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Inslee needs to light a fire on climate change

Commentary: Will the governor lead the kind of aggressive effort required to meet the threats of global warming?
Gov. Jay Inslee testifies at a legislative hearing.

Gov. Jay Inslee testifies at a legislative hearing. John Stang

Second of two articles

When Jay Inslee was a congressman, he authored a blueprint for a new moonshot for clean energy. He called it Apollo’s Fire

Inslee called to the American spirit embodied in John Kennedy’s 1961 commitment to land a man on the moon before the end of the decade. 

“He wrote a new vision statement for the country,” noted Inslee and co-author Bracken Hendricks. “He created a national consensus that we were going to do whatever it took to reach the national goal.”

The book lined out a vision for investment in new energy technologies such as solar, and for amping up energy efficiency to the max. 

“We don’t need an incremental increase,” the authors wrote. “As with the original Apollo Project much of the capital will flow from the private sector, but it will take federal investment and policy to move that capital toward new technologies that solve these problems.”

Inslee pushed for a New Apollo Energy Project in Congress, but made little headway in that recalcitrant body. Now he is governor of a state that, like most, is coping with budget stresses. That makes the regulatory approach of capping carbon emissions appear as the more open avenue for progress on climate chage. But as the guy who wrote the book, Inslee knows that carbon cap and trade alone simply does not cut the mustard.

A carbon cap-and-trade market would limit economic impacts by giving major energy users free permits to emit carbon for some years. Thus wood products, aerospace and utility industries would likely be largely or nearly exempt from paying carbon fees. The measure would include a firm cap that would set an absolute limit on carbon emissions. But the tighter the cap becomes, the more pressure there is on energy prices. After all, a cap is intended to raise fossil fuel prices to tip investment to low-carbon energy. As the cap grows tighter, industry will lose its free pass and must start paying fees to emit carbon. So political pressure to bust the cap will increase.  More opportunities for Republicans.

Initiative 937, a clean energy meassure offers a parallel. Voter approval in 2006 only set up a never-ending legislative fight with utilities seeking to dilute the electricity standard requiring that 15 percent of their power eventually will come from renewable resources. Claiming cost impacts, they have met with some success and the pressure is only intensifying as the standard moves toward full implementation in 2020.

As a result, environmental and climate community lobbying resources in Olympia are tied down in a defensive struggle each legislative session. They would have to staff up even more to defend a climate change bill that Inslee might win from the Legislature or through a ballot measure. Powerful interests would do all they can to undermine success. When the next recession hits, remember that mantra: job-killing energy tax. 

Policymakers know this, and so will only pass carbon pricing policies they understand will hold the economy harmless. Political support could not be maintained otherwise. So carbon policy that induces modest price increases might have a chance of enactment.  But this also means the incentives to shift to clean and efficient alternatives will be similarly modest. If costs accelerate to the point they have negative economic impacts, political support will dissolve. 

This contradicts solid climate science indicating that global carbon emissions must begin to rapidly decline this decade to avert catastrophic climate change. In his article, “Assessing ‘Dangerous Climate Change,’ ” climate scientist James Hansen has laid out a scenario to restore climate stability by the end of the century. It would hold total human carbon emissions to 500 billion metric tons and take 100 billion more from the atmosphere into trees, plants and soils. That would bring atmospheric carbon concentrations down to levels at which we could conceive of saving coastal cities from sea level rise, for example. The scenario requires annual emissions cuts of 6 percent starting almost immediately.


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Comments:

Posted Thu, May 15, 8:27 a.m. Inappropriate

Apollo's Fire? The Governor reported $14.00 in royalties during his campaign tax release stunt.

Cameron

Posted Thu, May 15, 9:08 a.m. Inappropriate

Apollo's Fire is currently 1,066,597th on Amazon's best sellers rank. It has three out of five stars by a total of 12 reviewers.

BlueLight

Posted Sat, May 17, 11:45 p.m. Inappropriate

Ha ha ha ha! Oh man, ain't that just a classic? Inslee? One and done, Governor McGinn!

NotFan

Posted Thu, May 15, 9:03 a.m. Inappropriate

Give it a rest.

