic stress to specified business interests including agriculture and forestry.  Then there were surprises.  Log trucks circled the Capitol.*  Rural legislators left the state.  It was clear that some electeds regarded economic threats from carbon pricing to exceed the prospects of climate/economic damage not seen until today (105 deg F, higher tomorrow).

These Oregon Business Strategies from 2017 clearly offered a success path in defending GHG-sensitive resources (people, property, agriculture, forestry, public health, the young and the old) from predictable and dire circumstances coming to pass now.

*It must be noted that Oregon timber harvester interests were not included as members of the task force but had a disproportionate role in defeating the business task force strategies dealing with cap and trade policy.

Oregon takes a significant leadership role

Today our Oregon legislature passed the 2021 Clean Energy Bill, HB 2021 C.  Rather than pricing carbon it calls for a positive transition to non-emitting energy sources that are less costly for utilities and eventually rate-payers than carbon-sourced energy.  Here are the emission reduction numbers (expressed annually in million metric tons of CO2 – mmtCO2 ) as committed for Oregon’s future if the transition non-emitting resources succeeds by the legislated end dates.  Oregon’s annual emissions are typically reported as 60 mmt CO2 in adding up all sectors.

1HB 2021 C‘Baseline emissions level’ means the average annual emissions of greenhouse gas for the years 2010, 2011 and 2012 associated with the electricity sold to retail electricity consumers …Emissions Displaced per yearEnd dates
2010 = 20.3 mmt CO2
2011 = 18.1 mmt CO2
2012 = 17.3 mmt CO2, with average of 19 mmt CO2/year.
Cut electricity emissions 40% of 19 mmt CO2/year  7.6 mmt CO2By 2025
Cut electricity emissions 80% of 19 mmt CO2/year15.2 mmt CO2By 2030
Cut electricity emissions 90% of 19 mmt CO2/year17.1 mmt CO2By 2035
100% non-emitting energy  19 mmt CO2By 2040
2UNEPCompared to 2010 = 65.6 mmt CO2
Cut all emissions 45% of 65.6 mmt CO2/year30 mmt CO2By 2030

You will find it difficult to find any enacted policy anywhere on the planet that in one measure attains half of the UN IPCC carbon reduction goals in the energy sector by 2030.  The good news does not end here.

Duty of care begins with knowing what is needed.  Significant progress in cutting carbon emissions since 2000 is not generally known.  To continue effectively and confidently, our advances must be understood from open evidence.

This IEA graphic shows that annual carbon emissions declined during the global COVID crisis and are expected to rebound as economies return.  Various possibilities for rebound are noted.  Global emissions are measured in Gigatons CO2/yr (Gt CO2).  Gt = billions = 1000 mmt

Chart, line chart

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From The Guardian

What is the % decline in emissions due to COVID beginning early 2020?  It’s about 11%.

A similar decline occurred from the 2008 mortgage crisis, measured in millions of tonnes of CO2 emissions reduction in 2009 in California.  The % decline measured from CA emissions data was 6% per year.

As our commitments get more serious, it’s good to know what it took to attain these historical reductions on a beneficial scale.

Emissions from business-as-usual in the US have been in decline for a number of reasons.  “With emissions down 21% below 2005 levels, this means the US is expected to far exceed its 2020 Copenhagen Accord target of a 17% reduction below 2005 levels.”  This quote from a Rhodium Group report indicates a trend that should enlist continuing confidence in steady decarbonization:  business is finding ways to reduce carbon fuels, operate more efficiently, invest in energy saving technology.  

Clean energy subsidies have taken on a significant role, enabling cycles of virtuous investment.  “How the U.S. Made Progress on Climate Change Without Ever Passing a Bill

Democrats and the Oregon Economy?  Is anyone more effective in dealing with the fossil fuel-driven future that no one wanted or admitted?