Climate change laws and their impact on Oregon

By Jim Welsh, Oregon Beef Producer Magazine

Oregon Cattlemen Association,
The race for Alternative Energy and the race for legislative responses to Global Warming (politically correct term: Climate Change) are headed for an uncertain finish line.  The finish line could mean an end to the race or an end to our great economy with economic changes that may be and may not be beneficial in the short term or long term.  Each issue, in and of itself, has the ability to create a very significant economic effect if government intervenes or if they just sits on their hands. 

If government can control itself there can be significant and positive outcomes to alternative energy development and further pollution control and reduction which, in turn, addresses Global Warming, Green House Gas Emissions and Climate Change.  The great thing about this country and our political process is that usually quick and radical changes are mitigated by a very slow and methodical legislative process but, the “Global Warming” craze, hype and hysteria is making history with a record beating legislative pace at the local, state and national levels.

What does this have to do with government in Oregon?
The 2007 Oregon Legislature enacted legislation that commissioned the Oregon Global Warming Commission (OGWC).  Their mission outlined in (HB 3543 B) establishes greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals and directs commission to recommend ways to coordinate local and state efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and creates Oregon Climate Change Research Institute (OCCRI).  This legislation represents Oregon government’s effort to addresses “Global Warming” (air pollution control and reduction).

Many proponents of “Global Warming” contend that our human existence on this planet is creating Global Warming by the way we live and do business.  It is the human “foot print,” whether it be carbon or numerous other things (which will be created and also over exaggerated if carbon doesn’t work), that impose on more important ecological considerations which take precedence over human existence and activities.

“Pollution control and reduction” was the mantra from the sixties through the nineties and was for the most part based on science and technological developments to help rid the world of the negative aspects of pollution.  Indeed, there were pollution sins committed by a long list of individuals and industry involved in making a profit without being a good steward of the environment.  We remind ourselves and others that farmers, ranchers, loggers, developers, manufacturers, etc. do not want polluted air, land, and water any more than the so called “environmentalists.”

There have been many reforms in the name of saving the environment  made with and without government help.  But, it must be noted that government help was the modes operandi for those working hard to save the environment.  And, if government was too slow and uncooperative then the courts were, and still are, used to achieve the goals of the environmental community.

Al Gore, and all his compatriots, hold the belief that humans are to blame for “Global Warming” and that it will take drastic intervention on the part of humans to keep the planet from perishing due to “Global Warming.”  Yes, humans are to blame for polluting some of the environment but, “Global Warming?”  If “Global Warming” is the result of the earth’s temperature rising due to “Green House Gas Emissions” (too much CO2) then it is obvious why some humans believe only humans can and should do something about it.  But, there are other humans that believe there isn’t enough good science involved in the “Global Warming” discussions.

Many of us believe this is where government has gotten ahead of good science in determining that “reducing each and everyone’s carbon footprint” will be the solution to “Global Warming.”  More and more government programs and intervention are being proposed and developed without verifiable science for support and without allowing free market development to lead the way.

With verifiable science we have determined that the earth’s temperature has fluctuated over thousands of years, but truth and facts are not what make up the politics of this era.  We are facing more government intervention without determining the cost vs. benefit for the proposed programs and intervention.  Many of us believe we can continue to fight pollution and protect our water, land, air, wildlife and habitat at sustainable levels for generations to come without excessive government intervention and exorbitant costs to our economy and social fabric.

Alternative Energy:
Here we are today, with good reasons to invest in alternative energy and the subject is getting more traction, than in past years, due to rising cost of petroleum due to rising demand, speculative futures investing, and lack of cooperation from OPEC.  Not that there weren’t numerous politicians interested in alternative energy development and energy independence for the United States within the last 10 to 15 years.  President Bush sent Congress an energy package that invested in further development of off-shore and Arctic oil, along with solar and wind investment and refinery development.  Congress didn’t agree with the President on off-shore and Arctic drilling and refinery development and failed to help when it made sense for government to help!  Go figure!

