My View: Rural areas need alternative to cap, trade
I started out picking strawberries at 6 years old; I graduated to picking black caps at 10. From then, I hauled hay and worked on a dairy.
At 15, I paid cash for my first tractor. By the time I graduated from high school, I had all the implements to pull behind my tractor and a combine — paid for in cash!
After graduating, the logging bug got me. I worked for several local loggers, then went to a logging camp in Southeast Alaska. I saved every penny and paid cash for my first logging machine at 22.
Today, 38 years later, I'm in the fight of my life.
When I first heard about House Bill 2020, the 2019 cap-and-trade bill, it caught my attention. I read a two-page flyer about the bill and thought "this sounds great!"
I wanted to know more, so I printed off all 98 pages of the bill and flipped to the last page. An "emergency clause." I found out that an "emergency clause" means that Oregonians can't refer the bill to the voters for approval.
HB 2020 was so open-ended and vague, and had so many government agencies involved, that I was having a hard time understanding it. I started asking around and discovered most of the other business owners I talked to couldn't understand it either. That bothered me.
You better believe it when I say we need to protect our home and planet. But taxing and regulating the timber operators out of business is no way to accomplish that task. Fortunately, Timber Unity was formed.
We rallied twice in Salem during the 2019 legislative session to voice our concerns about the cap-and-trade bill. We were successful, in part because our rallies were done in a peaceful and orderly fashion.
After the Legislature went home and House Bill 2020 was defeated, I spent $450,000 on a clean-emission harvesting machine. I'm starting to wonder if I would have been better off just to keep my old machine with high hours and mechanical issues.
Most Oregonians don't appreciate that we already have thousands of carbon-eating machines in Oregon (fir trees). They work all day, every day, unregulated by the state of Oregon. I've harvested thousands of those trees and replanted many more than I have harvested — it's the law, and it works well.
Unfortunately, the Oregon Legislature is back with Senate Bill 1530. It's estimated that gas prices would rise from 19 to 72 cents in the first year, with prices increasing higher as each year passes.
Imagine paying an additional 72 cents a gallon for gas in the first year alone. For companies like mine, the increased gas costs would bankrupt us. Plus, our utility rates would rise by double digits.
The goal of the legislators sponsoring the cap-and-trade bill is to force Oregonians away from gas-powered engines and into electric vehicles.
I have no problem with electric vehicles, but they don't make electric machines for my industry, and most Oregonians can't afford an electric car for their day-to-day activities. In rural Oregon, electric cars are difficult to use, due to the long distances that people travel each day. We just aren't the same as people in big cities with short commutes.
If you add the costs of a new cap-and-trade bill to the corporate activity tax that the Oregon Legislature approved last year, companies like mine won't make it. I've already missed paying myself many times last year after paying my employees and business expenses, because of increased taxes and fees from the legislatures. I don't know how much more "anti-business" I can take.
I don't want a handout — I just don't want to be run out of business because of new taxes and fees crafted by the Legislature each year. Please, give small businesses a break.
Now that we're in the short session and the same legislators are back with the new cap-and-trade bill, the best family-wage jobs in rural Oregon are on the line. On Feb. 6, Timber Unity held another rally in Salem; 1,100 trucks and 10,000 rural Oregonians, all concerned stewards of the land, and all petrified of losing rural jobs. We'll keep coming back as long as we have to!
We all care about the environment, but cap-and-trade is a bad idea. If the Oregon Legislature is going to pass Senate Bill 1530, the least they can do is send the bill to the voters. Once they understand what the bill does to their rural neighbors, they'll join us and demand a better solution.
Mike Pihl, owner of Mike Pihl Logging in Vernonia, is the president of Timber Unity.
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