Sunday, October 21, 2018

Initiative I-1631: At Odds with Democratic Values

I-1631 not only has profound problems that makes it an ineffective approach for dealing with anthropogenic climate change, but it is at odds with the democratic values of our state and nation.  These problems are compounded by the fact that many I-1631 supporters have been willing to follow a disturbingly divisive and untruthful approach in their advocacy.



A Failure of the Democratic System

Our nation is a representative democracy, in which we elect representatives who are responsible for making policy.  If their efforts are unsatisfactory, they are voted out of office. When it comes to producing policy regarding climate change, from putting a price on carbon to making investments in climate resilience, the Washington State legislature and Governor have performed poorly.   Even with one party controlling the governorship and both houses of the legislature, little was accomplished during the past session or during previous ones of dual-party leadership. 

Two years ago, another carbon initiative (I-732)  proposed a straightforward revenue-neutral approach that returned all the carbon tax money to the people. It was fair to low-income folks and had the potential to spread around the nation.   I-732 failed mainly because a group of social action groups (The Alliance), some labor unions, Indian tribes, and a few environment groups (e.g., the Sierra Club) worked against it.  Why?  Because they disliked the revenue neutrality and wanted access to the carbon tax funds.  Concern about climate change was clearly not their priority.

This year, essentially the same group (social action groups, office-worker labor unions, and local Indian tribes) came up with I-1631, which puts a fee on carbon but would use the funds to support the goals of the I-1631 coalition (climate justice, clean up air and water, push clean energy, training of workers, public health).    But their initiative has a major problem:  it essentially takes representative government out of the picture and is a deviation from representative democracy without precedent in state history.



How?  By putting the control of vast sums of money from the carbon tax into the hands of a board of 15 individuals, with only one of them being elected (the commissioner of public lands).

We are talking about tens of billions of dollars and major policies that could substantially alter the business environment, health, and safety of all of our citizens.  Washington State has many boards, but none of them decide on spending priorities for billions of dollars.

So what I-1631 proposes is an unprecedented invasion into the prerogatives of our legislative system.
Making such policy decisions and deciding how to spend such vast sums is the job of our elected representatives and it is profoundly undemocratic and contrary to the core values of our State and nation to push the role on an unelected board. 

There is nothing wrong with an initiative that allows the people to vote on specific proposals--this represents direct democracy.  But 1631 is not like that--it dumps huge sums of cash into a pot that the unelected board can disperse as it sees fit.

Now some I-1631 supporters might object to the above, saying that the state legislature could intervene if it wished.   But is it likely to do so, when it has repeatedly failed to show any leadership in this area, with many prominent legislators energetic supporters of I-1631?  And the pressure to go along with pork distributed by the board will be overwhelming.

The Future I-1631 Board Room

But the undermining of our democratic traditions by the I-1631 crowd goes beyond this.

Why?  Because the undemocratic nature of I-1631 is reflected in the attitudes, actions, and words of many of its most vocal supporters, who have followed a divisive and untruthful approach that undermines the democratic process.

I-1631 advocates and official information have a persistent problem of not telling the truth.    For example, their ads talk about making the "State's Big Polluters Pay"!  That they "can afford to pay this fee without raising prices on you"!    So if you vote for I-1631 big polluters will cover all the costs! And you will get lots of benefits! (see part of their flyer that landed in my mailbox yesterday, if you don't believe me).


This claim is TOTAL NONSENSE.   Oil companies will pass on any carbon fee directly to the consumers. They have always done so in the past.  I asked an oil company representative about it...yep, you will get the bill.  So big "polluters" and oil companies won't pay for the I-1631 fee, the citizens of the state will.  The repeated claims by the I-1631 crowd is a total untruth....and they have to know it.


I-1631 brochures and web pages make grand claims of how they will clean up the air and water of our state.  But there is no plan in the initiative on how they will do it. And their primary member and contributor, the Nature Conservancy, claims I-1631 will take care of the unhealthy smoke (see below), but how it will do so is left to the imagination.  Forest scientists are very

explicit that to deal with the east-side forest fires: it will take a huge investment of hundreds of millions of dollars to thin the forests, remove debris, and bring back prescribed fires.    1631 only dedicates 30% of the funds to forest, air and water recovery, and public health.  Under 1631 the money needed to fix our explosive east-side forests  (again, hundreds of millions to billions of dollars) will never be available.  Their claim of solving the wildfire/smoke problem is a tall tale...and a dishonest one at that.

The great irony in all this is that the Yes on I-1631 crowd accuses the oil companies of lying (see below).  Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.  They lie about lying.


But the dishonest ways of several I-1631 supporters and leadership are made worse by their toxic and divisive tactics.  For example, many are spewing really hateful stuff about Republicans--saying that they are selfish and don't care about global warming.  This is divisive and untrue...many Republicans

 want to deal with global warming and to make our State more resilient to climate change.

A good example is the youthful American Conservation Coalition led by 20-year old Benji Backer, a UW student.  Or major Republican leaders like Rob McKenna, Slade Gorton, and recent Republican gubernatorial candidate  Bill Bryant.  I gave a talk to the Rotary Club in Yakima on Global Warming--and they were nearly all Republicans.  They were worried about climate change and wanted to deal with the resulting water supply issues.

Denigrating individuals and groups with different opinions and name calling for those disagreeing with you is toxic for democracy.

Just as bad are the mean-spirited social media attacks by leaders of the Yes on I-1631 organization on anyone with a different viewpoint.  For example, Nick Abraham, paid head of communication of Yes on 1631, has been making nasty accusations against those who don't support I-1631.  Here his recent unpleasant tweet against moderate Republican Bill Bryant, an environmentalist who ran for Governor in 2016:
He has sent similar messages to others.    And "Izzy the Iguana", the Regional Field Director of Yes  on 1631 send me toxic messages, telling me I was a racist for writing a blog criticizing I-1631.

This kind of mean-spirited, ad hominem attacks have no place in the debate on policy in a democratic society. It says a lot about the values, or lack of values, of some of the I-1631 leadership. 

And it is even worse than that.  Some members of the I-1631 coalitions are trying harassment of those with different opinions.   I have experienced this myself.  Last month, Jesse Piedfort, the Director of the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club (which opposed I-732 by the way and a major member of the I-1631 coalition) made a formal public records request to the UW for all my emails dealing with carbon initiatives and all communications with oil companies.  He is going to be disappointed.  I have no email traffic with oil companies and have no relationship with them.  But such requests are chilling and a not-so-subtle form of harassment.

In many ways, the I-1631 crowd are following the playbook of the one individual they despise:  Donald Trump.  Lying and suggesting that opponents are evil and sub-human is his stock in trade.  Several I-1631 advocates are following his approach.

Democracy is a fragile thing and our most precious inheritance.  The I-1631 effort appears to think that their cause is so noble and right that they are willing to undermine basic democratic principles by giving huge powers to a board of unelected individuals and to demonize those who oppose them.



If you care about democratic values, you must vote no on this poorly written, ineffective initiative.   Either our elected representatives must step up to the plate and put together a real plan or an initiative that explicitly spells out policy and programs is needed.

Finally, so much of the impetus of the Yes on 1631 campaign, is that "we have to do something."   History teaches us that doing "something" ineffective and undemocratic is worse than doing nothing at all.  If I-1631 passes, truly useful approaches will be pushed aside and special interests will be enriched.

"We have to do something" logic often produces bad results.

91 comments:

Kenna Wickman said...

I voted for it. It may not be perfect and it may not do anything to curb Global Warming. But its time to stop giving the Big Oil companies a free pass.

Cliff Mass said...

Kenna... How are we giving oil companies a "free pass."? Are you using their products? Have you given up jet travel for vacations? Have an electric car? Personal responsibility is important, as is supporting the technological advances that will allow us to give up fossil fuels...cliff

David Young said...

I got a phone call from someone advocating for this initiative. She gave me the dishonest talking points about oil companies and their status as the modern equivalent of witches. When I told here I was voting no and referenced your blog Cliff, she hung up. False advertising is not acceptable just because it comes from some of our "green" interest groups.

John Marshall said...

Kenna,
The only "free pass" is to allow the oil companies to pass on their increased costs to us in the form of higher gasoline and other hydrocarbon energy prices. Most people can't simply stop using their product. While there is some elasticity in gasoline prices (people can reduce unnecessary driving) experience has shown that most people wind up pricing that into their lifestyles and continue much as they have, albeit with a poorer lifestyle. The people with the lowest incomes own the fewest electric vehicles for the most obvious of reasons: they can't afford them.

And it isn't that most people (other than some urban dwellers who have excellent public transit) have a choice.