Lincoln

Posted Thu, May 15, 9:06 a.m. Inappropriate

I think Jay Inslee is great and I am thankful he is working hard to address climate change and I have been working for years in my paid and volunteer work to do my part to reduce climate change. But I strongly disagree with the statement that “He created a national consensus that we were going to do whatever it took to reach the national goal.” Never in this country have we had a national consensus to reach the goal of stopping climate change. The actions of most are far less than what is needed.

I am a fan of a revenue neutral carbon tax, not cap and trade. And I think you brought up a key problem of a non-revenue neutral cap and trade or carbon tax "remember that mantra: job-killing energy tax." It likely would kill jobs unless it is revenue neutral. In other words reduce other business taxes an equal amount to the cap and trade or carbon tax. We should tax pollution more and business and jobs less. And if we don't find some variation of that way to make it happen, it won't happen.

Posted Thu, May 15, 9:21 a.m. Inappropriate

Perhaps if we didn't spend as much on Watersheds with companies like Watershed LLC we could put the money toward "reducing climate change".

Cameron

Posted Thu, May 15, 9:46 a.m. Inappropriate

Apollo's Fiore has been out a few years. I wouldn't expect it to be a big seller at the moment. The national consensus to which they referred was the one that got us to the Moon. I'm old enough to remember. There was a national consensus crystallized by Kennedy.

As for a revenue-neutral carbon tax, it is hard to see how it gets the job done alone. Wereally need investment to bring down the costs of low-carbon energy, or the political consensus for assessing a fee on carbon equal to the carbon reduction need will never be achieved. That goes for tax or auction revenues in a cap-and-trade or cap-and-dividend. The climate movement has been way to focused on market-based tools without really addressing the necessity for large new public investments. We built the computer and aerospace industries with public investments during WWII and the Cold War. We need the same level of commitment to fight World War Climate.

Posted Thu, May 15, 12:06 p.m. Inappropriate

Inslee wants to build more passenger jets, that's for sure. And he has not come out in favor of any broad based energy taxes; on gasoline, diesel fuel, electricity usage (I think I read that 13% of Washington's electricity is produced by coal fired generators). What he wants is some rather obscure tax that raises the cost of the above items that will not be immediately visible as a tax. A tax on producers that the consuming end users may not be directly aware of …but also maybe able to subliminally blame the producers and distributors for the increased cost. A carbon policy that does not encourage people to use less gasoline, heating oil, natural gas and to travel less is kind of a stealth policy, a make-believe show of resolve that really must be hidden from the electorate. How can we solve anything that way?

kieth

Posted Sat, May 17, 11:48 p.m. Inappropriate

Solve? This is "progressive" Washington. It's all about the gesture!

NotFan

Posted Thu, May 15, 12:45 p.m. Inappropriate

A statewide stakeholder process. Again? When in trouble appoint another blue ribbon commission.

Push the regulatory authority you think you have and let someone challenge it. I don't know if I would like the proposal but it is at least a substantive action.

Posted Thu, May 15, 1:35 p.m. Inappropriate

More than a blue ribbon commission. The kind of New Apollo Roadmap for which I'm calling is exactly not a commission report to go on a shelf, but a map of steps to arrive at a destination, and who must take them. Members agree on an action plan and their own organization's role in the action plan, and work within their own organizations to see the actions are carried out. I actually helped lead such an effort called Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest - www.safnw.com - that brought together groups from Weyerhaeuser to USDA to Natural Resources Defense Council. Because groups got together and individual members acted, there are $80 million in USDA-funded research going on in the region right now to explore how to make sustainable aviation fuels from wood waste, hybrid poplars and such. That includes dealing with all the environmental concerns. It is one of the largest aviation biofuels R&D; efforts on the planet. When people get together to hammer out problems, and want to make stuff happen, it happens.

Posted Thu, May 15, 1:35 p.m. Inappropriate

Even if Inslee was able to make Washington a carbon-free utopia (better ban pop and beer!) the effect on global climate change would be pretty damned near zero. Climatologists keep telling us "climate isn't weather." One state would have a better chance of controlling its own weather than controlling the world's climate. Why not do something useful that will benefit the citizens of Washington, like fighting acidification of Puget Sound? That's something that might be addressed locally. But to imagine that, say, Spokane, Walla Walla or Vancouver can have an offsetting effect on the carbon emissions of China, Russia or India is laughable.

dbreneman

Posted Thu, May 15, 7:38 p.m. Inappropriate

Geez.. Abandon all hope all ye here who from the sound of these personal writings must be on some medicinal or legally recreational happy product.

