Commentary: Inslee vows to give state a clean fuel standard

  • Thursday, January 30, 2020 1:30am
  • Opinion

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee badly wants a clean fuels standard in Washington.

He came close nine months ago but legislation he embraced and House Democrats approved lapsed in the Senate Transportation Committee.

Inslee is trying again, with basically the same bill, confident of achieving a different result.

“I think it is much more likely to pass this Legislature this year,” he said.

It’s not obvious why. At least not yet.

The same moderate Democrat, Sen. Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens, is running the transportation committee. And he still views a low carbon fuel standard as a pricey and ineffective tool for reducing tailpipe emissions, the largest source of climate-damaging pollutants in Washington.

Enough of Hobbs’ Democratic colleagues apparently shared this position last session to deter caucus leaders from pulling the bill out of the committee and to the Senate floor for a vote.

Caucus membership has changed a bit. Gone is Guy Palumbo of Maltby, a moderate vote. In his place is Sen. Derek Stanford of Bothell, a progressive. Maybe that’s enough to swing the tide in this year’s session.

We’ll likely find out. This is a top priority for Inslee.

On Tuesday, he drew a line in the legislative sand and branded those on the other side — regardless of political party — as deniers of climate change.

“For those who say that we should not take action, I say climate inaction is just as deadly as climate denial,” he said in his State of the State Address. “This is a year for climate action.”

Hobbs is not a climate denier.

Hobbs seems to be more of a climate practicalist. He knows it will cost money to save the planet for future generations. He just thinks those paying should be able to reap some benefits now.

To that end, he came up with Forward Washington. It’s a 10-year, $16-plus billion package of transportation improvements largely paid for with a 6-cent hike in the gas tax and new fees on carbon emissions and development. He said he’d swap cap-and-trade for the carbon fee, if it would help win support.

He argues it’s the best available means at the moment for generating enough revenue to undertake major road projects, like replacing the I-5 Columbia River bridge and U.S. 2 trestle, complying with a federal court order to eliminate fish passage barriers, and curbing tailpipe emissions.

It’s got critics in all caucuses, plus Inslee.

Hobbs’ preference for carbon fees, which Washington voters have rejected twice, or a cap-and-trade system, which California has instituted, are influenced by a December 2018 review of California’s suite of climate policies by its nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s office.

That study found “a broad consensus” among economists that pricing carbon with a cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax “is the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions. In contrast, some of the major policies aimed at reducing emissions in the transportation sector—such as the low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) and financial incentives for ZEVs (zero emission vehicles) —appear to be much more costly.

California’s lawmakers “might want to consider relying more heavily on cap-and-trade” to achieve its emission reduction targets, authors of the study recommend.

There was a time Inslee did champion cap-and-trade and a carbon fee. But he kept getting rebuffed by the Legislature. He’s moved on and is focused on a clean fuel standard as the best available weapon against climate change.

“Washingtonians deserve clean fuels,” he told the Legislature. “And I want to make sure they get them.”

As of Wednesday, he had 57 days left to do it.

Jerry Cornfield is a political writer for Sound Publishing. jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos

More in Opinion

Clyde Ford speaks at Bellevue First United Methodist Church. One of the things he spoke about was how other countries have approached the topic of race and racism. Samantha Pak/staff photo
We need to, but how do we talk about race? | Windows and Mirrors

Racism is still an issue in this country. How can we have constructive conversations to move forward and heal?

Commentary: Inslee vows to give state a clean fuel standard

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee badly wants a clean fuels standard in… Continue reading

Business perspective for the new year | Financial advice column

A monthly business column from a local financial adviser.

United Methodist Church: To split or not to split | Windows and Mirrors

Local clergy from Eastside United Methodist Churches weigh in on the church’s future regarding LGBTQ+ inclusion.

Honor those who went before | OPINION

These officials and many others served with distinction even on the occasions when you disagreed with them.

Come for the conversation, stay for the friendships | Windows and Mirrors

Talk Time classes allow English language learners to practice their speaking and conversation skills.

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Despite ruling on Public Records Act, we need to keep a close eye on Olympia

Washington Supreme Court upholds that state legislators are subject to the Public Records Act.

Republicans chose political power over the Constitution | OPINION

I’m astounded and appalled that members of both parties in Congress were… Continue reading

Samantha Pak/staff photos
                                Above, Josh Gibson is in Bellevue College’s Neurodiversity Navigators program and it has helped him stay in school after five unsuccessful attempts. Below, Abby Leaver enrolled at Bellevue College after learning about the Neurodiversity Navigators program.
Helping neurodivergent students navigate higher education | Windows and Mirrors

The Neurodiversity Navigators program at Bellevue College offers various services to students who are on the autism spectrum.

When asked their opinion on contract talks, they were silent | OPINION

A 2017 law lets lawmakers offer negotiation topics. But a bipartisan panel didn’t do so this week.

Changing systems doesn’t happen overnight | Windows and Mirrors

It’s been a year since the Menchie’s incident and here is what the city of Kirkland has been working on since then.

Our newspapers have many reasons to be thankful | EDITORIAL

Changes have had positive impacts, readers offering support.