As with so much in Washington state, these increased costs will hurt the lowest income groups the most. Are we intent on building a legacy that says liberal leadership means regressive taxation?

That's not a legacy that my matches my ideas of a liberal democracy.




Conscious1 said...

Cliff,
Thanks for the coherent analysis!The best written statement about I-1631 I've read.

Julie Dugger said...

What, Kenna has to opt out of our oil-based economy in order to have an opinion about regulating that economy? Please. You don't have to be a purist to vote yes. I'm not and I will. Doing nothing while fantasizing about the perfect solution is not an option.

Charles Nathaniel Erwin said...

Bye Cliff. I'm enjoyed learning about the weather, but your wrong in fifty places in this latest political appeal. You pick out the flaws on one side and ignore the flaws in the other. I'm not going to write another long email pointing out where you have misstated how government works or how the economy works. Your philosophy will produce no results in the real world we live in and I can only conclude that doing nothing in the end is you goal. So for that reason that I no longer find you a trusted source of information, I'll be leaving. I don't drink the cool-aide on any side of a debate and that is what you are offering. So long.

jamalmass said...

I am voting no!

Gene Riddell said...



If the big oil companies and Koch industries are just going to pass the cost of I-1631 to the consumers than why are they spending millions of their dollars to defeat the initiative? It’s no big deal to them to raise the cost of fuel they do it all the time. Sounds like a waste of money to me. I voted for the bill. It might not be perfect but we have to start somewhere for the future of the planet for future generations and our grandchildren.

https://climate.nasa.gov/climate_resources/24/graphic-the-relentless-rise-of-carbon-dioxide/

Unknown said...

Voting yes. Cliff, you should be ashamed of yourself. This initiative is not perfect, none are. I too worked on 732, and prefer that approach, but we do not have time for this. Please read what the Union for Concerned Scientists has to say: https://secure.ucsusa.org/onlineactions/8by25yviQkaJKI4zrxpyOQ2?ms=MR_SEARCH_AW&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI04ip9qeY3gIVhGl-Ch1vwQhqEAAYASAAEgI9TvD_BwE

sunsnow12 said...

Charles said "...you pick out the flaws on one side and ignore the flaws on the other"

I'm wondering Charles if you can point out where/when the "other side" called people who disagree with them racists? Has the "other side" demanded that those who disagree with them hand over their emails?

My G*d it takes courage to say what you say Cliff. Where is the press on this - the direct intimidation and harassment of a scientist who is one of the clearest voices on Climate Change.

Just that alone - that it takes overwhelming courage to make a post like this today - should send chills down everyone reading it. This is not science fiction people. It is real, and it is happening.

Brett Gaspers said...

Well put, Cliff. I-1631 is essentially taxation without representation, a situation that got the Crown kicked out of early America. Fascinating that some, like Charles, refuse to hear opposing viewpoints. How…Trumpian.

I voted for I-732. I've already voted against this turkey.

Eric Blair said...

Back when I was an active member in the Sierra Club (70's to late 80's), this kind of behavior would have been abhorred and condemned in no uncertain terms. But today? Calling anyone disagreeing with them a racist and just about anything else they can think of is par for the course. Sorry you have to go through this, but anyone who doesn't agree with them 100% in toto is to be driven out of the public discourse, and if they can get you fired for your intolerable heresy, so much the better. Don't let them bully you or give them an inch, because the howling mob will never have their thirst for blood slaked. Their extreme intolerance and bigotry has finally burst into the open at last, and it's not a pretty sight.

Stan Axe said...

I'm voting yes.

I think that there is no such thing as revenue neutral, like the last measure wanted us to believe. If we want to cut carbon emissions, something has to give...at least until widely available alternatives are just as cheap (even if that means just as artificially cheap as oil supports makes the fossil industry).

I don't really see the huge problem in an appointed board.
1. There's little evidence that an elected board results in a non-partisan board. We've all seen how voters have been manipulated to support creationists selecting school science books.
2. California's appointed election board was wildly successful in reducing gerrymandering.
3. The board really needs to consist of experts, not folks looking to make their way into politics. Or folks who have the backing of some special interest industrial groups

It seems to me that demanding we know where the money will be spent up front picks technology winners and losers before we even have a selection mechanism in place.

I don't think this measure will do near the harm Cliff is worried about, and it may actually kick-start the process.

Bruce Kay said...

There are two points of interest I note in your blog, the first leading to the second:

1) You mention examples of interest and concern for climate change effects among some Republicans, suggesting some common ground with democrats. First of all, they are a minority in their party and second is that the extent of their concern is typically limited to "adaptation", with very little interest in mitigation. It is emblematic of a theme in Conservative attitudes toward the risk of climate change - even if it is happening, we just adapt.

2) Which leads to the second point - resiliency. I can't help noticing your use of the term "resilience" in suggesting a direction for climate change investment. Resilience is a term used by ecologists to describe an ecosystems ability to persist and recover from perturbations. A perturbation example might be anything from a forest fire to an oil spill, where a catastrophic trauma occurs, it has an ending, then the ecology rebuilds to something approximating what existed before. Another term applied to this is ecological stability. Even if the "return to normal" amounts something not exactly the same ecology (such as Prince William sound after the Exxon Valdez spill) it does return to a state of ecological stability.

However, the risk of climate change is not one of mere "perturbation", it is a risk of exponentially developing ecological instability. There will be, for all our purposes of human civilization, no single, regional moment of trauma that then ends and recovers toward stability. Ecological instability is something that human civilization has never experienced and in fact, civilization as we know it likely could not have happened without the seemingly endless ecological stability known so far.

In that context I think it curious that you suggest "resilience" is a coherent objective no matter how much money we shovel at it in the face of no real effort to restrain the warming of the climate in the first place - the Republican approach. How is resilience expected to be achieved when we do nothing more than speed toward ecological instability yet our complex society is built entirely upon ecological stability? And this question doesn't even touch the risks expected outside Americas borders. Assuming some miracle of adaptation to ecological instability occurs in North America, you really think that that ability will be graciously extended globally?

Such hubris - the Republican approach. Hubris at least, immoral at worst.

Foaming Solvent said...

It's the unelected board that will disperse the money that gets me. You know the organizations that are pushing this initiative are salivating at all the boodle that will be coming their way if this passes.

As a wise man once said, the answer to all your questions is money. They didn't like the previous carbon initiative because they would not get any money. They like this one because they will get all the money. It's naked greed.

Brian Grunkemeyer said...

The goal of I-1631 is to redesign our economy in a less carbon-intensive manner, while mitigate some of the damage our pollution is causing to the environment. This requires experts on boards, and frankly most experts are focused in their area instead of being politicians. This requires positions appointed by elected officials. The board composition will allow this. We don't complain about other unelected positions like the Utilities & Transportation Commission, or the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, or various regional clean air agencies. It seems unreasonable to cast this board as undemocratic while acknowledging we use the same structure in many parts of government.

Also, the Legislature could tweak the initiative in two years, if they summon the political will to make constructive edits. The use of a carbon fee instead of a carbon tax restricts the funds raised to be spent mitigating the problem. This invests in solutions while providing some protection from the Legislature diverting funds to other state purposes.

So, what if oil companies pass along this fee to drivers via a ~14 cent gas price increase? That's ok, this is about using the invisible hand of the market to force change, but at a modest cost to citizens. If you believe in economics as a useful organizing force that could be harnessed to change behavior at the micro level leading to macro level results, you should embrace this. If not, then why do we have economics in the first place?

Cliff complains that solving forest fires and wildfire smoke will requires hundreds of millions of dollars, then conveniently overlooks that the initiative would make almost $300M a year available for healthy forests and water issues. Problem, meet a well-crafted solution.

Here's the problem with carbon pricing. To get the change we need, the carbon price needs to be around $80/ton. However, if we impose a lower carbon price then invest in targeted solutions to speed up clean energy, help our forests adapt and survive in a new environment, and invest in water solutions, then we hope we can solve the problem at a lower cost. By investing in solutions, this initiative should accomplish its goals while saving society money vs. a revenue-neutral approach.

Cliff ends by saying other approaches would be pushed aside. What other approaches would deliver results? We need to change our economy while ensuring that humans can continue to live in complex, organized societies on this planet. What would I-1631 exclude that would accomplish that goal? I'm anticipating hearing crickets.

Cliff Mass said...

Brian.... I disagree completely. It is fine for experts to advise and put defined policy into practice. It is NOT ok for them to make decisions of where the money will go and to prioritize spending....that belongs in the political arena. You are also not correct about the wildfire....structurally I-1631 can not provide enough money for meaningful action....as noted in my blog...cliff

David Young said...

