by John Miller
June 8, 2008
As a local resident, businessman and parent, I share the concerns of many who are alarmed about the unprecedented threat posed by global warming to our environment, economy and our children’s future.
The impact in Oregon is real. A glance at old photographs of glaciers on Mount Hood is shocking — some have completely melted away!
Scientists estimate a 50 percent reduction in the average Oregon snowpack by the 2050s, meaning less water for farms, fish, recreation and drinking. In some streams, salmon and steelhead are already experiencing stressful and even lethal water temperatures above 70 degrees.
Many in Congress support reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But what’s the best method? A carbon tax, new government spending on clean energy sources, or voluntary reductions?
I believe that a cap-and-trade system is best because it puts a clear limit on carbon emissions and gives us targets. This approach caps the total amount of global warming pollutants generated.
That cap will be gradually reduced, and polluters who reduce emissions below their cap can sell their unused allowances to others, creating incentives to reduce emissions without government spending and new taxes.
Such a solution was on the table last week in the U.S. Senate. The Climate Security Act (CSA) — co-sponsored by Sens. Lieberman, Warner and Boxer — would reduce greenhouse gas emissions 70 percent by 2050, beginning in 2012. We would cut emissions gradually by about 2 percent every year to reach the goal.
But because of a filibuster, the Senate didn’t act on the legislation. And if Congress delays even two years, we’ll need to cut pollution at twice that rate.
Economic analyses of the CSA conclude that we can afford to fund new investments in clean energy technologies while growing our overall economy. In fact, President Bush’s Department of Energy predicts the CSA would not impact economic growth. Further, the CSA would decrease oil imports by more than 8 million barrels a day by 2025, saving more oil than we currently import every day from OPEC countries.
The CSA would also help create opportunities for Oregonians to continue to drive innovation by adding to the “green collar” jobs already created in wind, solar and biofuels. Salem is already home to Oregon’s only commercial biodiesel production facility that truly produces energy by using locally collected, used cooking oil as its primary feedstock.
The Willamette Valley is a magical place for growing things, and Oregon universities are on the cutting edge of energy research. Our local farmers and foresters can provide cellulosic feed stock for ethanol instead of the wasteful shipping of corn around the country chasing subsidies.
Our congressional delegation has a wonderful opportunity to push this legislation.
John Miller of Salem is president of Wildwood/Mahonia, a group of Salem-based companies involved in agriculture, urban design and development and biofuel production. He can be reached at email@example.com.