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Two Views • A state cap costly, not needed

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.

Every day, Oregon employers are forced to make painful decisions that have a direct impact on working families. Which bills can I afford to pay? Do I need to reduce hours of operation, shut down a production line, or - worst of all - is today the day I have to announce layoffs?

Every day, we see employees and customers who are struggling to send their kids to college, hold on to their homes and keep food on the table. Many employers have chosen to forgo a paycheck to keep their businesses afloat and avoid layoffs.

It's hard to imagine that state lawmakers would consider a new and extreme climate tax that would swell unemployment lines in this economy and create further hardship for families. But that's exactly what is being proposed in Salem.

The state Legislature is considering a proposal that would establish a 'hard cap' system to deal with greenhouse gas emissions - a proposal that would more than double electricity bills for the vast majority of Oregonians. For a typical family, that's adding more than $100 to their monthly bill. For many employers who count on affordable electricity, it could become the tipping point - the point at which they have no choice but to shut their doors.

The bill would make Oregon the first and only state in the nation to adopt its own hard cap system for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. All electric utilities in Oregon, public and private, would pay higher fees to generate or purchase electricity produced using fossil fuels - fuels that now provide close to half of our region's electric power. While combating climate change is an important goal - one that Oregon is already working hard to achieve - there are smart ways to achieve this goal and then there are reckless ways. The hard cap approach goes too far, too fast and ignores several important factors.

Oregon would be alone in forcing businesses and utilities to achieve a hard cap, or mandatory reductions in greenhouse gasses. Yet Oregon emits a minuscule amount of carbon dioxide relative to the rest of the nation and the world. In fact, in 2006, Oregon ranked 43rd out of 50 states in the amount of carbon dioxide emissions resulting from electricity generation, according to the World Resources Institute. The proposed Oregon legislation would more than double our electricity bills, yet produce virtually no collective impact on global warming.

Oregon has one of the most aggressive renewable energy standards in the nation. In 2007, the Legislature passed a law requiring that by 2025, the state's major utilities produce or purchase 25 percent of their electricity with renewable resources. The cost of building or finding new renewable resources will be passed along in our future electricity bills, so businesses and homeowners are already stepping up to the plate.

The hard cap proposal being considered would affect every Oregonian, whether they are a customer of a public or private utility. It would raise prices for public and private employers, requiring more cutbacks in schools, state and local governments, and nonprofit organizations. That's why every electric co-op and utility in Oregon is opposed to the legislation. So are most employer-based organizations, especially manufacturers who rely on reasonably priced electricity to keep their plants operating.

And considering that the cost of electricity is a major factor in most companies' decisions on where to locate new production facilities, the hard cap proposal would make economic development an uphill struggle throughout Oregon.

Let's not add to our economic woes by imposing an unnecessary government regulation that will disadvantage Oregon's economy while bringing about virtually no impact on global warming. The reckless cap-and-tax approach to climate change would harm Oregon's working families and employers for decades to come.

Bill Thorndike is the Port of Portland Commission's treasurer, the director of the Oregon Business Council and president of Medford Fabrication in Medford. He signed this on behalf of a broad coalition of business and civic groups and energy companies.