Bruce, The real problem here is that mitigation to address climate change requires that most countries participate meaningfully. So far, only Europe really is required to reduce emissions and they are struggling to meet their targets. While a carbon tax is probably a reasonable way to go, it needs to be revenue neutral and it needs to apply to a broad range of countries. Washington doing it alone will have virtually no impact but may make some feel virtuous or more likely signal their false virtue.

Blaming Republicans is not a success strategy, its a recipe for failure. Those who feel the strongest on this issue should really want to succeed (unless of course they are not being honest about their concerns).

Adaptation is a vastly easier sell politically and we need to do this anyway as sea levels rise (as they have been for 15,000 years) and temperatures rise.

Martin Cockroft said...

Love the blog, always appreciate your perspective. I'm voting yes on the initiative, but I'm not going to stop reading your posts because I think differently than you on this issue.

Erik Makinson said...

Cliff, should 1631 pass, would you consider serving on the 15 person committee? I’m serious. You have a thoughtful take and could help bridge the gap with some of those alianated by the initative’s design.

Cliff Mass said...

Erik,
You bet-- but the Governor would never appoint someone like me.....you can be sure of that..cliff

Rob Red said...

Robert Redmayne

As a lifelong environmentalist and lover of our democracy I find 1631 offensive and contemptuous. It is discouraging in these grim Trumpian times to find such weak thinking on the part of the supposedly "progressive" end of the spectrum. I see fear and anger on the right and I see equal amounts of it on the left, sadly. Thanks Cliff for sounding a wake up call.

Brian Grunkemeyer said...

As for the board, if you read the initiative, most of the actual work is done by existing departments like commerce, natural resources, and ecology as well as the utilities & transportation commission. The board members are appointed by the governor (an elected official). Public participation is required in developing the investment plans. This process looks like a democratic republic to me.

And as always, the Legislature can adjust the initiative if the process requires more political influence. (Whether that's a wise idea is a separate question.)

Cliff Mass said...

Brian.... the question is WHO makes the decision on where the money is spent. Who decides who gets the money and what is prioritized...this is the Board, not elected officials. This is totally in contradiction to our representative government...cliff

Kenna Wickman said...

Since you asked Cliff, I have made some personal choices. I didn't learn to drive until my 30s, relying upon bicycle and public transportation to get around. Since my 30s I have worked from home and thus my commute is about 100' from my house to my workshop. We built our own house which is well insulated and benefits from passive solar, and a very efficient heating system, and wood heat using the wood scraps from my workshop (I make woodwinds so these scraps are woods that are highest in BTU value). For years we grew much of our own food, and planted trees on our little acreage. We rarely fly as far as air travel goes. Our vehicles get fuel mileage in the mid 40s.

I wish I had been able to do more opting out of the oil-based economy such as install solar panels and be totally off the grid etc. but this is hard to bootstrap as a self employed family (my wife also works at home). Raising our daughter and helping with her college costs was more important (she is lucky to have no student debt after going to CalArts). We managed to hold on through several recessions and near credit card death spiral experiences.

Even had I not been able to do the little I could, it still wouldn't prevent me from voting for this measure. Your reply to me above (message #2) was rather cynical - you implied that I had no right to vote for it since I lacked the "purity of action". Another commenter said it well: "What, Kenna has to opt out of our oil-based economy in order to have an opinion about regulating that economy?"

Yes its probably true that the oil companies will pass this new cost on - if they can. They basically price fuel on the how much blood can they squeeze out of the turnip method. If it wasn't threatening to their bottom line however, then they wouldn't be so opposed to it.

I see this measure as a very much needed warning shot across their bow.

Do you find it uncomfortable to be in bed with Big Oil and the Koch Brothers?

AlexH said...

Claiming that oil companies will avoid paying anything by passing on the whole fee to consumers in an economically dubious statement disregarding any concept of supply & demand. Oil companies will be barring a burden in (at least) 3 ways:

1. Certainly the fee will increase the price of gas (as is intended), but increasing the price will lower demand and a new equilibrium will be reached. The exact price increase depends on the elasticity of supply/demand, but it will be less then the total cost of the fee. In this way, the fee will be split between oil providers and consumers.

2. With less oil being sold as a result of the fee, total revenues and presumably profits from the state will decrease. This is more of an indirect cost, but a cost nonetheless.

3. The investments made by the proposition should further lower the oil consumption. In this particular example of personal transportation, spending on electric vehicle infrastructure and public transportation would both serve to depress demand, again placing an indirect cost on oil companies.

If some in support of I-1631 are implying that no costs will be passed on to consumers, then I agree that they are being dishonest. But, it is equally dishonest for you to suggest that the initiative wouldn't place any costs on oil companies. There is a reason they have spent millions in opposition to this bill, and it is not out of concern for the Washington consumer.

Chris Mc said...

We need a government accountability app.

I think most agree that something needs to be done. Everyone also has their own ideas about how it should be done. For me, I'd be happy to pay a tax to clean up.. if I knew the money wasn't being wasted away the way this government does so well.

Google, apple, or Microsoft could make a government app so everyone could watch how money was used. Even Vote..

Government is such a mess. If the people were watching I think we may actually get somewhere..

The whole system needs to be streamlined and visible to all.

No way I'd say ok to a new tax with no plan. But, if I trusted the people in charge, then maybe..

These government leaders have no accountabillity for the huge amounts of money wasted at our expense. This tax would no doubt be the same sad story.

floater said...

Cliff - KUDOS to you ! Once again you have presented a "sane" - logical - & scientific presentation of facts / data to support a critical position which is opposite to the prevailing position taken by others in the scientific community - politicians - and environmental ( activist ) groups - THUS ... pointing out the flawed thinking being foisted upon the general / lay public by the "mainstream media" & the proponents of this ballot measure.

Then... we have those who have "labeled" you a "racist" ... what flavor of "kool aid" have they been downing ?!?

Keep up the XLNT work Cliff ... exposing the "Henny Penny the sky is falling" peeps that seem to abound in the Sound :)


Unknown said...

I could not support the constitution either. It set up an unelected senate, two senators per state, so the small states had equal representation. Then the slaves were counted for other states to boost their representation! And believing in true democracy, how could I condone no common rules for suffrage. And don't get me started on the electoral college! Such a killer to perfect democracy. What benefits could accrue to the states with such a flawed document!
Vote no.
Jeff Luth

Annie Thompson said...

Dr. Mass, I voted yes, I agree the initiative as written is not perfect but we need to start somewhere and now. When I read this post and the previous one I was struck by the fact it contained, maps, phrasing, and talking points that are often used by the Tea Party and Fox News. You talk about this nation being a representative democracy, those days are long gone especially post Citizens United, as is, and unfortunately so the Republican Party that I was once a member of. Dr. Mass you seem to think that some agreement on stemming climate change can be reached with this current version of the Republican Party. Dr. Mass unless you have been paying no attention to what this science denying group has been preaching you must see there can be no accommodation reached. One member of this brain trust even said "we have no need to worry about sea level rise because God told Noah he would never send another flood to punish man". How do you come up with a climate policy with people with those beliefs? Something is better than nothing, yes it might cost me more, and for the record I am retired with a very modest income, but I have grandchildren to consider, what mind of world will we leave them? Dr. Mass, I have always thought you were a conservative, and a small s climate skeptic, these two posts have reinforced that opinion. Dr. Mass you are a employee of the state of Washington, your salary comes from the taxpayers, your emails are fair game, more so when you have become an advocate for one side in a political debate. One last point, it seems that those liberals/progressives you seem to have so much disagreement with are the ones who promote better funding for education, something you might support? How about something on your best educated guess on how bad our coming winter will be.
Anne.

Brian Grunkemeyer said...

On Cliff's wildfire & smoke claim, the initiative explicitly includes this:

(A) Increase resilience to wildfire in the face of increased temperature and drought; or
(B) Improve forest health and reduce vulnerability to changes in hydrology, insect infestation, and other impacts of climate change.

The initiative will have around $300M/year to devote to activities like this. I believe this will provide the "hundreds of millions" Cliff pointed out are necessary to improve forest health. This initiative is set up to provide real solutions for WA citizens with a funding scheme to match. The same couldn't be said of a revenue-neutral approach.

SR said...

I-1631 is a good example of why the initiative process is deeply flawed. This should rightfully be the responsibility of the legislature. Unfortunately the legislature is not doing its job. But, that doesn't make I-1631 the right thing to do.

A good idea implemented badly, with no accountability and no way to modify its weaknesses or flaws, is much worse than doing nothing at all. It makes things worse and sets back the timing of a good solution for a very long time.

Responsible liberals and progressives should adamantly oppose this for all the reasons Dr. Mass states. His is a very reasoned, honest and coherent statement of what is wrong with this initiative.

Shahob Mousavi said...

