November 05, 2016

Oil Companies and Big Polluters are Desperately Trying to Stop I-732 (the Carbon Tax Swap Initiative)

Big Oil and Big Carbon Polluters are very worried.

They obviously believe that Washington State's I-732 (the revenue-neutral carbon tax initiative) may pass and they are spending massive amounts of money on advertising to stop it.

For example, during the past week, the infamous Koch Brothers, far right oil barons, donated $ 50,000 to the No on I 732 campaign. Kaiser Aluminum threw in another $300,000. Puget Sound Energy, which heavily uses coal, threw in $125,000. And the oil company lobbyists (American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers) contributed $250,000.

Clearly, the oil companies believe that if I-732 passes, the demand for their product will decline.  

Is it not ironic that the Sierra Club, Seattle's Climate Solutions, the Washington Environmental Council, and the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy are aligned with the most reactionary, anti-environmental players in the nation (e.g., the Koch brothers and the Petroleum Manufacturer groups).  These left -eaning "climate justice" enthusiasts are both totally naive and working against their own self-interests and those of their members.  

Some Washington environment and "climate justice" groups are in league with  climate denier "devils"

The irony of this situation is stunning.  While some "climate justice" groups and their fellow-travelers claim that I-732 will not be effective in reducing carbon emissions, the folks who produce and massively use carbon-based fuels are so convinced it WILL be effective that they are desperately throwing money at the No on I-732 campaign.

But the fascination of the I-732 saga does not end there.  A lazy media has been complicit in the No on I732 campaign, just as it was complicit in the rise of Donald Trump.   For example, the biggest objection to I 732 (and one repeated by the Seattle Times and others) is simply not true:  that somehow the revenue-neutral I-732 will suck money out of the state budget, hurting schools, the environment, and orphans.   The truth, outlined by the independent Sightline Foundation and shown in detail on the I-732 website, is that I-732 is extraordinarily well-designed is as close to neutrality as humanly possible.  And in any case, the state legislature can do what it always does--make adjustments to ensure income meets requirements of the APPROVED STATE BUDGET.  But the lazy media hasn't independently run the numbers to show that the No on 732 campaign is just blowing smoke.

But something amazing has happened during the past several weeks.  An amazing bipartisan consortium of interests and groups have come together to support I-732:
  • A coalition of environmental groups ranging from WA Audubon to the WA Green Party.
  • Major political leaders such as Slade Gorton, Rob McKenna, Brady Walkinshaw, Jim McDermott, and Ron Sims.  
  • Virtually the entire climate research community of the Pacific Northwest and national climate leaders such as Jim Hansen.
  • National environment activities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Kennedy, Jr.
  • An army of millennials and young people determined that the world they will experience in 50 years will be livable.
All of these folks realize that the time for talk and self interest is over.  The time to act on global warming is now. To put it another way, a moderate, pragmatic, non-ideological center is congealing to support I-732 and to push for real steps for finally dealing with climate change, first in WA state and then the nation.

Will the Koch Brothers, oil producers, and some self-interested, naive "climate justice" activists stop the nation's best hope for progress in dealing with climate change?   Will they stop I-732's potentially huge contribution to making our State's tax system less regressive?

On Tuesday we will know.   And if you haven't voted yet, please consider carefully on which side you want to be on.  A future in which our state and national finally deals firmly with global warming and pushes away the current grid-lock and status quo.  Can moderates and reasonable folks bring rational action to play to deal with the threat of increasing greenhouse gases?

And then there is the deeper question.  Can moderates make policy and govern our country?  The extremes are locked into positions and reject compromise and pragmatic/moderate approaches. Are there enough folks in the middle to move the state and nation forward?  Or will the extremes dominate the national discourse, leading to deadline on critically important issues like the environment and the nation's economy?


  1. Hi Cliff, Your dismissal of climate justice groups by putting that term in quotes, and implying that they are ignorant and perhaps misinformed by Big oil betrays your lack of research on why so many prominent social activists and organizations (not just fossil fuel corporations) are opposed to I732.

    We may disagree on this, but the human species doesn't have time to get it wrong on addressing climate change and I732 gets it wrong. It's a half measure. We've burned through 75% of the 2 degree C target set at the Paris Climate Accords, the ink not yet dry.

    The devastating effects of climate change, and fossil fuel infrastructure (refineries, pipelines, etc.) are largely borne by low income people of color around the world, and those effects are here now.

    Your list of mostly privileged white I732 supporters is telling - the environmental movement suffers from a huge color-blind spot that summarily dismisses the views and opinions of anyone lacking scientific credentials or political connections, as if those things are needed to realize when one's future is growing more dark and uncertain.

  2. Cliff- I totally agree with you on I-732 and on your characterization of "big green". In a previous life I was a regulator, and I'd get lobbied by different groups to push for strong legislation. While I usually agreed with the overall message, I was struck by their naivete, and lack of knowledge about the American political system. You never get the whole enchilada, so what's your five year plan. What increment of progress would you be happy with in year one, etc.? Business certainly thinks this way.