Wells

Posted Thu, May 15, 7:52 p.m. Inappropriate

It would be all well and good if we could address acidification of Puget Sound locally but we cannot as the source of that acidification is Carbon Dioxide going into solution from the atmosphere. Thus acidification of our waters is tied to other actions and any change is going to occur over hundreds of centuries given the amounts of CO2 we have pumped into the Carbon cycle.

Lars8

Posted Thu, May 15, 11:40 p.m. Inappropriate

"Hundreds of centuries"? Are you suggesting that damage done to the environment in one century will take millennia to counteract? Based on what facts? There are ways to mitigate the acidity in the water. Since attempting to change world climate locally is pointless, would you have us ignore the attainable solutions and just lie down and die? It seems as though there are some people who might want civilization to collapse. I'd suggest that such an outcome is not in their best interest, because it will threaten funding for light rail.

dbreneman

Posted Sat, May 17, 11:30 p.m. Inappropriate

There is no "acidifcation of Puget Sound." The stories in the Seattle Times that that effect are laughable fiction.

NotFan

Posted Fri, May 16, 5:57 a.m. Inappropriate

What we can do in one state is take leadership. My article calls for an effort to understand what it would take to take our state to become near carbon-free. It is wiuth the unbderstanding we cannot do that on our own. It will take a national initiative. I have essentially called on Jay Inslee to take a role as a national political leader on climate change from the state level, leveraging a state New Apollo Roadmap to inspire other states to do their own roadmaps, and driving for climate action at all levels including national.

Acidification can be stemmed by absorbing carbon in trees, plants and soils. Acidification happens because CO2 chemically reacts with water. If the same CO2 is absorbed in vegetation through photosynthesis, it will nbot have that effect even if plant matter reaches the ocean. Washington state and the Northwest have a globally significant role to play here, because our forests are some of the greatest carbon-storing ecosystems on Earth. An initaitive to re-grow our forests could soak much carbon from the atmosphere and help save our waters from acidification.

Posted Fri, May 16, 11 a.m. Inappropriate

"Carbon-free" is another lie meant to get people's money. King County is going to "end homelessness" by 2015. Lie. Washington State and the Puget Sound Partnership are going to "save the Sound" by 2020. Lie. Seattle is going to be carbon-neutral by 2030. Lie.

BlueLight

Posted Fri, May 16, 11:40 a.m. Inappropriate

Either we are going to become carbon-neutral, or more like it carbon-negative, or future Seattle will be an island chain where the hilltops used to be. True.

Posted Wed, May 21, 12:50 a.m. Inappropriate

Mazza, you're hysterical! Your climate change house of cards is collapsing its its own weight as we speak, and your response it to devise ever more outlandish and ridiculous horror fantasies.

NotFan

Posted Fri, May 16, noon Inappropriate

"what it would take to take our state near-carbon free" Obviously it will take a lot and, as commenters above note, it will be largely symbolic unless adopted over a large part of the world. But what the environmental nomenklatura appear to be advocating is decidedly top-down; i.e., cap and trade, subsidies for wind farms, solar panels, etc., all of which tend to regulate supply first and consumption second. Compare smoking to driving your SUV: the SUV fills up at the pump just like the Corolla. Meanwhile the smoker pays $7 a pack for his/her fix. There is a message there, delivered to the consumer: pay a price for your anti social and self destructive habit. I am willing to believe this reward to non-smokers discourages smoking and I regard that as a bottom-up policy; it enlists the population to avoid smoking. We all become soldiers in the campaign to eliminate smoking. Is this fair to smokers? probably not but it is a visible, legible and justifiable part of public policy. Taxes or penalties on carbon could be revenue neutral which might make it an easier sell to the public but it would certainly require some more adventuresome politicians than we seem to have.

kieth

Posted Sat, May 17, 11:39 p.m. Inappropriate

The concept of a "carbon-free Washington State" is a joke. It's just one more confection from the virture seeking "progressive" phonies who, in the end, produce nothing but endless rounds of verbal masturbation on the public dollar, and plenty of those.

