Oregon Senate Rejects Bill to Extend Clean Fuels Program

Published August 9, 2013

The Oregon Senate rejected a bill that would extend the state’s Clean Fuels Program beyond its scheduled 2015 expiration date. Oregon environmental activist groups made extending the transportation fuel restrictions their top priority during the 2013 legislative session, but the Democrat-controlled state Senate determined the Clean Fuels Program did not warrant an extension.

2009 Bill Targeted Carbon
The Clean Fuels Program, enacted by the legislature in 2009, requires a 10 percent cut in the carbon intensity of transportation fuels. In order to meet the standard, motorists will have to purchase more ethanol and biodiesel, each of which is more expensive than conventional transportation fuel and each of which presents its own environmental problems.

Under the 2009 bill, transportation fuel suppliers are not yet required to make the 10 percent carbon intensity reductions. Currently, fuel suppliers are required only to track and report to the state government the carbon intensity of the fuels they sell. Program supporters argued the program, with just two years remaining, requires an extension to meet the carbon reduction goals of the 2009 bill. Recognizing the problems associated with ratcheting down carbon intensity in so short a time only to waive the restrictions a few months later, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality says it will not enforce the restrictions unless legislators extend or eliminate the 2015 end date for the program.

On July 6 the Oregon Senate rejected SB 488, which would have eliminated the Program’s 2015 expiration date. The initial vote was 15-15. Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum (D-Portland) then changed her vote to oppose the bill, a procedural maneuver that allows her to bring the bill up for a second vote before the end of the legislative session.

Portland Oregonian Opposes Program
If the bill ultimately passes, it will do so despite solid opposition from the capital city’s liberal newspaper, the Portland Oregonian. In a July 26 house editorial, the Oregonian documented appalling abuses of similar clean energy laws in the state, including energy companies gaming the system to extract double and triple subsidies from unsuspecting state taxpayers. Ultimately, according to the Oregonian, the Clean Fuels Program would do little to improve the environment and would instead drive up fuel prices for Oregon motorists.

“The first part of the program, now in effect, imposes tracking and reporting requirements on fuel manufacturers and importers. This is a bureaucratic headache for affected businesses, but the real fun will start with the second part of the program, which requires carbon reduction,” the Oregonian observed.

“The clean fuel program is certainly well-intentioned … but good intentions don’t guarantee good results,” the Oregonian editorial board noted.

“The clean fuels program is nothing if not ambitious. It would be objectionable even if it worked as intended, but that’s about as likely as the development of a cold fusion roadster within the next decade,” the Oregonian explained.

“The decision of lawmakers not to lift the program’s sunset date is an encouraging sign, but Oregonians’ wallets won’t be safe until the clock runs out in late 2015,” the Oregonian concluded.

Alyssa Carducci ([email protected]) writes from Tampa, Florida.