I voted yes but saw your input for the ballot argument. Good on you Cliff for fighting for what you believe in.

Michael Snyder said...

Can we be expecting any republican initiative ideas anytime soon?

Cliff Mass said...

Michael. I was talking to Bill Bryant over the weekend, who ran for Governor last time. He is interested in bringing together a coalition to work out a viable plan to deal with global warming. I think the key is for this not to be a Democratic initiative or a Republican initiative but a bipartisan initiative. ..cliff

Mike in Olympia said...

As usual, a rationally and truthfully articulated case. As one of your posters related above, I, too, belonged to several environmental groups (Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Greenpeace, Nature Conservancy, et. al.) and served on the Board of the WA State entity that brought FSC certification into our region. I have been a natural resources professional since 1976, working first for the Quinault Indian Nation's Dept. of Natural Resources and later for many agencies and private forestland owners as a contractor/consultant. I have degrees in forestry and environmental science, the second from The Evergreen State College. I have no ties to "Big Oil", "Big Pharma" or any of the other evil empires of the "Big", including Big Gulps.

But over the years I have stopped giving to all these groups because they have become so bitter and hateful at heart. When I told a Greenpeace fundraiser that I no longer supported them, I was cursed at in my own driveway. This is the low bar they have set in terms of civilized discourse and behavior. I have seen the shrinking of glaciers in the Olympics and other ranges since I began alpine hiking and climbing in 1971. I believe, to some extent, that there are anthropogenic factors involved. I do not pretend to know to what extent these factors contribute to the trend. I commonly use predictive models in my work and have a seasoned opinion of their limitations. I HAVE learned over the decades of daily immersion in the field collecting natural resource data and also observing natural phenomena on a daily basis, that this planet is much more resilient than we give it credit for. It is NOT a delicately balanced snowflake that will disintegrate at the mere touch of a warm finger. And I see progress in the way we treat our planet since I began my career in 1976. In western WA, we've come a long way since the days of 1500 acre clearcuts planted 100% with genetically limited "super tree" Douglas-fir!

But I cannot ignore the hyperbole, hysteria, hatred and dishonesty that has become the mainstream environmental movement of today. Thanks for being a voice of reason and for continuing the plea for calm, focused scientific method. I-1631 is a horribly conceived, and, to anyone who values democratic process, offensive proposal. The ends do not justify the means. This is nothing less than Brownshirt environmentalism. Green businesses WILL become larger and will soon supplant the oil-based status quo. But by soon I do not mean tomorrow. Perhaps ten years. And rest assured, panicked ones, our planet will still be here and will still be a vital, vigorous and amazing thing.

Doug Wise said...

Cliff,
Thanks for your thoughtful analysis and clear explanations on this initiative.
I have passed on your posts to family members.

wavelength said...

the state constitution assigns to the legislature setting the budget. we could amend the constitution with a 2/3 vote and allow a new governmental branch to have their own budget and method of collecting money, this would be separate from the legislature, BUT I-1631 sets up a new branch with only a yes vote by a simple majority. I-1631 is unconstitutional. section 17 of the initiative says: "If this chapter is invalidated, the department of ecology is directed to enforce chapter 173-442 WAC..." which is cap and trade plan approved executive decision by governor enslee.
the court said it was unenforceable absent a vote of the people.

see https://www.washingtonpolicy.org/library/doclib/MyersCitizens-Guide-to-Initiative-1631.pdf

Bruce Kay said...

Well Mike aside from the irony in you complaining about hateful hyperbole while invoking the term "Brownshirt" to drive your point home, I do actually agree with your main criticism.

Consider this: In British Columbia there are two big industrial initiatives that are being actively opposed by environmentalists - a large hydro electric dam and a twinning of capacity in an existing oil pipeline. In both cases, climate change is raised as a major reason for opposition. The oil pipeline is debatable but what clearly is not is the construction of a hydro electric dam which could easily displace fossil fuelled power generation. In both cases, there is no doubt that both projects can be used to provide work for oil patch workers recently displaced by low oil prices (canadian tar sands oil is the least competitive, lowest grade, highest cost, first to fold oil product) who need to pay mortgages monthly just like anyone while the great "transition" slowly crawls into being.

Our current governments first act of legislation was to stop the Enbridge northern pipeline to Kitimat. This has long been forgotten by the drum pounders who expect the same now in Vancouver, completely oblivious to the economic and political ramifications of such a demand that predictably would only result in a Canadian "Trump revolt" that would certainly install a obstructionist Conservative government for the next decade at least.

To top it off, there is mute stoney silence from the drum pounders in regard to what is most certainly the most promising climate change initiative in Canada right now - a national Carbon tax. They would prefer to sulk or even sabotage over what they consider ideological disloyalty, not sober pragmatism.

Obstruction and subterfuge on climate action from American Republicans and Canadian Conservatives is predictable. My biggest disappointment is the near zero capacity for empathy, humility, strategic compromise and bald faced NIMBYISM from those who claim to care the most about climate risk - the environmentalists.

W Burrows said...

Mike in Olympus … I too share your experience with environmental groups as they operate today. I sat on an advisory board to a newly elected Commission of Public Lands. When I brought up some shoreline issues I was put down as just being a NIMBY. I guess they never read the Shoreline Management Act that states “In the implementation of this policy the public's opportunity to enjoy the physical and aesthetic qualities of natural shorelines of the state shall be preserved to the greatest extent feasible consistent with the overall best interest of the state and the people generally.”

After the meeting, one of the reps from a conservation organization told me that no one would support me because they all had their “special interests” and supporting me might interfere with those interests. In other words, it was all about them … not about the environment.

Knowing how I-1631 was conceived and having had personal experience with some of the groups supporting it, I have no faith in its implementation and will be voting NO.

Robert Sargent said...

Great idea. But why not make the coalition nonpartisan instead of bipartisan. The Audobon Society is a great model. It is nonpartisan group that is focused on birds and their habitat, and where no one really cares what political party anybody belongs to. You proposed GHG coalition shouldn’t really be a group that exists to cut a deal between the Republicans and the Democrats. If you create a coalition that is focused on REDUCING GLOBAL WARMING, I’m all in. Where do I sign up to volunteer?

Travis Thornton said...

Cliff, you could have at least tried to be a bit more creative in copying the oil and gas industry's propaganda. The way you stretch facts and add drama is appalling. "Washington State has many boards, but none of them decide on spending priorities for billions of dollars." Do you even know who your own employer is? The FY2018 operating budget for UW is $7.25 Billion (whereas the estimates of the fees to be collected under the initiative are around 10% of that annually). UW is governed by a 10 member board appointed by the Governor! The horror!

Where are the facts to support the assertion that the fee will be passed dollar for dollar to WA residents? There aren't any, other than I guess a telephone conversation with a "representative". The fee applies across the board to a class of industry players who compete for business in our state. These are giant companies who literally have the entire planet to spread any cost increases over if they wish. But what about the provisions allowing the companies to retain the fee so long as they invest it cleaning up their operations? Clean up first, reduce the fee and obtain the market advantage. Classic and effective.

I'm surprised that last picture in the post isn't of Hitler.

RossB said...

So, Cliff, what is your plan? You do realize we had a revenue neutral proposal, and it lost. There is no alternative. This isn't like the light rail plan (which, if it failed, would have come back in another form). We have already been down this road, and if this fails again, that is probably it. We will dither around for another ten years, and by then it will be way too late.

Whining about the details of this proposal, along with scare mongering about government ("Oh no, the foxes -- the dreaded foxes") is a bit weird coming from someone on the public dime. Yes, the money can be misused, just like the UW can (and does) misuse money all the time (have you started your crusade against collegiate athletic programs, Dr. Mass?). For that matter, why is the UW so anti-transit? Why does it have so many large parking lots, and so little in the way of transit infrastructure? Why did it refuse to allow the largest transit system ever built in Washington State to put stations in a convenient location, but instead instead insist on putting them on the periphery, forcing riders to walk long distances (or just drive)? I could go on and on about how the university operates more like a business, and less like a institution designed to benefit the public, but we all know that it is complicated. Some of what the university does is definitely useful. Some of it is not. Should we stop funding the UW, as a result?

Of course not. We muddle along, knowing that while you can easily make a case that the money is not spent wisely, it is still, overall, better than not spending any money at all. The same is true for this proposal. We don't know exactly where the money will go, but it is reasonable to assume that the government will spend it on projects that benefit humanity.

RossB said...

>> I think the key is for this not to be a Democratic initiative or a Republican initiative but a bipartisan initiative. ..cliff

You mean like initiative 732? It failed.

John Marshall said...

