Low Carbon Fuel Standard hurts rural WA the most
Residents living in rural areas know what it means to spend ample time behind the wheel. Whether it's driving to a doctor's appointment, getting groceries, visiting friends and family, or taking the kids to school and attending school functions, we drive a lot.
We're also closely tied to the agriculture industry, which depends on stable, affordable fuel prices to work in the fields and get products to market.
This reality of rural life equates to a deep, ingrained understanding of how the cost of fuel affects our daily lives.
This week, despite 20 floor amendments and nearly four hours of spirited debate, the state House of Representatives broke trust with voters and kicked rural residents to the curb by passing legislation mandating a low carbon fuel standard (LCFS).
What does this mean?
A LCFS is an effort to reduce the carbon intensity in transportation fuels. The idea is that alternative fuels, such as biodiesel, electricity, natural gas, and others, will help bring down greenhouse gas emissions if mandated targets are introduced into the marketplace.
The idea isn't new. It was introduced in California over a decade ago and went through years of litigation. It has also increased the price of fuel by 16 cents per gallon – a number that will continue to rise.
Here in our state, the concept of a low carbon fuel standard was studied intently by the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup (CLEW). The workgroup reported that it was not an efficient mechanism for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Properly managing our forests to reduce wildfires would have more of an immediate impact on our environment. One bad wildfire season can easily wipe out years of carbon-reducing plans put into place locally or at the state level.
Mandating a LCFS is a hidden gas tax that pays for little environmental benefit. In addition, according to the American Automobile Association, Washington joins Oregon and California with the highest gas prices in the nation. Increasing the price of gas and goods is regressive and puts more financial burden on those who can least afford it.
Perhaps most egregious is how lawmakers in Olympia have broken trust with voters around the state by implementing a LCFS. Voters said no to carbon pricing just last year by rejecting Initiative 1631.
In addition, there was legislative agreement in The Connecting Washington gas tax plan from a few years ago that a LCFS would not be sought via legislation in our state.
This agreement was so much a part of the debate and final plan that a consumer protection provision in the 2015 law specifically said that if a LCFS is adopted, then money would shift from other transportation accounts into the motor vehicle account, which is protected by the 18th Amendment and can be used for highway purposes only.
This consumer protection provision has been eliminated by House Democrats in Olympia.
Mandating a low carbon fuel standard is the wrong direction for our state. Rural Washington residents will bear the brunt of shortsighted, politically-correct environmental actions; environmental special interests groups will rejoice while dipping further into our wallets; and the environment will receive no measureable benefit.
We can do better.
(Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, serves on the House Rural Development, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee.)