Oregon is making progress but not enough when it comes to reducing the kind of pollution that contributes to climate change.
That’s the takeaway from the Oregon Global Warming Commission’s latest report, which came out this week.
The commission’s chairman, Angus Duncan boils it down to a grade: B- or C+.
My EarthFix and OPB colleague, Cassandra Profita, checked in with Duncan after the report came out. He says the passing grade reflects some important changes that have taken place on his group’s watch.
“We’ve decided to shut down the only coal plant in Oregon by 2020. Our vehicle miles traveled has gone down while our population has gone up,” Duncan said. “Our consumption of gasoline on a per-capita basis is something along the lines of where it was 50 years ago.”
In other words, Oregonians are burning less fossil fuel – and will burn less when Portland General Electric shutters its coal-fired power plant in northeastern Oregon. That’s a conclusion environmental regulators have already taken note of in Oregon and Washington.
Still, Duncan acknowledges flattening the once-rising trend line for greenhouse gas emissions isn’t good enough if Oregonians are going to meet the 2007 Legislature’s 2020 goal of reducing greenhouse gases by nearly 30 percent below today’s levels.
Although Duncan didn’t give a letter grade to the federal government for its performance in this area, he does say national leadership has been a mixed bag when it comes to helping Oregon and other states move more quickly in hitting goals for energy efficiency, renewable power, and all the other changes that are necessary to reduce carbon emissions.
The Obama administration has not pushed for a carbon tax, or successfully revived its failed first-term effort to pass climate legislation that included creating a cap-and-trade system for cutting carbon pollution. But the president is working on greenhouse gas regulations.
That effort may take a new turn on Friday. That’s the deadline for the Environmental Protection Agency to release an updated proposal to limit carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, from new power plants. That’s likely to fan opponents’ contention that Obama is waging a “war on coal.”
— David Steves