GOP State Senators in Oregon flee vote on Cap & Trade bill

Oregon was on track to become the second US State to pass a Cap and Trade program that would create a market for carbon credits. However, once the bill passed the Oregon House it went to the Oregon Senate, and Republican Senators fled the Capital rather than vote on the bill. As a result the Governor Kate Brown dispatched the Oregon State Police to round up the GOP Senators and return them to the Capital. The remaining lawmakers, primarily Democrats, are threatening to enact a $500 per day against the AWOL Senators.

An Oregon Public Broadcasting piece quotes several of the lawmakers describing their plan. The goal was obviously to delay the vote. One said he would work remotely for awhile and see how things pan out. Another claimed he was near by and could return to the Capital if needed. The most alarming was Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas who warned that they should “Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It’s just that simple.” When contacted by reporters he reiterated his threat saying “I have been in political coup attempts. I have been held hostage overseas. I have been jailed politically overseas … Not going to be arrested as a political prisoner in Oregon period.”

The situation reminds me of a similar confrontation in Wisconsin a few years ago. In that case Republicans got control of the Legislature and the Governor’s office, and started passing bills that were repulsive to Democrats and for that matter to anyone with a desire for the Rule of Law. In that case Democrats fled the Capital, and even holed up in a hotel across the Illinois border to avoid being rounded up by State Police.

The two situations should remind us that even though a particular proposed legal change looks wonderful from our perspective, there are others who will see it as repulsive. And in some cases they’ll feel motivated to take extreme action.

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What’s got these Republican lawmakers so riled up?

According to an NPR report from a couple weeks ago, Oregon’s proposal is similar to the plan enacted in California. Though, Oregon is said to have learned lessons from California. The plan would:

  • Set a cap on carbon emissions that would decrease over time.
  • Has a goal of decreasing carbon emissions to 80% of 1990 levels by 2050
  • Creates a market where companies buy and sell carbon emissions permits
  • Companies would be required to buy permits to cover greenhouse gas emissions
  • Money earned from selling permits would be plowed into more Solar and Wind energy systems

According to NPR, the HB2020 is so contentious that some environmental groups are opposed to it. But the NPR article doesn’t say what the issue is among environmental groups. It does point to an “industry group” website that says Cap and Trade would not reduce carbon emissions, that it would hurt jobs and drive up the cost of living.

Those industry groups are probably ignoring the fact that the solution for carbon intensive energy production is clean energy technologies whose prices are falling rapidly. In both the Solar and Wind energy, industries there is huge job growth, and the cost for both are financially competitive against incumbent energy systems.

A few days ago “Timber families” and others from rural Oregon staged a protest against the “climate bills”. The protest featured a convoy of logging trucks. Farmers were on hand claiming the law would put them out of business. The article notes that on May 31 Stimson Lumber laid off 40% of its workforce in anticipation of new taxes including the “climate bills”.

Oregon Live notes that the plan will require higher prices for gasoline and diesel. Such a move does hit rural folk harder because they tend to drive trucks (lower fuel efficiency), tend to drive longer distances (living far from town), have no mass transit options, and tend to have lower incomes. But, as the article points out, transportation fuels are the biggest contributor of greenhouse gases, and to reach climate change goals consumption of those fuels must decrease.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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