As Oregon Legislature considers a state cap on carbon emissions, two sides debate the pros and cons
by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JIM CLARK, Morning traffic backs up on U.S. Highway 26, near Oregon Highway 217. Automobile emissions are among the many forms of carbon emissions contributing to climate change.

Last month, Oregon's new Global Warming Commission was able to report the encouraging news that we are on track to meet the state's first greenhouse gas goal. If we fully implement the laws and program measures now in place, we should arrest the growth in emissions by 2010 and begin to see the first real reductions since we started measuring these gases almost 20 years ago.

All of us, from Gov. Ted Kulongoski and the Legislature to communities and companies across the state, can take credit for a job well begun.

Even more encouraging is how we are accomplishing this, by repowering Oregon with wind farms, solar schools and energy-efficient green buildings. Our state is the nation's epicenter for architects, engineers and developers designing the country's next generation of office and retail buildings that will eventually produce more energy than they consume, and recycle their own waste.

Oregon is home to more than 60 new solar ventures, including the nation's largest fabricator of solar photovoltaic panels, SolarWorld in Hillsboro. Two of the largest wind companies in the world - Vestas and Iberdrola - have their U.S. headquarters in Portland.

So let's all take a well-earned pause of satisfaction.

And then we must redouble our efforts to cope with the effects of the climate change already headed our way, and to achieve our next greenhouse gas goal, approximately a 30 percent emissions reduction by 2020.

Achieving this will require far more than incremental changes in business-as-usual; more than a few hundred additional wind turbines in the gorge and a few thousand more houses insulated.

Think another 10,000 wind turbines serving the Pacific Northwest from across the Rockies in Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas, connected by new transmission lines with new power storage and control technologies that also improve system reliability - all designed and sited to protect communities, scenic values and wildlife habitat.

Think whole communities blanketed, neighborhood by neighborhood, with insulation and efficient lighting.

Think wholesale replacement of the current auto fleet with one that averages 50 mpg or better. Many of those will be electric vehicles supported by new recharging infrastructure.

Think farms and forests managed simultaneously to sequester carbon, yield renewable energy, conserve water and support critical ecosystems.

In short, think transformational change. That's what is required to reduce emissions while strengthening economic productivity.

To get there, we'll have to change some basic signals. For decades, real energy prices - excluding inflation - have been flat or declining, notwithstanding periodic market price spikes. We have deferred paying the carbon bill, thinking maybe it wouldn't come due. In a business-as-usual world, long-term investments in efficiency and alternatives to fossil fuels remain risky.

A carbon cap transforms our expectations of future energy price trends. That makes investments in more efficient industries, houses and cars more certain to pay off. It makes inventors of new technologies more confident they'll find markets.

Does this mean energy has to cost us more? Consider this: If the price of gasoline doubles, but we can respond by both driving less and trading up to a more efficient vehicle, we've held down our costs and carbon emissions both. Heating our homes or water for a shower - same thing.

All the work we have done to position ourselves for this transformational change coming is about to pay off as the rest of the country shifts to follow the lead of Oregon and other early mover states.

Angus Duncan, chairman; Dr. Mark Abbott, vice chairman; Jim Rue, vice chairman; state of Oregon Global Warming Commission

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