Instead of forcing new, draconian vehicle-emissions standards on Oregonians, why not take the high road and encourage cleaner cars and fuel? Gov. Ted Kulongoski's veto Monday answers that question with sticks, not carrots.
As chairman of the Oregon House Environment Committee, I heard from all sides of this debate. My conclusion: Incentives to reduce pollution are better than forcing motorists to live with a de facto car tax that won't make cleaner air.
Car designs and fuels are more environmentally friendly. Just look at the hybrid and fuel cell vehicles available today. Biofuels are not only good for our environment but also for the agriculture industry. We can have cleaner cars and fuels without Kulongoski's stringent new rules.
We are already making significant progress. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality says Portland's air is so clean now that the agency won't require an ethanol additive during the winter starting in 2007. And a few months ago the House Audits Committee recommended phasing out DEQ vehicle testing stations in metro areas because they really aren't needed.
If California's regulations are so great, why did both Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his predecessor, Gov. Gray Davis, ask the federal government to lift the ban on diesel cars and trucks? Why did Washington state agree to copy California but only if Oregon does? Why play follow the leader?
Kulongoski now has another task force to review this emissions policy. If he wanted input about the California system, he had opportunities during the legislative session. But he was silent. His Democrat friends in the Senate couldn't even pass a bill to impose these new rules, and the House adopted a resolution rejecting them.
The governor, just in time for his re-election campaign, is doing it his way and ignoring the will of legislators and the voters we represent.
If Kulongoski wanted to show leadership, he should have worked to get biofuels legislation passed. It would have provided incentives for Oregon ag producers to reduce dependence on foreign oil and create hundreds of new jobs.
Instead we're headed down a road to impose standards written in California that won't give us cleaner air and create costly consequences -- expensive lawsuits by the automakers, sticker shock on new cars and a blow to the local economy.
Taxpayers in other states who've attempted this approach face hefty legal bills to defend these standards. Most estimates say the average new model will cost $1,000 to $3,000 more. In addition light-duty diesel cars and trucks would be prohibited, even emitting less carbon dioxide. We would be banning technology now available that addresses the problem. We would also impair a growing biodiesel industry in Oregon.
We should be motivating people to come up with creative ways to help the environment. Instead of using incentives, as I have suggested, Kulongoski will punish those working hard to clean the air. Let's put the brakes on the governor's California plan and support one that recognizes Oregon's independence and ingenuity.
Rep. Gordon Anderson, R-Grants Pass, represents House District 3 in Southern Oregon.