Spokane Journal of Business

Gov. Inslee ignores clean-air gains


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Just before Gov. Jay Inslee 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 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.

The cap rule enables state government to collect fees from utilities, manufacturers, and even universities that exceed carbon emission limits set by the Department of Ecology. It drives the costs up for everyone.

Energy Strategies, a Utah-based energy consulting firm, found that if Inslee gets his way, 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 workers, farmers, and businesses advocating for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, reports that our state’s industrial sector emits 21 percent less CO2 today than it did in 1990.

Industries from food processing to aviation are using new technology to reduce all greenhouse gases while creating jobs and allowing our state’s economy to grow. 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 percent lower than the national average even though our state’s population grew by 500,000 from 2005 to 2011. Furthermore, we are now within 3 percent of meeting our state’s aggressive 2020 GHG emissions 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 percent 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 has reduced CO2 emissions by 18 percent 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 by slapping on more restrictive government edicts.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, columnist, and former president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization. 

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