The Gristle

New Energy

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

NEW ENERGY: Environmental groups descended on the state Capitol this week, urging aggressive action on climate change. The climate in Olympia seems friendly to that action.

Governor Jay Inslee delivered his 2018 State of the State address earlier this month at the opening of the Legislature in a speech that laid out “new challenges to overcome and persistent wrongs to right.” High among these was the state’s long-promised (and long-delayed) response to climate change and carbon pricing.

“The Legislature recognized this threat a decade ago when it pledged to the people of Washington that we would make our air cleaner and reduce carbon pollution,” Inslee said, referring to legislation passed a decade ago that set specific targets for greenhouse gas emissions. “But unless we act now, that promise will be broken,” he warned.

A proposed bill introduced this session, SB 6253, would require that all new investments in energy resources be fossil-fuel-free, and prioritizing energy efficiency, demand response, storage, renewable energy and other solutions to reduce carbon pollution on the grid. The bill would also phase out coal by 2030 in preference to fossil-free energy sources. Ambitiously, the bill calls for 100 percent carbon reduction for electricity by 2045, creating a clean grid for electrifying our transportation sector.

Inslee took the effort a step further, proposing setting a price on carbon emissions and using those revenues to spur new clean energy infrastructure and reinvestment in communities harmed most by pollution.

Under the governor’s proposal, more than 75 percent of the carbon tax would be reinvested in a range of emission-reducing and job-creating programs. Revenues would help more people pay for energy-saving insulation in their homes, encourage additional use of electric vehicles and buses, build more solar panels and support the development of other clean energy technology.

Inslee’s proposal to tax carbon emissions across the state would be expected to generate about $3.3 billion over the next four years, according to financial analysts.

Carbon pricing is in place in about 60 countries around the world, covering half of the global economy, and is being implemented by a growing number of jurisdictions in the United States. Ten states currently have carbon pricing or cap-and-trade measures in place, including California. Six states — including Washington and Oregon — are currently considering similar proposals. Washington is the only remaining state on the West Coast without a clean fuel standard that would encourage and require oil refineries and distributors to reduce carbon pollution in their fuels.

Whatcom County Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen called the governor’s energy tax a “death tax” for Washington, predicting the proposal will devastate Washington’s economy and create hardship for people across the state.

“It is death for manufacturing, and for the middle-class families who will wind up paying the bulk of the tax,” Ericksen said.

Ericksen’s gloom cuts against one of his favorite aphorisms, however. As the senator is fond of saying, you tax things you want less of. Under the senator’s rubric, if you want to depress sales, tax sales. Ergo, if you want less carbon in the environment—tax it!

Research suggests an effective price on carbon would help stimulate a vibrant clean energy economy and spur investment in clean air and energy, healthy forests, and clean water. Technology development creates jobs and a more sustainable economy, and policies can provide protection for workers and businesses, ensuring that jobs and emissions are not shifted to other states.

Recent polling shows public support for a carbon pricing strategy.

A poll conducted late last year indicates 66 percent of likely voters support a policy that would require electrical utilities to phase out coal-generated electricity and phase in electricity generation from solar, wind, hydroelectric and other clean and renewable resources. Nearly half of respondents said they would be more likely to support their state legislator if they voted for measures like these in the 2018 legislative session. And 65 percent of likely voters back a potential ballot measure that would create a Clean Fuel Standard, requiring oil refineries and distributors to reduce the carbon pollution in Washington fuels by 10 percent by 2025, and protect existing funding for public transit and trails.

“What we have seen in a range of polling is that because voters’ desire for action on clean energy and climate is so broad, they are open to approaches that involve multiple legislative actions that could be taken to achieve these goals,” said Dave Metz with the polling research firm FM3. “They don’t believe there’s only one path to go down and they tend to see these policies as being complimentary to one another.”

There are caveats.