I find it rather startling that people believe that large corporations (especially oil companies) will accept a reduction in profits for the public good. That isn't how publicly listed corporations work, and if they tried that, their leaders and even their Board would be fired by the people who own those corporations -- their stockholders. They want the value of the stock to rise due to increasing profitability. Hard stop. Period.

Of course such corporations will fund the resistance to such changes because increasing their costs reduces short-term profitability. But you can bet they will very quickly pass those increased costs onto their consumers to ensure profits continue to grow. It's the way the capitalist system works.

In the end, simplistic measures like I-1631 will ensure that those who are least capable of absorbing increases in costs will have to ultimately carry them. Just another regressive tax hidden behind a smokescreen.

Instead, look for ways to legislatively motivate corporations to help reduce carbon while increasing their profits. That way you harness the corporate world to the task of reducing climate change. Then you'll see incredible progress. But not until.

Kiran Shah said...

Well said Cliff. A board of directors handling billions of dollars raises a flag. We need elected officials to take control of this matter or else vote NO!

Shahob Mousavi said...

Will the Olympic glaciers still be here in 10 years though?

sierraddict said...

Mike in Olympia,

You are absolutely right that "the planet" is not going to disintegrate at the touch of a warm "finger" of gigatons of climate gases. It's mostly poor humans in the tropics, and the more fragile species of plants and animals, that will bear the brunt. There will be stable, functional ecosystems in our future world. They'll just be different than the ones we have now, and the adjustment will be painful.

For me, and most climate change activists I've met, climate action is primarily a humanitarian effort. We're not envisioning a sere, dead planet - we're envisioning significantly more common and more severe famine, floods, and droughts in places like Bangladesh, Syria, and the Sahel. That's worth dealing with the Democratic political machine to get some action on. Unfortunately, the Republican Party has ceded the field on action on this issue. Yes on I-1631.

Kenna Wickman said...

Michael Snyder - lets try to imagine what a Republicanish Tim Eyman -written initiative for addressing Global Warming would look like. Lets see - during the campaign, about 30-70% of the money raised would be siphoned off by Mr. Eyman for other purposes (perhaps he could use it to fund a second home). The initiative would give incentives to Volkswagen to keep using their previous diesel engines, and allow them to make claims about the emissions. Biblical scholars who studied the 1st Testament would be funded to determine the exact date of the Noah's Flood (not to be confused with the Bretz Floods - those took place before Genesis) using Usher's proven methodology. Instead of taxing the oil companies, they would receive subsidies so that they could study the problem for the next 30 years, paid for by an increase in the gas tax at the pump. Recreational Vehicles including private aircraft would be exempted from this tax. An oversight board consisting of representatives from the industries and a number of well funded religious organizations would direct how much money is to be taken. Finally, recreational and other types of burning would be allowed 365 days a year on all lands despite current weather conditions, due to the pasts better weather conditions being grandfathered in.

Also, breathing masks will be not allowed - similar to the situation at protests. People who don't like it can move to a wetter and less likely to burn location, such as the Florida Panhandle perhaps.

sunsnow12 said...

Annie Thompson said: "Dr. Mass you are a employee of the state of Washington, your salary comes from the taxpayers, your emails are fair game..."

Cliff is a scientist expressing his opinion (with supporting information). And your response is to threaten and intimidate him by demanding his emails.

This on the blog where he welcomes debate in his comment section. There's some irony.

How anyone could support this new ideology is just beyond me. Staggering stuff.

Sailor said...

I am voting yes, because "the perfect is the enemy of the good," as Voltaire wrote.

Measures that may have been more perfect in theory have gone down to defeat because they could not garner enough votes to be enacted. I-1631 was crafted to accomplish one important result that those earlier proposals could not: it is designed to appeal to enough voters to actually pass and take effect. In the face of evidence that climate change continues to accelerate, the authors of the initiative are aiming for some degree of achievable carbon control, rather than no control, which is the result when more perfect proposals fail to pass. We have to start somewhere, and hope that some of the imperfections can be ironed out as we go along.

British radar pioneer Sir Robert Watson-Watt promoted what he called the "cult of the imperfect" as the most effective way to achieve real-world results: "Give them the third best to go on with," he said; "the second best comes too late, and the best never comes."

Eric Blair said...

Mike in Olympia - all of those fancy titles and experience, what do you know, you racist. Seriously, when all of the environmental groups in my hometown (Chicago) led the charge back in the late 80's)to get rid of all of the nuke plants in the area, I asked at one meeting what on earth did they have in mind to replace all of those kilowatts. They just shrugged and mumbled something about solar, and that was it. The result? New coal plants came online to replace the mothballed nuke plants, and the air quality appreciably worsened. They didn't care about actual people, just getting more money for their own organizations and their many six - figured board members. This smacks of more of the same, just follow the money, as per ususl.

Charley Reneau said...

I think it's pretty rich that you think this initiative won't solve the problems with east side forests (it doesn't put enough money into the problem), but voting "No" puts even less money into solving that problem ($0).
I also think it's rich that your main substantive argument against this initiative is that it's undemocratic, because it leaves out the legislature. Give me a break. It's an initiative, so right there it's a directly democratic action. Second, leaving out the legislature, which has, to date, made no progress on this issue, might be the only way the people get to have a say on our climate future. Basically, legislatures at state and federal levels have done squat, even when polls indicate the public is interested in solving this issue. So, where is the democracy in the current situation for crying out loud?!
This whole discussion is interesting, because what it looks like to me is that Dr. Mass is trying to square his Republican Party policy preferences with the obvious truth of anthropogenic climate change. He's trying to find a way not to scuttle his own career or engage in scientific dishonesty, while still using the language of his preferred political party. It's got to be tough to try and be an intellectually honest republican these days, and I don't envy the task. I agree that getting harassed by the left is horrible (can't we just knock that off?). But what harms come from changing our climate? Doesn't inaction cause personal, human impacts as well? At some point, we need to start moving forward. Cliff Mass is standing in the way.

Sulla said...

I base many of my votes on $$$. Who is supporting something with $$$? Who is opposing something with $$$? That is especially true when it comes to initiatives. For example, when it comes to 1631 I am not a fan of the oil industry. Much of the industry knows that climate change is happening, but are investing $$$ to delay policy changes so that they can line their pockets as long as possible, regardless of what damage the planet suffers for that enrichment of a select few. Their marketing has been so successful that they have effectively brainwashed people into ignoring the raft of scientific research supporting that climate change is happening.

So, back to the initiative and $$$. With the below KOMO report I bet you can guess which way I will vote. 1631 has some warts, but none of them compare to the disease that is the oil industry.

https://komonews.com/news/local/oil-industry-anti-i-1631-campaign-hits-2587-million-a-spending-record

DMcL said...

I voted for it because, despite its flaws, it is highly likely to change behavior and reduce carbon emissions. This a a better alternative than Cliff and the energy companies recommendation that we just sit back and wait until our legislators cook up something better. This is a democratic process, messy yes, but with corporate interests poring money into the process in order to get their way, aided and abbeted by well meaning but naive citizens, we need to vote for change when we have the chance. Otherwise, you are just enabling the energy companies to stay in control.

SR said...

Initiatives turn out to be one of those good government things that isn't. The idea is that initiatives are "from the people", but in fact they are the opposite. Unelected people with a very partisan point of view create something that cannot go through the democratic process of debate, improvement and compromise. It is one of the reasons most initiatives fail. And, it is one of the reasons that many of those initiatives that pass turn out to be failures in the long run.

Initiatives all or nothing. And, once approved it is extremely difficult to revise, adjust or improve an initiative. The legislative process, for all its warts, is actually more democratic. It forces debate, allows different points of view, can be adjusted and compromise among all the stakeholders.


The worst thing about this initiative is that it creates an unelected board to determine how to use the money. If you think oil companies are the only special interests you are very naïve. The group backing this initiative has their own agenda.

A carbon tax is a good idea. But, this initiative is a really bad idea. It will create far more problems that it solves.

The best thing is to use the enthusiasm to force the legislature to work on a good policy.

SR said...

Charley,

Ad homonym attacks only weaken your argument. The old adage of "weak point, speak loud" is exactly what you are doing. You have the right to say what you want, but if you want to be listened to you should be respectful of others.

Steve Rolfe

Eric Blair said...

Voltaire also wrote "Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd." It's the primary reason why so many citizens mistrust proposals like this one, they're tired of being sheeple for their so - called enlightened betters. Since the supporters won't attempt persuasion and instead resort to hectoring and threaten those who disagree, that shows the paucity of their arguments. It's why they want the government to dictate to others how they think they should live, rather than letting individuals decide for themselves. That is called a Republic.

Unknown said...

