Opinion

Better, less costly ways to reduce greenhouse gases

by Don C. Brunell

President of the Association

of Washington Business

President Obama says the opponents of cap and trade are not telling the truth. Unfortunately, the president is attempting to position his opponents as “do nothing” on the environment, which is not true. He needs to recognize there are other less costly ways to reduce CO2 which will help lift our economy rather than sink it.

The cap and trade legislation, which seeks to reduce greenhouse gases, is estimated to be the largest cost increase to families in our nation’s history, and as Warren Buffett said, people are right to be concerned because they will feel it in their electric bills.

While we oppose cap and trade, AWB supports a stronger, cleaner energy future. For example, wind energy is an important new source of electricity and when added to the grid can help reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. AWB is working to site wind farms in Washington, the most recent of which is the Whistling Ridge Project northwest of White Salmon.

Second, we support maintaining our hydro system which produces about three-quarters of our electricity in Washington. We support the biological opinion, an agreement by most tribes, agriculture, river users, businesses and state and federal agencies, to restore wild salmon and steelhead runs. This agreement will maintain commercial navigation on the Columbia and Snake rivers, ensure continued power production and protect irrigated agriculture.

Third, we continue to support development of clean coal and other fossil fuel for energy production. Our state can become a world leader in clean energy technology and market that technology and expertise around the world — particularly to help China and India curb their greenhouse gas emissions.

So, what could our federal and state governments do to protect the environment without devastating our hobbled economy?

First, Congress could take another look at nuclear energy. France, which gets 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, continues to make steady progress in plant safety and in reprocessing spent fuel rods. Like hydro, nuclear energy produces no carbon dioxide.

Secondly, government should use incentives rather than punitive measures to encourage new technology to control greenhouse gases. Market-based solutions will ultimately lead to breakthrough technologies. Government should not inadvertently attempt to create winners and losers as will happen with cap and trade.

Third, Congress needs to learn from the experiences of other countries. A careful examination of cap and trade rules in the European Union and Australia as well as the state of California shows reason to be very concerned about the intended and unintended consequences. Rather than rushing ahead, Congress should slow down, carefully look at what is happening elsewhere, and then thoughtfully act.

Fourth, our state needs to revisit I-937, our renewable energy mandate. It does not recognize hydro and pulping liquors as renewable energy sources, and it restricts utilities from purchasing renewable electricity, particularly from wind and solar sources, to the Bonneville Power Administration service area. Much of the renewable power coming on line is in the plains states and central Canada, and under I-937, that doesn’t count as renewable.

Finally, Congress cannot ignore the cost impacts. There are costs associated with all of this, and we need to recognize that our families, government and employers have to find the money to pay for these changes. Careful cost analysis must accompany all legislation, but the cap and trade bill that passed the House last week lacked careful analysis and glossed over the associated costs. In fact, many in Congress admitted they did not even read the bill.

Given the gravity of what the president and Congress are doing, we need to make sure we know precisely what the problems are, thoroughly address them, and act deliberately. In this case, haste can result in more than just waste.

That is something we cannot let happen because we do not want to saddle our children and grandchildren with costly and unworkable legislation just to meet a July Fourth or Labor Day deadline.

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