Washington Gov. Inslee Imposes Global Warming Restrictions

Published June 4, 2014

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee defied the state legislature and unilaterally issued an executive order designed to impose severe global warming restrictions on Washington households and the state’s economy.

Cap-and-Trade Restrictions
Executive Order 14-04, “Washington Carbon Pollution Reduction and Clean Energy Action,” contains several directives. Among other things, it instructs the newly created Carbon Emissions Reductions Taskforce to “establish a cap on carbon emissions pollution, with binding requirements to meet our statutory emissions limits, and it must include the market mechanisms needed to meet the limits in the most effective and efficient means possible.” This mechanism, which observers agree is a de facto cap-and-trade system, is to be presented to the state legislature for approval in 2015.

Coal Explicitly Targeted
The executive order also puts in the crosshairs the nation’s most abundant source of inexpensive electricity. The executive order directs the governor’s Legislative Affairs Policy Office to “seek negotiated agreements with key utilities and others to reduce and eliminate over time the use of electrical power produced from coal.”

Mandating Failed Vehicle Technology
Along with provisions supporting “transit-oriented land use” and “multi-modal transportation corridors,” the executive order also instructs the state’s Office of Financial Management and other agencies to study the feasibility of a statewide low-carbon fuel standard. The executive order explicitly requires the development of an action plan to advance use of all-electric vehicles.

Ironically, less than a month after Inslee demanded the electric vehicle action plan, Toyota announced it will no longer pursue research and development of such vehicles. Toyota has been at the forefront of alternative vehicle development, with its electric hybrid Prius and its partnership with Tesla Motors. Toyota officials, however, explained there are too many tradeoffs associated with the large, heavy lithium batteries necessary to power all-electric vehicles.

Among the tradeoffs are limited driving range, long time periods necessary to recharge batteries, and poor battery performance outside optimal weather conditions. Toyota will now focus its alternative vehicle research and development on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Legislature Criticizes Unilateral Action
As expected, the sweeping executive directive, and the way in which it came about, caused stiff resistance from legislators resentful of the governor’s unilateral action.

“Today, Governor Inslee did an end-run around the state Legislature and moved closer to imposing massive regulations that will choke job creation and add huge energy costs to the budgets of average families,” Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale), chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, said in a prepared statement. “Through his Executive Order, the Governor is now taking policy development behind closed doors. His first meeting of the newly created Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce …was never announced to the Legislature nor was the public notified in advance.”

Ericksen also pointed out that in late 2013, Inslee, a Democrat, went to California and signed a nonbinding agreement on measures to address climate change, without consulting the legislature.

Proponents and opponents of the Inslee initiative are still sorting out which parts of the proposal will require legislative approval. It appears, for example, both the cap-and-trade system and the low-carbon fuel standard will have to be voted on by state legislators.

Cap-and-Trade Drawbacks
Todd Myers, director of environmental issues at the Washington Policy Center, noted Inslee’s cap-and-trade system failed in Europe and was subject to widespread manipulation and cheating. Myers also pointed out politicians often favor cap-and-trade mechanisms because it allows them to reward political allies with the initial distribution of carbon allowances.

Myers also noted the lack of environmental benefits in the governor’s initiative.

“While the left touts Gov. Inslee as the ‘greenest’ governor in the nation, his policies do little for the environment. His own analysis shows that his policies waste huge amounts of taxpayer dollars on efforts with scant environmental benefits,” Myers said.

“As the governor himself admitted in a recent radio interview, the groups supporting his initiative will benefit financially,” Myers added. “Until we put environmental benefit before political cronies, we will continue to wonder why our environmental policies cost so much and yield so little.”

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D., ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.