Last week Governor John Kitzhaber joined with other political leaders in the Pacific Coast Collaborative to call for a carbon tax. This announcement coincided with the official opening of California’s “cap-and-trade” program for reducing carbon emissions.
It’s not clear why Gov. Kitzhaber thought it was a priority to fly to San Francisco to make this announcement. Apparently, he’s forgotten that the Oregon legislature considered a “cap-and-trade” program in 2009, and the bill couldn’t even get out of committee – despite the fact that Democrats had a supermajority that year. Like elected officials in most other states, Oregon legislators correctly determined that “cap-and-trade” is just a fancy way of saying “carbon tax,” and taxing energy would be enormously unpopular with voters.
The governor is also overlooking the fact that just last year, Oregon left the Western Climate Initiative, a multi-state coalition expressly established in 2007 to facilitate carbon regulation across the West and into Canada. Oregon departed for the same reason every other western state besides California did: Taxing carbon is a political loser. No one outside the far-left environmental movement cares.
The job of any governor is to be a leader. Calling for carbon regulations that have been rejected multiple times is the opposite of leadership. Surely Gov. Kitzhaber can find something to do that’s more relevant to Oregon’s future.
John A. Charles, Jr. is President and CEO of Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.