Energy | Ecotrope

A Carbon Tax In Oregon?

Ecotrope | Jan. 8, 2013 2:31 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:27 p.m.

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California is launching its cap and trade law and the Washington Legislature will soon consider a carbon tax. What's up in Oregon?

California is launching its cap and trade law and the Washington Legislature will soon consider a carbon tax. What's up in Oregon?

As California’s cap and trade law kicks in this month, the question seems to be hovering over the Northwest: Are Oregon and Washington going to follow suit?

OPB’s Think Out Loud will be talking how California’s program works on today’s show at noon.

Meanwhile, Earthfix reporter Ashley Ahearn has rounded up some perspectives on the possibility of taxing carbon in the Northwest. A carbon tax is an alternative to cap and trade that could generate revenue while discouraging fossil fuels and their contributions to climate change, but it also makes energy more expensive.

As Ahearn reported, there is a more tangible proposal on the table in Washington than in Oregon. Washington State Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, planning to introduce a bill that would create a carbon tax system similar to the one in British Columbia.

While Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has voiced support for putting a price on carbon, along with other Western governors, he didn’t call for a carbon tax in his 10-year energy plan.

And so far, there appear to be only murmurs of a carbon tax proposal in Oregon.

“There’s certainly more talk about a carbon tax in the last six months than I’ve heard in the last six years, which is encouraging,” said Andrea Durbin, executive director of the Oregon Environmental Council. “But I don’t know of any timeline or vehicles for doing it.”

Durbin said the discussion in Oregon would more likely be around a carbon tax as opposed to a cap and trade law. The Oregon Legislature considered a cap and trade proposal in 2009, but the bill didn’t make it out of committee.

“We’ve tried cap and trade, and for a lot of reasons it didn’t work,” said Durbin. “A carbon tax is pretty straightforward.”

Oregon Rep. Jules Bailey, D-Portland told Ahearn he supports a carbon tax and thinks it’s time to have a conversation about it.

“I think we may see some vehicles for the conversation,” he said. “I will not be filing any member bills around the subject but there may be member bills on the subject. There are people everywhere from the governor’s office to legislators that would like to see the conversation had as to whether it’s appropriate.”

What do you think? Would you support a carbon tax  – even if it drove up gas prices and heating bills?

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