Climate change targeted on all levels
- Toby Van Fleet
- Portland Tribune - News
Throughout 2007, the Portland Tribune has been reporting on climate change, from state and local policy aimed at reducing carbon emissions to the new green technologies like wind and solar that are emerging as a result of new demand.
To bring in the new year, another that promises to be focused on climate change, we offer a review of what's happened in the last year and a couple of hints about what's to come.
Governor takes steps to reduce emissions
Last February, Gov. Ted Kulongoski helped form the Western Climate Initiative, since approved by several Western states as well as the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Manitoba.
The initiative calls for regional emissions reporting and reduction goals, including the development of a cap-and-trade program. Such a program would set an overall limit on carbon emissions and allow businesses to buy and sell carbon credits as a way to stay below the cap.
In August, Kulongoski signed into law House Bill 3543, which created a Global Warming Commission and solidified greenhouse reduction goals.
The goals include reducing emissions to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and to 75 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
To comply with both the climate initiative and state legislation, Kulongoski asked the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission to develop a mandatory reporting system for gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and hydrofluorocarbons.
After a series of meetings with state and city government officials, environmental organizations, utilities, and businesses like Weyerhaeuser Co. and Nike Inc., the Department of Environmental Quality is scheduled to release draft greenhouse gas mandatory reporting rules for public review next spring.
The rules ultimately will apply to the state's major emitters.
Then, in August, the climate initiative is expected to introduce a regional carbon cap-and-trade program.
City pushes renewable fuels and green building
Parallel efforts at the local level also came to fruition in 2007.
Last summer, Portland became the first city to pass a Renewable Fuel Standard. The standard requires 10 percent ethanol and 5 percent biodiesel at every pump in Portland, with one truck stop exception.
City Commissioner Randy Leonard has become an evangelist for biofuels and is working with Eastern Oregon farmers to localize the state's sources of renewable energy.
But the state of Washington has lured away some big biofuels deals, including a new biodiesel refinery being built in the Port of Vancouver, a plan that was announced in August.
Portland also soon may target the building industry.
Within the next several months, the City Council will be asked to consider mandating a carbon fee for new buildings that don't meet specific energy efficiency standards.
Salem offers solar, wind and biofuels tax credits
The 2007 Oregon Legislature, which ended in May, approved numerous actions to promote more climate-friendly practices, much of it focused on growing the renewable energy sector.
• Looking to the utilities to lead in a transition away from coal, the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard requires that 25 percent of the state's electricity come from new renewable energy, including wind, solar biomass and geothermal, by 2025, with lesser benchmark requirements in 2011, 2015 and 2020.
• The Business Energy Tax Credit was increased in 2007 and now will reimburse businesses for up to 50 percent of the cost of installing a renewable energy system, such as solar panels.
The incentive cap is $20 million.
Likewise, state residents also can install solar systems or
energy-efficient appliances and get a state tax credit when they file their taxes.
• Transportation also has been targeted as an area where greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced.
State legislation created tax incentives for biofuels facilities as well as a consumer tax credit for the purchase of biofuels.