I will definitely be voting yes on 1631. This controversy is a example of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. It's also an example of letting the messengers get in the way of the message. I too despair at the incivility of the public discourse. But those opposed to 1631, Dr. Mass being a notable exception, also trade in falsehoods, falsehoods designed to forestall any action of human caused climate change and promoted by a multimillion dollar budget..

With a legislature and governor too timid to take real action, a yes vote on 1631 would at the very least send a strong message to our public servants that we want to see action on the issue of human caused climate change. There will be time enough to fix some of its shortcomings. I share your enthusiasm for a bipartisan bill, but don't think we have 50 years to wait for that to happen.

Cliff, one of your arguments particularly puzzles me. You point out, correctly, that oil companies will pass on part or all of the costs of this tax back to the consumer. And so? Why should the end users of fossil fuel products continue to be shielded from any accountability, only to pass the costs on to our children who will pay for the environmental mess we leave behind? High gas prices do change people's habits. I'm old enough to remember how popular small economy cars became in the 1970s.

We have to start somewhere, and this initiative is much better than sitting on our hands.

Ferdi Businger

Jeff G. said...

I would have voted yes if there was a guarantee that the new tax money would have gone to subsidizing increased gas prices and utility bills for families and individuals. If not then economic disparity in WA would widen for the sake of trying to address a global problem. The new revenues could go to a tax break for instance for middle and low income families. That would be a redistribution of wealth in the near term and (hopefully) a reduction in emissions over the long term. I’ve given up on quick fixes with great sacrifice.

Russell Cunningham said...

While I have enormous respect for Cliff Mass, I have to disagree with him on this. There are many excellent points in both of his recent blog posts on 1631, but I also find logic errors, and a couple factual errors.

Logic error 2: "Its not bipartisan enough". While this is true, it is also true that a bipartisan approach failed (732). For now, I very strongly feel that moving towards a CULTURAL shift where more people accept the "idea" of a carbon tax is on its own a huge victory.

Logic error 2:I-1631 doesn't leverage the government to regulate how these funds are disbursed. While this also may be true, its also true that MOST endeavors throughout history that have had success, came about when the private and public sectors worked together. I see 1631 as such an opportunity.

Fact error: "The Oil Companies have not been anti-environment, and have always accepted Global Warming science". This is just simply not true. The oil industry has dumped hundreds of millions (or more) into spreading miss-messaging on this topic. There's a great book by Naomi Oreskes & Erik M. Conway called the Merchants of Doubt that goes into this excellently.

Its not perfect, but I'm voting for it.

All the while, all of us talking heads keep doing our talking head things, and the global CO2 concentrations are now at 405ppm, and rising rapidly.

Basically, without being too much of a bummer, it kind of doesn't matter, because we're all dead. The paleoclimate / paleontology data very strongly indicate what happens to apex species who live through periods of rapid climate change: Extinction. Perhaps humans can innovate some form of survival, but we would be the first large bodied specie in Earth's history to do so.

JeffB said...

As with so many tissues today, Political forces have titled so far left that they rarely resemble Democrat values of the past. Today’s Left is about political orthodoxy. Thanks for summarizing Cliff.

Unknown said...

Cliff, we pour billions into our military every year and we don't get to vote on who gets to be a general or not. Is that un-democratic as well? I like it better when you write about clouds and stuff.

mark_a_onthetrail said...

Hi Cliff, FYI I'm a fan of your blog.
As a moderate centrist independent, with a technical background, I support public policies that are based on science, data, evidence, and facts. That's why I have carefully read your blog posts on this topic - I want to see what a scientist thinks of this issue.
However, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) have come up with a recommendation that is the opposite of yours. Since they are presumably scientists too, I carefully read their blog as well:
https://blog.ucsusa.org/julie-mcnamara/facts-on-1631
Your thoughts on how to square these opposing recommendations from scientists?
Thanks,
Mark Ainsworth

Unknown said...

Cliff, Thanks for both of your posts on this topic. The regressiveness of this tax makes it a non-starter for me, and you've given me numerous other reasons to vote against it. The appointed board is a big one! It's bad enough the Sound Transit Board, which also controls a lot of loot, is unelected. Then there was the Ed Murray-selected HALA Board. Honestly, the progressives in this state give Liberals a bad name!

Chris Mc said...

Charley that's a pretty intimidating message you left. May want to remember that you came to this blog. Everyone gets an opinion. This one just comes with many reasons to consider.

You may find your arguments are more compelling if you use facts and reason instead of just being an ass.

It's important to remember that there's always someone in your way, nothing to get upset about.

Dan said...

Kenna, your attempt to be snide about VW's cheating diesel engines was a swing and a miss.

I don't suppose you were aware that the cheat protocol made the engines burn lean, producing more power and fewer carbon emissions per liter of fuel consumed. They were rather miraculous engines. The only rub in the plan was that by burning so lean, cylinder temperatures escalated to the point that atmospheric nitrogen started to bond with oxygen during combustion, producing NOx species, precursors to photochemical smog.

There's a tension between limiting nitrogen oxides emitted into the air and limiting the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. A "corrected" VW engine consumes considerably more fuel than the cheat engine.

What has been absent from the scandal coverage is someone asking whether EPA and CARB should continue being so stringent about the largely solved problem of smog, when that approach also increases carbon emissions.

James Westbury said...

"Oil companies will pass on any carbon fee directly to the consumers. They have always done so in the past. I asked an oil company representative about it...yep, you will get the bill. So big "polluters" and oil companies won't pay for the I-1631 fee, the citizens of the state will."

Sure. This is true for any tax on oil companies. That doesn't mean it's a bad thing -- it creates temporary pain for the consumer, but pricing pressure on fossil fuels will encourage the adoption of alternative energy. The most effective way to force development of alternative energy is to make the use of fossil fuels unsavory.

Laurene Eldred said...

I am surprised at how many make the comment, "voting yes on I-1631 is better than doing nothing".
Even after reading all 38 pages.

I am surprised at how many are voting yes on I-1631 because they "hate big oil".
Washington State is a large user of oil, from paved roads, to tires, to ferry boats, kayaks and sail boats, to snow skis, sneakers and stadium seats, to the throw away products that keep a medical facility sanitary.

The other day I was cleaning up my home weather station, getting it ready for winter and installing a new battery, when I realized that almost the entire weather station is made from plastic.
We could all benefit the environment by walking a dusty trail rather than driving a paved road. Are you willing to give up the benefits of big oil in your life to help the environment? Or is it easier to check yes on an ambiguous initiative, and feel like you have honorably made the big step to help the environment.
I just bet, there is an unseen panel of beneficiaries sitting in the background rubbing their hands together in gleeful anticipation waiting to get their hands on this collected tax.
And I wonder many of them drive a government vehicle?

Unknown said...

Dan, your comment, "What has been absent from the scandal coverage is someone asking whether EPA and CARB should continue being so stringent about the largely solved problem of smog, when that approach also increases carbon emissions." is non-sensical. The problem is "largely solved" BECAUSE we have regulations. It's like saying because the problem of smoking in airplanes is largely solved, the airlines should just look the other way when someone lights up in the airplane lavatory. And do not forget that we have more than twice the number of vehicles on the road now than we did in the late 1960's, so even more reason to "be stringent." Finally, the problem may be largely solved for parts of the US, but it is not solved globally and VW is a global company. If you'd like to talk more about this, give me directions to the VW dealership at which you work and we can chat over over a cup of coffee.

Ellen K said...

Cliff so glad you are exposing the many flaws of 1631. I read the initiative in the voter pamphlet and was horrified by its fuzzy targets that would keep raising the tax every year until they are reached -and I assume set, the carve outs for certain industries and Native American tribes, and the ill-defined distribution of the funds. So much social engineering there -helping low income groups impacted by climate change -how is not specified, helping relocate a coastal Native American village -but no help for other coastal towns and much more.
They say that big oil would pay, but then mention that the tax would be collected in the same places as the gas tax -well a big part of that will then be borne by the gas stations and you better believe that consumers will directly pay -this could help our gas prices reach European levels, which I know is a goal for some.But the gas tax is regressive, it hurts middle and lower income folks the most.
The unelected board is just the cherry on top of the reasons I'll be voting NO. And I voted for the last initiative and am in favor of action. But not action that likely will not solve problems so much as create many new ones.

Unknown said...

I have really been on the fence with this one. I think Cliff makes valid points. I-732 would have been more sensible, at least from the point of view of getting broad political acceptance and financial progressivity. I can't get on board with the commenters who accuse Cliff of being a Republican & oil industry tool, nor with the folks who accuse environmentalists, labor, and tribes of just being in it for the money, although I'm sure there are examples on both sides.

But I have to vote for it. I think the political message sent by a defeat would be a huge setback, and the greenhouse gasses that would be emitted before another, better, bill might pass someday would be too costly.

