Oregon Clean Fuels Program

By Robin Hahnel

Roughly one-third of Oregon’s greenhouse gases come from the transportation sector. In 2009 the state legislature passed House Bill 2186 authorizing the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission to adopt rules to reduce the average carbon intensity of Oregon’s transportation fuels to 10 percent below the 2010 emissions. However, the oil industry fought against regulation from the get-go, and lobbied heavily to allow the bill to sunset in 2016, which would have re-established the industry’s monopoly over fuel choice in Oregon. A broad coalition of environmental organizations, led by Oregon Climate Solutions, lobbied successfully in 2015 for the passage of Senate Bill 324. This allowed the  Department of Environmental Quality to fully implement the Clean Fuels Program in 2016.

The Clean Fuels Program aims to lower carbon emissions in the transportation sector in Oregon by 10 percent over 10 years – from 2010-2020. It requires oil companies to blend low-carbon biofuels, or to purchase credits that support electric vehicles, natural gas, and other cleaner fuel alternatives to reduce emissions. And since Oregon has abundant clean fuels available from farms, forests, and waste disposal facilities, the program creates market demand for local fuel alternatives.

The oil industry is the most powerful opponent — with the deepest pockets and well placed political assets – which environmentalists face in our battle to de-carbonize before it is too late. Because the clean fuels program is aimed directly at big oil, it challenges the organizational and political skills of environmental organizations in Oregon as never before. The real story lies in the educational campaign waged to inform the general public and rebut false claims from industry spokespersons and the strategy used to form the broadest possible coalition of organizations in support of SB 324. Various coalition partners pressured and worked with State Representatives, State Senators, the Democratic Party leadership, and the Governor’s office to defeat endless attempts to water down and derail the bill, which did not cease even after it was passed and signed into law!


Innovative Low-Carbon Urban Infrastructure: A View from Vancouver

Marc_books-Oct08Marc Lee is a Senior Economist with the British Columbia office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and researcher with E3 Network’s Future Economy Initiative. Marc joined the CCPA in 1998, and is one of Canada’s leading progressive commentators on economic and social policy issues. Since 2008, Marc has been the Co-Director of the Climate Justice Project (CJP), a research partnership with the University of British Columbia, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. 

The narrative on climate change this fall is a familiar one: global greenhouse gas emissions hit another record high last year; extreme weather events are causing record damages; and yet we face an impasse in global negotiations for a new climate treaty, and a relentless push for ever more fossil fuel extraction – seemingly because there is no alternative. On the other hand, demands for action at events like the Peoples’ Climate March, and the growing calls for divestment from fossil fuels, there is a growing movement joining the climate scientists in their call for humanity to change course. But this movement needs more good news stories to counter-balance the gloom, and to start reimagining a sustainable and equitable future.

Around the world cities have asserted a leadership role in wrestling with climate action. Where I live, in Vancouver, British Columbia, my federal and provincial governments are deep in denial, enamoured by fossil fuel riches, but my city aspires to be the greenest of them all. Cities ostensibly have a more limited policy toolbox than senior governments, yet decisions on land use planning, buildings and urban infrastructure can have a powerful long-term impact on their carbon footprint.

My case study looks at Vancouver BC’s Neighbourhood Energy Utility, and its repurposing of district energy as a key ingredient in urban planning and greenhouse gas mitigation.  At its core, district energy is primarily the use of centralized boilers to provide heat and hot water to multiple buildings. It’s comparatively technocratic and boring, with appeal among engineers and energy economists. And it’s old, with examples of steam systems (powered by fossil fuels) in downtowns across North America going back more than a century. Continue reading…


Climate Change, Nukes, and Geoengineering

By Robin Hahnel.

On November third James Hansen signed an open letter addressed to environmental organizations urging them to demonstrate “real concern about risks from climate damage by calling for the development and deployment of advanced nuclear energy.”

Like Hancoolingtowersen and some notable long-time environmentalists who have recently come out in support of nukes, I am desperate. I am desperate because, like them, I know we we have very little time left to pull off the greatest technological “re-boot” in human history, turning global fossil-fuel-istan into global renew-conserve-istan before it is too late. That is why I recently sent my own open letter to those in the climate justice movement who argue that green capitalism is an oxymoron and climate change can only be solved by economic system change. In my view those who argue that greener capitalism is a false hope and not worth pursuing have no sense of time. They have no sense of how fast irreversible climate change is coming compared to how fast we can marshal support for economic system change. However, I find it sad that people like Hansen are caving on nukes when we do not need dangerous or new technologies to solve the problem. Continue reading…


Can Clean Energy Campaigns Stop Climate Change?

Originally posted on Triple Crisis

Can we protect the earth’s climate without talking about it – by pursuing more popular policy goals such as cheap, clean energy, which also happen to reduce carbon emissions? It doesn’t make sense for the long run, and won’t carry us through the necessary decades of technological change and redirected investment. But in the current context of climate policy fatigue, it may be the least-bad short-run strategy available.

You may have lost interest in climate change, but the climate hasn’t lost interest in you. Once-extraordinary heat waves are becoming the new normal. Recent research demonstrates that by now someone “old enough to remember the climate of 1951–1980 should recognize the existence of climate change, especially in summer.” Continue reading…