Washington State is heavily dependent on Boeing, one of the biggest carbon emitters in the United States. If Boeing leaves this area, Washington State will be Mississippi. All of your "progressive" dreams will go splat.

Inslee knows where the bread is buttered. This is why your "progressive" leader went and forked over tax breaks to Boeing by the billions. Boeing has this state by the short hairs, and the "progressives" of Seattle either realize it or they are idiots, liars, or both.

There is no "acidifcation" here. That story has been invented out of whole cloth by the Seattle Times, which pursues a Pulitzer Prize, facts be damned. Your "concern" is so much methane in the wind, and will amount to exactly nothing.

NotFan

Posted Mon, May 19, 8:16 a.m. Inappropriate

Ummm, would you like to back up the "no acidification in Puget Sound" claim with some facts? I guess you're ignoring some of the nuts and bolts of the issue. Go talk to Taylor Shellfish that now has to raise their young clams and geoducks in Hawaii because even the water in Dabob Bay - with some of the best water quality in the Sound, is now too low in pH to allow the youngsters to take calcium from the water to grow.

Oh - before you post the loudmouth Cliff Mass "opinion" piece - that then got trashed by oceanographers - you might want to read up on the subject a bit. You're tripping over your ignorance.

Treker

Posted Wed, May 21, 12:46 a.m. Inappropriate

Typical Seattle "progressive!" Asks for evidence, and then says he doesn't want it. No wonder we threw your favorite mayor out of office, defeated two car tab fees in a row, and redistricted the best city council that your corrupt urbanist developer friends can buy. We despise your kind, and we will keep teaching you lessons until you learn them.

You people are so stupid that you've got nothing left other to claim you're smart, and ask for affirmative action.

NotFan

Posted Thu, May 22, 7:12 a.m. Inappropriate

Sure - tell us your "evidence" regarding your claim that Puget Sound increases in pH have nothing to do with human caused increases in CO2 levels. Or is this another faith-based thing?

Waiting---and waiting.

Crickets.

Treker

Posted Sun, May 18, 6:28 a.m. Inappropriate

Boeing is working on climate solutions already. For example, http://goo.gl/DmmNB3 and http://goo.gl/isMgkS. We're in a period of great innovation right now-- it's do or die.

Bentler

Posted Sun, May 18, 7:42 a.m. Inappropriate

Taxes and fees are all about tipping markets. OK as far as that goes. My article points to more direct public investment to build new clean energy industries, the way we built computers and aerospace in WWII and the Cold War. Boeing and Microsoft are not products of the "free market," but of decades of concerted investment in aircraft, missiles and digital computing for national security purposes. We should be prepared to make the same effort for global climate security.

Posted Sun, May 18, 10:10 a.m. Inappropriate

I think you're right, Patrick. We need infrastructure that supports and enables large-scale innovation that will benefit everyone. Many others are thinking along the same lines -- some proportional thinking in this too - http://goo.gl/r4surK

Bentler

Posted Tue, May 20, 4:15 p.m. Inappropriate

Perhaps Mr Mazza can provide some logic that rationalizes why any state and particularly WA given its population, should independently be committing its citizens' resources to spending anything on climate change initiates not part of a national program.
No one seems to disagree that until China and the entire Indian sub-continent are fully engaged in an active program of significant carbon mitigation, ANY contribution by the US, much less puny WA, is equivalent to spitting in the ocean.
Making carbon more expensive in WA only cripples our agriculture enterprises and remaining industrial base relative to other competitors in the US not to mention a global disadvantage. For what benefit?
Nwsteve

nwsteve

Posted Wed, May 21, 12:48 a.m. Inappropriate

Mr Mazza is one more yuppie Seattle "progressive" with s virtue addiction that must be fed!