I view this situation as like trying to break into the Seattle housing market when it (like the climate?) is hot. This bill is a serious "fixer." But a fixer is all we can afford in this market. We get this one or, I'm afraid, nothing at all for a long time. If it passes, we need to immediately go to work to improve it. Another metaphor? The climate situation is a moving train that's only picking up speed. We need to get on board so we can have some control over its future, or we miss our chance.

Dan said...

Unknown, I appreciate neither the accusation of bad faith, nor the mischaracterization of my argument.

I have no affiliation with VW/Audi/Porsche, I don't own their stock, and I don't own any of their cars. I drive a car made by one of their competitors, actually.

You are correct that the problem of smog has been largely solved because of strict NOx emission regulations. However, the attrition of the old dirty fleet and its replacement by newer cleaner cars has revealed the mountains to Angelinos again. Meanwhile, the ever-stricter NOx targets have been so technically challenging to implement that, in addition to urea treatment which I wholeheartedly support, diesel engine manufacturers have detuned their engines in order to achieve compliance.

A detuned diesel engine produces less NOx than a tuned engine. However, it also runs less efficiently, emits more carbon, and emits more particulate matter which also decreases air quality. That's why we need to have a discussion about relaxing the NOx standard, not eliminating it.

The terrible air pollution in many Asian cities is completely out of scope. There people tool around on little two-cycle motorbikes, spewing burned engine oil out the exhaust by design. Keep your eye on the ball.

Diesel engines aren't going away. They are the foundation of rail and truck transport. Unless you want to live in a lean-to and hunt with a spear, you will use products hauled by diesel trucks. What is the best tuning profile that optimizes both nitrogen and carbon emissions, which are in tension? These are the questions that smart people should ask.

Oh, and since you accused me once, I guess I'd better put my cards on the table. I'm not affiliated with the trucking or rail industries either. I'm just a concerned citizen raising an issue.

BAMCIS said...

When taxes, levies and fees roll on down from initiatives such as these, I personally have to ask:

After the passage of Bill XYZ with its associated increases of practically unavoidable expenses, will there will be a need to do some belt tightening/serious monetary triage?

If so, is this painful blow for a well conceived plan?

Tabitha said...

Um, yeah, if Mahattan is going to be submerged otherwise, then yeah, you should opt-out of the oil-based economy. And quick! Desperate times call for desperate measures, right?

The current generation between 20-40 is the most travelled in history. "Progressives'' take more flights each year, and fly more miles than do their "conservative" counterparts. No one is asking anyone to 'opt-out' of the oil-based economy. They're asking you to live the values you're screaming at others. To make your actions consistent with your stated, and sometimes, shouted concerns.

Very few of you do so.

Instead, you talk, wag fingers, talk some more, and wag fingers some more. Talk, wag, talk, wag.

See, affluent progressives don't need everyone else to beleive in climate change. You could make a huge dent all by yourselves. But, you don't.

You decry 'big oil', but how did oil get 'big'?

You are the same people who would be livid, LIVID, if you had no gas to put in your cars, or no jet fuel for your next vacation.

One flight for one person in economy generates as much C02 as a private automobile for an entire year. Sea-Tac is breaking travel records again this year. Wag wag wag, make someone else pay for killing the planet!

You made big oil 'big'. You made them rich. You. Not the other guy, You.

Of course, the great progressive social contract means never calling anyone out for their hypocricy, so long as they talk the talk. Talk isn't saving the planet, though, and self-described progressives are primary contributors to climate change and big oil.

I don't own a car. I don't fly. Yet, I get the finger wag from the people who do because I don't talk to the talk.

You care about climate change so long as you aren't personally inconvenienced for it. You have a list of boogeymen that that should pay instead. How novel, to care so much about an issue that you'll vote to have someone else pay for it. Gee, that's some serious sacrifice on your part.

So you voted to scapegoat someone else for a cause you claim to care about. How heroic. Clearly, you care. After all, you voted 'make the other guy pay'. You joined the elite club known as 'everyone'.

Don't worry, though, big oil will still be there to fuel up the plane when it's time to visit mom for the holidays. Sure, California may have to fall into the sea for your trip, but mom makes the best pumpkin pie and you don't want to opt-out of the oil based economy and miss it, do you? of couse not, it's pumpkin pie! Yummy!

You've got endless justifications anyway. You don't take excuses from 'the others', but hey, your you!

Face it,you don't really want big oil to go anywhere, and fortunately for you, they know it. The affluent class can absorb the price increases, no sweat, and who cares about the poor anyway? The affluent class cares about the poor as much as they care about climate change. Heck, maybe even less, if that's possible. Let's all vote for "Make someone else pay!" and then self-rightously preach to the non-believers? Deal? K.

The hypocricy is so far past absurd.

Unknown said...

We can support this initiative and still force our elected officials to work on a better policy. And when that better policy is available, we will support it, as well. It's not one or the other.

Jim said...

If we the people pass this initiative, then Ds and Rs will have 2 years to improve on this initiative. In the mean time, we will have raised a bunch of money and struck an awareness in the public in a way that resonates with them (us), via their (our) wallets.

I hope Bill Bryant and his coalition succeeds but in the meantime, this is the best way to hold their feet to the fire.

Bruce Kay said...

Tabitha raises some totally valid points about the great extent we are all "complicit" in how we have gotten here and the inertia involved in any change required.

However I fail to see how support for a carbon tax, designed to be as most impactful to the high fossil fuel consuming "progressive" she wags her own finger at, indicates any intransigence to change or take on risk for their part. The majority of support for any carbon tax, cap and trade, or any method to price carbon is almost exclusively made by "liberals / Progressives". Conversely, the majority for opposition in any country, state or province is consistently Republican / Conservative. The Liberals are, regardless of their levels of consumption, more inclined to risk their socioeconomic status to lower emissions.

This has a lot to do with (but not exclusively) the differences in risk tolerance that is measurable between liberals and Conservatives. Conservatives consistently measure as more risk averse. The title "Conservative" is intrinsically linked to this attitude.

Tabatha is right - we are all very much complicit, but really, considering the extreme complexity of our civilization being to date entirely built upon cheap abundant fossil fuels, no one should find this surprising. It is not "Hypocrisy" that those who continue to use fossil fuels also say we should stop using fossil fuels. That is irony, but it is not hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy is if you become aware of the inherent contradictions, recognize the risks involved, yet lack the fortitude to take reasonable efforts to correct them.

Eric Blair said...

"In the meantime, we will have fleeced taxpayers and passed on another regressive tax on the poor in order to install an unelected board accountable to no one and demonstrated once again to the public that all we care about is virtue - signaling white elephant government boondoggles."

There, fixed that for you.

WeatherOwl said...

Cliff,
I think your point about the initiative funds being placed into the hands of a (mostly) unelected board is not relevant because the vast majority of government funds is controlled by unelected administrators (and I should point out that many of them work for republicans these days in the federal government) Elected officials appoint people to distribute funds and they do so using guidelines not direct supervision.

Cliff Mass said...

weatherowl... the DECISIONS about programs and how much many is spent is made by ELECTED representatives. Unelected folks can manage the programs using guidelines and requirements made by elected reps. That is the point..cliff

Bruce Kay said...

Look lets get serious here. Whoever "makes" the decisions, those decision receive the stamp of approval or not by the elected official. The buck stops with them either way.

Similarly when Scott Pruit literally signs his name to policy conceived and drafted by the Heritage Foundation, ALEC or similar, Scott Pruit owns it and ultimately pays the price. Of course there is a considerable process difference between publicly selected committee members designed ethically for public accountability, a breadth of skill and perspective and a totally partisan private enterprise cloaked in secrecy but the end result - public policy - always lands on the officials desk for stamping just as an engineer would pin his liability insurance policy to something his field grunt did all the leg work on.

This stuff happens all the time. It is actually much more an indication of competent delegation and efficiency of resources as anything vaguely nefarious. No doubt Cliff Mass does very similar in his business with his dubiously qualified under grads.

Tabitha said...

Bruce, thanks for your thoughtful response. If I may offer a followup to your post ...

We're not talking about people who are begrudginly using fossil fuels because, gosh darnit, they just happened to be born into an oil-based economy.

Quite to the contrary.

We are talking about people whose carbon output is significantly higher than the average American's.

Study after study has shown that carbon footprint increases with income. The more affluent, the more energy once uses.

Studies have also found, that concern for "climate change" also increases with affluence.

In essense, the more likely one is to contribute to climate change the more likely one is to preach to others about the evils of climate change, and the more likely one is to advocate for more laws to combat the problem.

