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Letter to the Editor

(Written in response to the "In My View" editorial by State Sen. David Brock Smith that ran in the Feb. 28, 2019 Bandon Western World):

Today we are faced with the imperative to stop burning carbon-based fuel, before we pollute the only planetary atmosphere we have beyond recovery. But, with trillions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure, capital goods, job training and lifestyles committed to our carbon burning energy culture, we cannot survive a sudden stop to the burning of carbon.

This is obvious, what is perhaps not as clear is the danger of putting this sudden stop off for too long. Slamming on the brakes may not be the best way to keep from skidding into the back of a stopped truck but tapping on the brakes is not a viable solution either.

We must find a steady, controlled braking pattern that brings carbon burning to a stop before we smash into an irrevocable economic disaster.

HB 2020 is a good start. Adjustments will be needed between today and 2050. By starting today, we will have time to make those adjustments without risking a smashup.

HB 2020 cannot possibly devastate anything. Not Oregon families in general and not Oregon farm families in particular. Yes, it will start raising energy prices in 2021. If no one changes anything about their energy usage. But people will change their energy usage in response to market forces.

The apocryphal numbers quoted by naysayers for the cost by 2050 are nonsense. They presuppose that no one will do anything to stop burning carbon to plow fields, move produce or heat their homes. Nonsense.

By engaging everyone via the market in the process these new ways will cost less than the old ways. Given time to adjust and market incentives to do so, those trillions in infrastructure, capital goods, job training and lifestyles will transform into trillions in value with the new ways to produce and use energy.

The argument for continuing the rather messy process of capitalism is that market forces permit our common intelligence to lead to better outcomes than would a system of centralized decision making. HB 2020 is an example of the very best of capitalist democracy. It does not tell anyone "how" to move from burning carbon to some alternative form of energy nor what form of energy will be desirable. It just prices the spillover costs of burning carbon and makes those who decide to continue doing so pay that price. This is as it should be.

A word regarding Oregon’s tiny carbon footprint (0.14 percent). Oregonians represent 0.05 percent of the world population and own about 2.0 percent of the world’s wealth. By any measure we are far better equipped to fight the coming catastrophe, and we have 40 or 50 times more to lose than almost anyone else should we not brake in time.

We only control 1 in 700 of the tons of carbon going up in smoke. But the idea of capitalism, democracy and federalism is to find leaders among the people. America needs leaders, Oregon should lead. The world needs leaders, with all our many gifts America should lead.

Michael V. O'Neill


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