NotFan

Posted Wed, May 21, 6:41 a.m. Inappropriate

Here's how I think about it. CO2 pollution and the global warming and ocean acidification it creates threatens us and our kids, so attacking it is a basic responsibility of every citizen-- or at least, every parent. It may be true that some people are ignorant about the problem and neglect or dismiss it; others are afraid of change and resist efforts to do the right thing regardless, perhaps to cling to the easy life and to maintain a false sense of comfort. Others are paralyzed by the enormity of the problem or just don't see how to cooperate with others to solve big challenges as a group.

Changing an economy takes effort, cleverness and trying new ideas, making discoveries and creating new industries together, and it has to start somewhere. NW culture is good at innovation... that's our major regional talent, what we can bring to the world. So, we have a responsibility, we have the spirit and we have the capability to make it happen.

But for a grounding of logic read "Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable" by Nassim Taleb. In a way it describes the threats and opportunities in a more philosophical way that serves as a foundation for the thinking above.

Bentler

Posted Wed, May 21, 10:26 a.m. Inappropriate

Geez! Yuppie! I wish I had the bank account to justify the derisive! I'm more in a writer economy.

If you read my articles carefully, I exactly call out the problems with carbon pricing that make a real carbon cap a difficult proposition. In the early years a lot of our industries will get a free pass to pollute in order to avoid the economic impacts nwsteve decries. You will see I have questions about how effective a cap will be because of this problem.

What I am really calling for is a national agenda of investment in advanced clean technology industries, as well as in land use practices that store more carbon - and help agriculture by the way. Washington state can benefit its own economy by starting to define an investment agenda - the New Apollo - doing what we can within the resources of public and private institutions to realize it, and work with other states to promote a national investment agenda. Like we did in WWII and the Cold War to dealk with national security challenges - the origin of both Boeing and Microsoft.

The digital computing industry did not start with guys in garages in the 1970s, but with huge investments by the military and then the space program from World War II through the Cold War. Long before Bill Gates and Steven Jobs came the Department of War-funded ENIAC, the world’s first digital computer, in 1946 at the University of Pennsylvania. From IBM to the predecessors of today’s microchip industry, government-funded research and contracts founded later commercial success. Military and space purchases of costly integrated circuits paved the way for cheap mass computing.

Aerospace likewise rose out of concerted public investments driven by national security needs. For instance, Boeing built the Boeing 707 jetliner on an airframe designed as the KC-135 air tanker. Before 1955 the company drew over 99% of its income from the U.S. Department of Defense. The telecommunication story is the same, with microwave transmission, communications satellites and fiber optics rising out of federal research and investments. Even the fossil fuel fracking revolution grew out of decades of public R&D; funding. Earlier examples of industry creation include the land and cash grants to the first transcontinental rail lines, and the U.S. Navy’s deliberate creation of an American steel industry to build its new steel fleet in the 1880s.

Washington state has tremendous R&D; and entrepreneurial resources we can muster to begin defining an agenda here. We can be a state leading the charge nationally. My bottom line is that carbon caps will never really work unless we can hold the economy harmless with low-carbon technologies that are economica;lly competitive with high-carbon energy. That is why we need a national investment agenda. We can begin at home, and build our industrial and agricultural base.

Posted Wed, May 21, 3:42 p.m. Inappropriate

In his enthusiasm for a "new national agenda" and "Apollo Roadmap", Mr Mazza and others calling for Inslee to lead a State focus on carbon abatement, seem to forget the disservice this "urgency" does to the State. By failing to make a priority to address issues actually central to Wash.'s citizens, Inslee does us all a disservice when he completely fails at his primary role as State CEO. For example,it is his primary accountability to first meet our Supreme Court requirements for our education system and to get our transportation infrastructure fixed. These two priorities are uniquely Wash. The time Inslee spends on an national agenda issue like GW and carbon regulation while failing to resolve our education and infrastructure leaves the State without the leadership of the Governor position that is essential to make progress. Just look at his capitulation to the WEA last legislative session when he allowed WEA influence to cost the State and its taxpayers $40+ Million. Lots of "gum flapping" from him about "Cap and Trade" but nada about a solution to educations shortfalls.
If Inslee and others want to be players in the National dialogue on GW and carbon regulation, then they should go focus at running for Congress. Oh wait, Inslee already did that and looked what he achieved--damn little on any issue much less GW, despite over 14 years in Congress. What is it the Texans say, "All Hat not Cattle"
Nwsteve

nwsteve

Posted Thu, May 22, 5:17 a.m. Inappropriate

Transportation infrastructure and carbon are two sides of the same coin. Transportation emissions are by far the largest portion of state carbon emissions. New technologies such as intelligent transportation and vehcile elctrification can address that. Intelligent highways will also reduce congestion, as well as accidents. Those are only a couple of examples.