Now we are experiencing government intervention and lack of intervention in its’ worst form.  Congress wanting more legislation concerning “Global Warming” and they are sitting on their hands as the price of petroleum based fuels and products increase every day.  With immediate action allowing oil exploration and development off shore and in Alaska, along with refinery development, it would be upwards of  5-10  years to alleviate some of the demand problems here in the U.S.A. and help for the move towards energy independence.  But, the alternative is not a pretty picture.

There is an increasing demand for alternative fuels and energy so shouldn’t we let the market do it’s job?  Most, common sense, individuals believe that should be the case.  Look what has happened with solar and wind energy development.  The technology, after years of research and development, has made the two energy sources almost competitive with the most economical renewable energy source, hydro power, and very competitive with natural gas, combined turbine, electricity generators.  But, the hype and hysteria over “Global Warming” has overtaken common sense and verifiable science.  All the proponents (Al’s Gang) are convinced there must be something done about it immediately!

So, now we have the race to “Energy Independence” with the advent of Bio-fuels leading the way.  It looks like the hype and hysteria over Bio-fuels will create an unnatural and unmanageable market with more acres going into Bio-fuels crop stock and less to essential livestock and human food products. All this hype and hysteria is the reason for unnecessary legislation and over investment for Bio-fuels development when the cost of producing one gallon of Bio-fuel has been more expensive than the production of one gallon of petroleum based fuel.  Concerning Bio-fuels, OCA’s policy reads, “The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association is opposed to any legislation pertaining to bio-fuels in Oregon that will harm the cattle industry.”

Where is the science?

It seems there is some science used by the proponents and opponents of “Global Warming” but the proponents have a tendency to leave important information out when looking at the earth’s temperature and chronological history.   Furthermore, the news media has not taken a balanced approach to reporting the scientific story.  The individual scientists have not done a good job of giving facts and good science without including or giving in to political agendas.  Without fair and reasonable scientific reporting the layman is caught up in a political conundrum.

The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association has a very important policy on the “definition of science.”  It reads, “that the definition of science is the systematic enterprise of gathering knowledge about the universe and organizing and condensing that knowledge into testable laws and theories. Furthermore, the success and credibility of science are anchored in the willingness of scientist to: (1) Expose their ideas and results to independent testing and replication by other scientist, which requires the complete and open exchange of data, procedures and materials. (2) Abandon or modify accepted conclusions when confronted with more complete or reliable or observational evidence. (3) Adherence to these principles provides a mechanism for self-correction that is the foundation of the credibility of science.”  It seems that this definition has not been applied to the “Global Warming” issue.

It is easy to convince and fool a lot of people when the scientific community has not made their case, free of political pressure.  It is not easy to refute “Global Warming” contentions if you don’t know or understand the earth science and history involved.  The contention that present levels of C02 are bad for the world is not scientifically based and those who believe this are not heard.  There are other man made emissions that the scientific community has listed as harmful and there is agreement that these are more harmful than CO2..

What must be done?

It is very important that reasonable people get educated on the subject and then share it with friends, family and legislators.  There are a number of websites that include a good science based argument concerning “Global Warming” such as, Cato Institute, The Heartland Institute, and  Citizens for Sound Economy.  The agriculture community and others must insist that honest and accurate information be reported based on verifiable science with the  inclusion of social and economic implications before any legislation is developed.  The agriculture coalition in Oregon has agreed to work together to address the “Global Warming” issue with a “Climate Change” monitoring group that will meet on a regular schedule and invite other like minded and interested business, groups and associations.

The agriculture community is working together to provide a solid approach to the excitement around “Alternative Energy.”  Most of the agriculture community agrees that it is a laudable goal to get to “Energy Independence” in the U.S. and that we should have been there a long time ago.  It is also important that the mad rush to get there now must include a reasonable and affordable approach without negative impacts to agriculture overall and to any individual sector of agriculture at the expense of others.   We can not afford to panic but we must be prepared to counter further legislative efforts that are not based on accurate and honest information, and verifiable science.

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