Bentz: Cap and trade likely

Oregon state Sen. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, speaks to the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association convention Dec. 1 in Bend. He told the group that passage of a cap and trade program is likely in the legislature.

BEND, Ore. — Cap and trade is all but certain to pass the Democrat-controlled Oregon Legislature in 2019, whether rural Oregonians like it nor not, says state Sen. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario.

Bentz provided an update of cap and trade legislation Dec. 1 at the Oregon Cattlemen's Association annual convention in Bend, Ore., telling conservative ranchers they must realize their political limitations and focus on making the law work for them.

"You can stand and yell, but it's not going to stop cap and trade from passing," Bentz said.

Under cap and trade, the state would implement a limit on carbon emissions beginning in 2021, which gradually lowers over the course of 30 years. Companies can buy credits on the open market to exceed the limit, and money raised by the program would go into a funding pool for climate-friendly initiatives.

Multiple agricultural groups — including the Oregon Cattlemen's Association, Oregon Farm Bureau and Northwest Food Processors Association — oppose cap and trade, arguing the proposal will raise fuel prices without making a dent in global carbon emissions.

The bill aims to reduce Oregon's emissions from 55 million tons of carbon dioxide each year, to 10 million tons. But as Bentz was quick to point out, those savings are 0.125 percent of global emissions, which total 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually.

"This will not resolve climate issues," he said.

Meanwhile, Bentz said fuel providers will buy allowances to exceed the carbon cap at $16 per ton of carbon dioxide, which he calculated will increase the price of gas by 14 cents per gallon in the program's first year.

That does not mean Oregon should do nothing to address climate change, Bentz said. According to NASA, the average global temperature has risen by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880, and the last four years have ranked as the warmest on record. The results are reduced snowpack, increasing drought and bigger wildfires burning across the West.

Bentz said lawmakers should focus on policies that resonate globally, without hindering local farms and businesses. He previously advocated a revenue-neutral carbon tax, but the Legislature, where Democrats hold a supermajority, appears set on putting a price on carbon instead.

Bentz said the odds of cap and trade passing the 2019 Legislature are 95 percent.

"We Republicans are not in control," he said. "I cannot stop this bill. This bill is going to pass."

The bill language has been postponed, Bentz said, after Gov. Kate Brown released her budget and policy agenda that proposes creating a new Oregon Climate Authority to take the place of the Department of Energy and Carbon Policy Office. The Oregon Climate Authority will include the cap and trade marketplace, greenhouse gas emissions reporting and accounting.

The question now, Bentz said, is how they can design the program to do the least amount of economic damage possible. He pointed to markets for offset projects that would allow ranchers and private timber owners to sell "sequestration credits," locking carbon into trees and rangeland, as a possible resource.

Bentz said the time has come to "stop with the outrage, and stop with the screaming," and instead focus on how do we craft the bill correctly.

"Let's figure out how to make this situation work for us," he said. "That's what I'm trying to do."

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