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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Sen. Mark Schoesler: Inslee and friends still haven’t gotten message on carbon fees and taxes

Sen. Mark Schoesler

Someone once said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Perhaps this applies to a certain governor and some legislators and their proposals to punish Washingtonians with carbon fees and taxes, not only the visible taxes and fees but the “hidden” ones as well.

Twice in the past three years, Washington voters decisively rejected efforts to impose carbon fees or taxes in our state: I-732 in 2016 and I-1631 last fall. Despite this clear message, Democrats keep wanting people to pay more for the energy they need, even though Washington already is a national leader in “clean energy” – energy with no emissions.

Unfortunately, these repeated slap-downs by voters haven’t persuaded Gov. Inslee and his allies to end their quest to force Washingtonians to swallow costly new energy policies.

A so-called ”clean energy” bill recently was passed by the Senate. This proposal, Senate Bill 5116, is a top priority for Inslee, who coincidentally announced the same day that he is running for president – on a platform seemingly based only on climate change.

Inslee wants Washington to be completely transitioned to 100-percent renewable energy by 2045. That means no coal, natural gas or oil. This might not seem like a concern since this deadline is 25 years away. But our power rates will rise significantly by then, and there is no guarantee we’ll have a reliable system providing energy consumers with power 24/7. By the time we realize what this energy mandate has done to us, Inslee and other politicians who forced it down our throats will be long out of office.

The state’s last coal-burning plant is scheduled to close in a few years. But natural gas will still be needed. Two main sources of renewable energy, wind and solar, can’t produce power when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t in the sky, and there isn’t technology to store the energy created by either. We need natural gas as a constant, reliable energy source, especially at night. (Our state’s plentiful hydroelectric power is also 24/7, but to some clean-energy advocates, it’s not “renewable” enough.)

The irony is, Washington already is a clean-energy leader, both nationally and globally, with 75 percent of its power coming from zero-emission sources. Most states and industrialized nations are less than 40 percent. Washington’s energy portfolio (counting hydro) includes nearly five times more renewable energy than the national average.

We don’t need Inslee’s politically driven bill. It makes no sense to unilaterally put Washingtonians through some environmental-utopian transformation of our state’s energy system – not when all it will do is cause prices to sharply rise, hurting low- and middle-income families, and putting our businesses at a competitive disadvantage. And it won’t have any measurable effect on the world’s climate.

There’s more. The Senate is considering a low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) bill recently passed by the House along party lines. It should be called the “fuel tax mandate” bill. House Bill 1110 would direct the state Department of Ecology to establish a clean fuels program to limit greenhouse gas emissions per unit of transportation fuel energy to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2028 and 20 percent below 2017 levels by 2035. Aircraft, vessels and railroad locomotives are excluded.

If this bill becomes law, the price of gas in Washington will skyrocket. California has reported its LCFS programs adds 16 cents to a gallon of fuel. This proposal would raise costs for shipping goods and products to and from ports, and other locations. This would hurt Washington’s economy, especially agriculture.

Rural families might be the ones hurt most by LCFS since they usually have to drive long distances for work, school, sports, medical appointments and other things.

What’s most frustrating about the low carbon fuel standard proposal is that it acts like a gas tax, but without any benefit to roads. At least with the state gas tax, you know that your money is going to help roads and highways.

Between the governor’s “clean energy” scheme and the low carbon fuel standard plan, it seems clear the voters’ feelings about carbon fees have been ignored. As a result, Washington families could feel financial pain soon and far into the future.

Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, serves the 9th Legislative District.