Lots already done to cleanse our air | Don C. Brunell

Just before Gov. Jay Inslee (D) flew to Paris for the global climate summit, he met with Washington business leaders who sought assurances that his proposed carbon cap rule won’t wipe out good-paying manufacturing jobs and send even more industrial production overseas.

Unfortunately, the governor offered no encouragement, the Association of Washington Business (AWB) reported. Instead, he surprised many in the room by proclaiming that “nothing” had been accomplished in Washington with regard to climate protection since the adoption of emission reduction goals in 2008.

He is wrong about that!

As general background the cap rule allows state government to collect fees from utilities, manufacturers and even universities which exceed carbon emission limits set by the Dept. of Ecology. It drives the costs up for everyone.

Energy Strategies, a Utah-based energy consulting firm, found that if Inslee gets his way that over the next 20 years it will result in 56,000 job losses, reduce household income by $1,200 annually, and families would see their energy bills increase $56 per month.

Contrary to the governor, Washington Climate Collaborative, a coalition of Washington State workers, farmers and businesses advocating for reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, reports our state’s industrial sector emits 21% less CO2 today than it did in 1990.

Industries from food processing to aviation are using new technology to reduce all greenhouse gases while allowing our state’s economy to grow and creating jobs. As a result, the Nucor Steel plant in West Seattle is now one of the cleanest and most efficient steel mills anywhere.

There is a world of difference in air quality between the United States and China where many American factory jobs have migrated. For example, Beijing’s air pollution was the worst on record during the Paris summit. It was measured 25 times above what the World Health Organization considers dangerous.

On the other hand, Washington’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions are already 36% lower than the national average even though our state’s population grew by 500,000 from 2005-2011. Furthermore, we are now within 3% of meeting our state’s aggressive 2020 GHG emission’s goal and progress continues.

Boeing’s goal is to maintain greenhouse gas emissions at or below 2012 levels by 2017. Before launching its new initiative, its CO2 emissions had decreased by 9% starting in 2007.

Our state already has one of the highest rates of public transit use and carpooling anywhere. In 2013, Boeing employees alone reduced commuting trips to and from work by more than 325 million miles, roughly equivalent to more than 679 round trips to the moon. In the average month, a quarter of Boeing’s 81,000 employees in Washington use an alternative method to driving alone.

The Pacific Northwest is blessed with an abundance of “greenhouse gas free” hydroelectric power. Even though roughly three fourths of our electricity comes from our network of dams, our state’s electric sector reduced CO2 emissions by 18% since 1990.

Wind power has helped. According to the American Wind Energy Association, our state’s wind farms save 2.4 million metric tons of carbon from being emitted yearly.

Despite this progress, Inslee is pushing ahead. If he succeeds, he will remove one of our state’s key competitive advantages—-low cost energy.

None of us wants China’s choking air pollution, but going overboard with a battery of new state regulations isn’t the answer. They would be harmful to everyone, especially to the poor, elderly and those on fixed incomes.

It would be wise for Inslee to recognize what already has been accomplished. We can achieve more by working together and encouraging progress rather than slapping on another set restrictive government edicts.

 

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at theBrunells@msn.com.