Washington State voters in 2016 rejected the nation’s first narrowly defeating a landmark attempt to address climate change that had divided environmental activists.

Despite being a major effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, some environmental justice advocates argued the 2016 initiative worked against working people and the poor, a stance that put them uncomfortably aligned with the fossil-fuel industry that also opposed the measure. Lawmakers in Olympia complained that while the proposal was ostensibly designed to be revenue-neutral, it instead would actually blow a sizable hole in the state budget. Yet despite being pummeled from every side, Initiative 732 still managed to garner about 42 percent of the vote.

“Our state is one of the best positioned to demonstrate that the transition to a fossil-free electricity is technically possible, economically viable, and a key driver for new jobs and economic growth now and for the future,” noted Gregg Small, executive director of Climate Solutions, a Northwest-based nonprofit that advocates a clean energy economy.

“We are preparing a ballot measure so that, if the Legislature fails to do its job, we are ready to take it to the people and that’s because it’s time for action,” said Becky Kelley, president of the Washington Environmental Council and co-chair of the Alliance.

Storm warnings aside, atmospheric conditions indicate lawmakers intend to do their job this session.

FCC Advent
Past Columns
Paradigms in Collision

November 28, 2018

Leftover Turkey

November 21, 2018

The Divisions Between Us

November 14, 2018

The Map is the Territory

November 7, 2018

Climate Kids

October 31, 2018

What The Market Won’t Bear

October 24, 2018

As Above, So Below

October 17, 2018

As Below, So Above

October 10, 2018

A Civil Disagreement

October 3, 2018

Zombie Pipeline

September 26, 2018

Too Little, Too Late

September 19, 2018

Open Secret Disclosed

September 12, 2018

Consent of the Governed

September 5, 2018

Let the People Decide

August 29, 2018

3-in-1 Oil

August 22, 2018

A Deeper Dive

August 15, 2018

Blue Wave Stalls Offshore

August 8, 2018

Mountains of Our Efforts

August 1, 2018


July 25, 2018

The Giving Tree

10:00am|Village Books

Literacy Council Seeks Volunteers


Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Bellingham Public Market

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Whatcom Flute Ensemble

6:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Jagged Ridge Aerial Photography


All-Paces Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

Urban Hiking with Craig Romano

6:00pm|Mount Vernon City Library

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Comedy Open Mic


Mountaineers Winter Speaker Series

7:30pm|Backcountry Essentials

The Giving Tree

10:00am|Village Books

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Bellingham Public Market

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Winter Wear Drive

11:00am|Upper Skagit Library

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Bellingham at Home Holiday Party

1:00pm|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Avalanche Awareness with NWAC


Whatcom Writers and Publishers' Holiday Mixer

6:00pm|Nicki's Bella Marina

Forest Health

6:00pm|Mount Vernon City Library

Celtic Christmas with Geoffrey Castle

6:30pm|Transit Shed Events Center

Kareem Kandi Trio

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

MVHS Holiday Concert

7:00pm|McIntyre Hall

O Christmas Tea

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Trove Web Portland Cello
The Giving Tree

10:00am|Village Books

Winter Wear Drive

11:00am|Upper Skagit Library

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

MVHS Holiday Concert

7:00pm|McIntyre Hall

Birding Adventures

9:00am|Skagit Valley

Literacy Council Seeks Volunteers


Valley Crafters Holiday Bazaar

10:00am|Deming Presbyterian Church

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Bellingham Public Market

Gifts from Our Gardens

12:00pm|Healthy Connections Room

 BHS Showstoppers

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

English Country Dancing

1:30pm|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Jazz Jam

5:30pm|Illuminati Brewing

Astronomy Meeting

7:00pm|Whatcom Educational Credit Union

Spanish Brass Christmas Concert

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Balkan Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

The Best Bad Things

7:00pm|Village Books

Noel Noir

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre


7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

A Christmas Carol

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

History Holiday Open Mic

7:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

see our complete calendar »

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