Oregon Governor Kate Brown directed the state police to pursue Republican state senators dodging a vote on a watershed climate plan. As NBC News reported, the carbon cap-and-trade proposal would be the second of its kind in the country.
Republicans oppose the proposal, which seeks to drastically lower Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Instead, the minority GOP would rather take their chances with a public vote in a state divided by urban liberal bastions and more conservative rural areas.
Talks with Democrats crumbled earlier this week. The conflict spurred many Republicans to flee Salem and even the state with the police on their heels. Democrats hold an 18 to 12 majority in the Senate. However, they need 20 members in attendance for a quorum.
Ironically, Republicans feel that avoiding their job is somehow doing their job. “Protesting cap-and-trade by walking out today represents our constituency and exactly how we should be doing our job,” Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger, Jr. said.
What is Cap-and-Trade?
Conservatives oppose the cap-and-trade program that would put a ceiling on greenhouse gasses. The program will also sell off emission “allowances” for every ton of carbon industries intend to release.
Moreover, the bill would lower the cap over time to nudge businesses away from fossil fuels. The legislation seeks to drop emissions south of 45 percent of 1990 levels by 2035, and below 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050.
Democrats tout the bill as an effective way to cut emissions and invest in rural and low-income communities’ ability to tackle climate change. Plus, the plan has the support of environmental groups, some trade unions, and the farmworkers union. This shows that the schism between urban and rural is not as black and white as Republicans contend.
Conversely, the opposition asserts the plan would widen the rift between the predominantly liberal urban areas and the more conservative rural regions. They also argue that the bill would hurt small businesses, truckers, and the logging industry by raising fuel prices. A small group of loggers organized outside the Capitol to protest the proposal.
The Consequences of Climate Change
Self-employed logger Bridger Hasbrouck, 32, stated that the bill would devastate his business as he uses diesel fuel to power all of his logging implements. “These bills would impose regulations that would take trucks off the road that people are using to earn their living,” Hasbrouck said. “The American dream of owning a small business, it starts to go away.”
The seemingly unbridgeable divide between saving the planet and putting food on the table is perhaps the most delicate and poignant climate change issue. However, if actions like Oregon’s cap-and-trade aren’t taken, there won’t be an “American Dream.”
A recent study warns that if emissions aren’t curbed dramatically now, continued warming could cause the Greenland Ice Sheet to collapse. The sea level rise this melting would set into motion could inundate major U.S. cities. As a result, places like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New Orleans would become submerged. Dire consequences like those would be an “American Nightmare.”