There is strong momentum to take carbon revenues and use them for schools. I think the deal we will see emerging from tyhe governor's task force will include that.

Finally, carbon is actually central to Washington citizens. Loss of shellfish industries and water supplies, a tremendous increase in wildfires, droughts and storms. Carbon pollution is behind all of this.

Posted Thu, May 22, 9:46 a.m. Inappropriate

Yes, carbon IS essential to WA citizens--the key point, there is little WA citizens can do that will directly impact overall environmental carbon. Until and unless China and India fix their carbon-dioxide levels, anything WA citizens attempt is equivalent to the proverbial spitting in the ocean to raise sea level. Money reallocated to localized economic and education initiatives has far more direct benefit to the State's citizens than any cap and trade program or regulation to require in-state utilities only use "green" energy sources.
This State's legislative leaders appear to have limited bandwidth, and putting any focus on activities not directly yielding benefits to WA citizens is a misallocation of resources. Our good governor could not even corral his own party to protect the $40 Million waiver grant from the Feds BUT he has plenty of time to go off "in the dark of the night" and sign a carbon abatement goals with other governors.
Nwsteve
Nwsteve

nwsteve

Posted Thu, May 22, 12:03 p.m. Inappropriate

Don't you get it, nwsteve? I am asking us to think beyond the limited carbon reductions we can make through regulation to look at what we can do with investments in innovation that can reduce carbon emissions everywhere. Boeing drives global innovation in aerospace from here. Microsoft drives global innovation in computing from here. Washington state has a global impact by innovating and spreading new technologies. We need to develop clean technologies so China and India can pull their people out of poverty without destroying the climate. You are responding to me like I am a regular old climate activist focused entirely on carbon caps and fees. I'm in a frame beyond that. I'm declaring World War Climate and saying devote the resources to win it. Most public resources will be federal, but we can start here with what we have.

Posted Thu, May 22, 2:12 p.m. Inappropriate

Yes, Mr Mazza, I do understand your call for new innovation that provide increased carbon reduction. However, my point remains, such visionary and national goals needs to come from National initiatives and not a State government who is uniquely accountable to its citizens for making their immediate well-being a priority.
As a private citizen, you are entitled to speak out for a new "paradigm" and renewed focus on innovation that brings great benefits to the world's populations. However, like the Apollo programs, this initiative needs to come from a Federal allocation of resources, not an individual state or its governor who replaces his passion for impacting global warming with a failure to attend to HIS priorities as the State's CEO. The Governor's and State Legislature's priorities are finding ways to equitably fund the State's education needs including higher ed. and to ensure the State's infrastructure is modernized and made safe.
Calling on Boeing, Microsoft, etc. to focus their innovation efforts on activities where their future benefits and ROI are difficult (if not impossible) to quantify is Pollyanna. In our capitalist system, innovation is attracted to arenas where ROI can be calculated. Like Apollo, leadership must come from the Congress who authorizes and funds these programs. This funding is what attracts innovators and investors.
Instead our Governor and his party want to put their emphasis on finding ways to uniquely disadvantage our State's enterprises and citizens with carbon use taxes and increased utility bills. If he was leading the way to implement a national policy in Washington, that impacted all states, it would be a different matter. But no, he and his two coastal governor cronies want to implement by executive order what the majority of the State citizenry show little desire to support in the manner he is seeking.
Without a national mandate, please explain how raising all Washingtonians' cost of living especially utility costs and requiring more bureaucracy not endured by other states really helps this state's citizens have better lives and remain competitive.
Nwsteve

nwsteve

Posted Sat, May 24, 2:28 p.m. Inappropriate

Pointless to expect anything to be done on this and a host of other issues in the current political climate, with one of the two major parties dominated by illogical know-nothing anti-science denialist zealots.

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