This is analgous to pathological jaywalkers complaining that jaywalking is killing the planet, and advocating for more enforcement against jaywalkers, so long as the punished jaywalkers aren't themselves, while declaring evil, stupid, ignorant, etc, everyone who doesn't agree with their view.

What's particularly odd is that this very class seems to have an inability to understand why their arguments are not persuasive to those who "deny" their positions. They actually expect others to believe that climate change is an immiment threat, while the messengers themselves behave in a manner which says the complete opposite.

That the most affluent, most educated class of Americans routinely ridicule and belittle those of lessor means and lessor education, for not parroting the same dogma from the halls of academia that they do, is wrong, and we used to know this as a society. Remember, many of those not in the tribe are people who's post-High School choices are 1) The Military 2) Walmart or 3) Homelessness. Choosing which college to go to is not even on the list of possibilities.

But those people are supposed to be equally as concerned about highly-educated, affluent-class priorities as the affluent themselves?

See, humans prioritize problems according to their imminence, likelihood of happening, and likely effect. When you aren't sure where next month's rent is coming from, when you can't afford to see a doctor, when you can't afford to buy food and clothing for your children, you are not going to care about Malibu's sea-level 30 years from now. The affluent class has lost sight of this, because their political corporation's marching orders have dictated not empathy, but de-humanization of the opposing team. That those with $100,000+ educations so readily complied is just shocking.

Say what you will about the sophistication of trailer-dwelling Republicans from Arkansas, call them what names you will ... but if you are a member of the more privileged class, what's YOUR excuse? You didn't have to choose between the military or the local big box retailer. You had every single opportunity, every single chance in the world to become and understanding, empathetic human being. You had every chance in the world to make a credible claim to the moral high ground.

Now, it's an endless stream of "well they do it too!"

This is what has become of the country's intellectual elite.

They were offered absolution. They were offered immunity. So long as they openly adhered to the dogma, and shouted down the dogma's non-believers, they were told that they would be held blameless. ... regardless of their actions. Best of all, when the time came to hand out punishment for the damage done to the planet, much of it by the free pass they had been given, the crosshairs would be pointed elsewhere.

All they had to do, was talk the talk, and all of this was theirs for the asking. What a deal!

So, while I appreciate and respect your point of view, hypocrisy is probably the kindest thing you could call it.

Colin said...

Cliff,
DECISIONS about I-1631 programs and how money is spent will be APPROVED by elected representatives.

Unelected boards staffed with relevant and accountable experts are used ALL THE TIME in government to "develop recommendations" (literal language in 1631) guiding the allocation of resources. Such boards facilitate the proper and efficient allocation of resources that elected officials have neither the expertise or the bandwith to do properly. Then, elected officials APPROVE the funding.

What do you want the initiative to do? To add 16 elected positions, where numerous political candidates can scuffle over who is a better expert in their field? That sounds like a horrible idea. You want a revenue neutral approach? Lets weigh the relative effectiveness of that approach compared to a fee designed to reinvest in programs that hasten and ease the transition, there are valid arguments for BOTH.

This isnt the end-all anyway. The initiative goes to the legislature in two years and they can (and probably will) change it to their heart's content. In the mean time we'll raise a bunch of money to hasten and ease the clean energy transition. Lets continue debating the best way to practically do something about climate change, but we already know what needs to be done, so lets not continue to put off actually doing something while we're perfecting our approach.

I hope you'll change your mind, and shift to a more productive conversation evaluating the best approaches as we move forward. There are valid criticisms of the initiative; and there are valid criticisms of the revenue neutral approach. There can be an initiative next year that changes this one. Lets at least START to do SOMETHING.

I am an enthusiastic YES on 1631. I hope you'll join me and my fellow scientific experts in support of the initiative: https://www.scientistsfor1631.com/

C

George Reynoldson said...

If I-732 failed and I-1631 or neither the legislature nor the governor are up to the job of proper pricing carbon, perhaps we need a new piece of legislation. How about "Fee and Dividend", like Trudeau's just pushed through in Canada? It punishes no one and will use market forces and creative entrepreneurs and potentially moral persuasion from a more responsible future government to do the job of saving the climate for our grandkids. Dr.James Hansen has advocated this for a long time and has conservative backers behind him.

Bruce Kay said...

Tabatha - still not sure i follow you. Affluent can be republican just as easily as democrat and for a more reliable measure of who is concerned about climate change and willing to incur costs to fight it, the Republican Democrat divide is much better measure of who's who.

Although i get your point about affluence equaling a greater per capita carbon footprint and thus a greater moral responsibility for cost. No doubt about that and if I read you right, whatever "denialism" that might exist with the less affluent it may largely be a result of not having the luxury of dealing with any hazard but the day to day ones, which climate change isn't just yet. Denialism of any kind is typically just a irrational heuristic response to questions that are too overwhelming or disturbing to contemplate. We all do it one way or another in all kinds of situations.

There is no reason, especially in such a fantastically wealthy country as the USA, that any climate change costs should so needlessly be dumped onto those who can least afford it. The Carbon Tax can easily be designed to be progressive in nature, as our Canadian government is trying to implement right now. The rich are the ones who can take opportunities of innovation if they want to escape costs while those who can not should be reimbursed for their carbon costs, preferably quarterly and indexed to last years income tax.

Maybe they should start calling it the Empathy Carbon Tax? It might at least make the rich stop and think for a change. Either way, i do agree with you. Just don't mix up the tone deaf movie star hypocrites with the nobody special pipeline protestors floating around in their petroleum product kayaks. They are just trying to make the best of a shit sandwich like anyone else.

Jim Labbe said...


Cliff

Wow. You have really lost a lot of credibility with me in this post. It strikes me as petty and hyperbolic.

I think the equivalency you have proposed here is a complete and utter exaggeration of what is going on. To suggest Donald Trump's tactics of voter suppression, of targeting vulnerable people to foment hate against them and distract from pressing social and ecological issues like climate change, and sow division among all of us are equivalent to the political tactics of a bunch of the underfunded (and in some cases unsophisticated) climate advocates is simply ridiculous.

It is also utterly ridiculous to conflate the real threats to our democracy- including voter suppression or attacks on the free press- with the provisions of I-1632. You seem to be saying that the measure is "anti-democratic" just because all the power over all decisions are not in the hands of elected officials. That is absurd. Elected officials delegate all sorts of power to implement policies. They do this for to good reasons: 1. to ensure technically informed policy implementation and 2. to gather a wider array of voices from the community. The latter makes total sense precisely because in our increasingly fragile democracy people have increasingly unequal voice and vote. Delegating power from elected officials can and often does increase the efficacy of policies, relative to having elected officials decide everything.

With this post it looks to me like you are trying to capitalize on the real legitimate fears of anti-democratic forces that have been politically ascendent. The voter suppression and confusion efforts by Trump and the GOP to steal elections under the false premise of voter fraud are real. But they are in no way equivalent to the policies and provisions in I-1631.

I-1631 is on the mark in aiming address carbon pollution in ways that invest in our communities and make more people part of the solution; the lack of which was a real weakness of I-732. We need to integrate social and environment outcomes because are not going to address the two most pressing issues of our day, inequality and climate change, separately. Their causes and consequences are interrelated; so should be there solutions.

I supported I-732 and was disappointed in the opposition. But I also support I-1631 and I find the opposition to be either blatantly self-serving or, in this case, petty, trite, and misguided.

The "no-we-should-do-it-my-way" opponents of both these measures are missing the big picture and fighting small-minded battles over which specific strategy is best to start doing something to address climate change. Both measures would have or will raise the cost of extracting fossil fuels. Neither measure would have or will get it right immediately. Trial, error and improvement comes with any sensible policy.



Cliff Mass said...

Jim Labbe....no...I am not suggesting equivalence. Trump is a a disaster. But we got Trump at least in part because of the divisiveness of the left, with name calling and putting down folks with different opinions. The "deplorable" talk. Being on the receiving end of this anger lately, I know how it feels. And it doesn't feel good...cliff

Cameron Chapman said...

I’ve followed you (Chris) for years now, and 1631 is my first time experiencing Cliff Mass on a political level... I don’t like it.

Tell me why I should support these organizations?

- Paid for by NO on 1631 (Sponsored by Western States Petroleum Association), P.O. Box 7035, Olympia, WA 98507, Top 5 Contributors: BP America, Phillips 66, Andeavor LLC (now owned by Marathon Petroleum Corporation), American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, Valero Energy Corporation -


If Big Petroleum is against this bill, it must be bad for them, there’s no other reason they would spend money fighting it.

If Big Petroleum is for anything, should we really be siding with them?

Sorry, but I’ve voted YES

Unknown said...

Vote No. Cliff, thank you for the informative research and communications.