    I-732 is not perfect, but, nothing is ever perfect. You gotta start somewhere, and I was real pleased to see Jim Hansen's support of I-732. He's a god of climate protection.

    I also find it weird that all this money is flowing in now. WA votes by mail. I voted on October 24th, as have most of my friends. I also was able to convince my wife and daughter to vote for I-732; they initially were not because of the propaganda against it. Thanks for your work on this and hoping for a good result Tuesday. I agree with Jim Hansen that passage of I-732 would set an example for others to follow. Someone's gotta go first.

  3. This phenomena - the most vocal proponents of AGW mitigation (environmentalists ) actually obstructing achievable advancements toward AGW mitigation - is unfortunately on display all over the place. For example, in BC there is the predictable (and generally justified) opposition to the usual fossil fuel extraction, such as Tarsands development and more recently, fracked natural gas for a proposed LNG export market. The usual arguments of jobs and economy vs. mitigating a future risk to humanity is debated add infinitum.

    Meanwhile, BC sits on vast hydro electric potential. Do the strident environmental activists instead propose that we further develop these hydro reserves to displace coal fired power generation? Of course not, they propose we commit completely to technologies that are still largely unproven or highly intermittent, such as geothermal or solar and wind. This is a convenient ploy, implying that we must never take risks with our sacred wilderness values for any reason, including what they most rail and moan about, but in the same breath they are perfectly willing to see resource workers and heavy industry workers take the hit for any changes that will occur.

    If we are ever going to take rapid, effective and direct action to transition ( carbon tax is only indirect) we must do what is known, proven and available, which in BC is hands down hydro. Solar, wind, tidal, geothermal etc should all be fast tracked but they all involve great uncertainty in reliability or rapid implementation. Of course Hydro will not work everywhere due to legitimate ecological effects but the current Site C project is low risk, high benefit, if the power is directed to alberta etc. Run of river projects are now well proven to be low risk if sited well and like Site C, could provide work for many out of work oil patch workers.

    If we are ever going to coax the working class masses into joining us in a unified political force to tip the scales toward action on climate change, we absolutely must signal that they will continue to ply their hard earned and entirely justified trades while we transition, and in BC the most obvious place to do it is in further developing our hydro electric potential, specifically to export to those who are less fortunate in clean energy potential , like Alberta, Saskatchewan or even the USA.

    However, if you ever say these words to your more enviro justice oriented friends, they look at you like you just farted. There are some things that are sacred to them, and all this AGW stuff is nothing more than a convenient platform for them to promote their sacred ideals. To be perfectly frank, we are running out of time to be catering to delusional sacred ideals. The single greatest impediment to action on climate change is not obstruction by political or industry powers, it is a lack of political will by the actual electorate. There are a lot of reasons for it, most irrational and some highly immoral, but the legitimate ones are that people look around and see that even the most vocal proponents are not willing to risk what is most special to them but they are plenty willing to see everyone else take the hit.

  4. jvwv
    The climate justice groups make a fundamental mistake...they are trying to make global warming a class thing. That their group (low-income washingtonians) are somehow hurt more than others. This is fundamentally wrong. Global warming affects everyone and everyone must be part of the solution. I did an earlier blog in which I demonstrated that it is a total myth the low-income Washingtonians are more affected by global warming. It is simply not true. I-732 does more than anything in 50 years to make our tax system more just....but that fact is being suppressed by climate justice groups. Why? They are making a tragic mistake in opposing I-732. ..cliff

  5. Thanks for your efforts on this Cliff.

  6. The "climate justice" groups are at least honest -- global warming has nothing to do with science. It has always been a "progressive" tax scheme.

  7. Bruce Kay,

    Is your answer to start building more dams?

    Solar wind and Batteries to contain these energy sources will soon be the way of the future.

    I hope you aren't saying we need to build more dams.
    Men like Elon Musk are already on it, and if we had some help from just a few much larger corporations would we well be on our way towards Solar, Wind and Batteries being far more than what we needed.

    We can do it.

  8. Michael Snyder - while we are waiting for your predictions to come true, we really need to be exploiting the technologies that are known to be the best for the purpose, just in case the predictions of an over abundance of perfectly reliable battery storage doesn't quite play out as we might hope. We quite literally can't afford to cross our fingers for some still quite nebulous future silver bullet.

    In any event, I realize quite well that not all hydro projects are low risk. What i am saying is that when we determine that they are low risk, as many are, they should be developed ASAP because at this point in time and for the foreseeable future, there are few other options if in fact our priority is to significantly and immediately displace coal fired power.

  9. I-732 VS what? A no vote? unless you have something better (better meaning on this ballot to be passed now)how do you have grounds to block something that is better than what you have...which is nothing. Vote Yes on I-732 folks. Make those petrol-chemical companies pay now.

  10. Cliff, I am pretty much in agreement with you. You and other readers might enjoy this piece:

    "Renewing the Politics of 'We'"

    Good luck to us all on November 8!


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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