In her inaugural speech last month, Gov. Kate Brown emphasized again and again the need to restore public trust in government. To that end, she said, “we must seize this moment to work across party lines.” Yet now, according to her office, she’s poised to sign a bill that embodies hyperpartisanship, that provides a link to her predecessor’s ethical decay, and that would harm the very “everyday Oregonians – children and working parents, small business owners and senior citizens” whose concerns she promised to hear.
If the governor meant half of what she said on Feb. 18, she would exhibit the kind of leadership her office requires and veto Senate Bill 324.
The bill, which the House approved by a 31-29 vote Wednesday following lengthy and bruising debate, allows the full implementation of a complicated program to reduce the “carbon intensity” of road fuels. Carbon intensity is a measure not only of the emissions released by using a fuel, but also those released by producing, moving and storing it. The program, called a low carbon fuel standard, seeks to reduce the carbon footprint of road fuels by 10 percent over a decade. Because there’s only so much ethanol blending suppliers of conventional gas and diesel can do, they’d have to buy credits from the producers of low-carbon fuel. Those who support this model seem to have learned little from the spectacular failure of Oregon’s Business Energy Tax Credit.
But leaving aside the program’s complexity (not to mention the state’s track record of mismanaging complex initiatives), its benefits simply aren’t worth the costs. Slashing the carbon footprint of Oregon’s road fuels by 10 percent would have no effect on global warming. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide emissions attributed to the state’s transportation sector are relatively stable. In 2012, the latest year for which the federal government has data, state emissions from transportation were lower than at any time since 1990. Emissions in 2012, in fact, were 13 percent lower than in 1999. These numbers hardly point to a crisis requiring an expensive response. Yet implementing SB324 would boost fuel costs by up to 19 cents per gallon. That’s the equivalent of a 63 percent hike in the state’s gas tax.