Johnson: The cap-and-trade shell game
Mike Pihl, well-known Northwest logger, describes his opposition to the cap-and-trade bill considered by the Legislature in his recent Citizen's View article (Feb. 19, 2020), due to the higher fuel costs and the loss of jobs in rural Oregon. Peter Hayes' recent Citizen's View (March 4, 2020) describes the need for action to address global warming and notes the support that family forest landowners have for the bill.
Both Pihl and Hayes make good points. I would like to offer another perspective, focusing on the little discussed "trade" aspect of the bill.
Simply put, businesses that emit amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) under their "cap" would be able to sell their carbon "credits" to those businesses who emit more than their "cap." This is the "trade" component of the bill. Forests are also part of the equation.
Forests do a great job of absorbing carbon (also called "sequestration") and converting it into oxygen, thereby helping to clean the air we breathe. In recent years, and rather amazingly, a market for a forest's ability to capture and store carbon has developed. Large-scale industrial generators of carbon (and others), wanting to reduce their carbon footprint, can buy or sell carbon "credits" or "offsets." This new carbon market is still evolving, with standards, requirements, tracking and monitoring that is not yet clear.
While I'm not opposed to new and innovative ways for forest landowners to generate revenue, selling their forest's carbon-storing capabilities via carbon "credits" will likely compromise future management options, perhaps for many decades. It may obligate forest landowners to radically long rotation ages or even prohibit harvesting. This will also affect how many forest industry jobs are available in the future.
When it's already economically practical (and legally required) for forest landowners to replant after harvesting, and to manage their forests well, why should anyone want to pay for something that Mother Nature (and forest landowners) are already doing? Answer: It's a way for large-scale polluters to defer dealing with the real problem.
Should large-scale industrial generators of carbon be allowed to buy a "credit" or "offset" in order to continue emitting carbon? One could argue the cost of buying an "offset" will ultimately drive companies to reduce or eliminate their emissions. That's the hope, anyway. These costs will likely be passed on to consumers. Will emissions change?
I think carbon dioxide emissions should be reduced or eliminated at the source, without creating an entirely new carbon "credit" industry. Enabling large-scale carbon emitters to "buy their way out" of the problem is simply playing a pollution shell-game, and an expensive one at that. This is why I oppose the cap-and-trade bill.
Dave Johnson was ODF's Forest Grove District Forester for 17 years. He is retired and now lives in Gaston.
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