Denial is not just a river in Egypt, as the old joke says. Apparently it runs through Salem too.
Last week, the House Energy and Environment Committee of the Oregon Legislature refused to let HB3610 come to the floor of the House for a vote. HB3610 is a straightforward and rather innocuous piece of legislation. All it would do is authorize the state to begin collecting data on greenhouse gas emissions from state agencies and industries. The information would then be used by the 2009 Legislature to come up with specific measures for reducing such emissions.
In the last legislative session many of the state's leading greenhouse gas emitters lined up against HB3543, which created an Oregon Global Warming Commission to coordinate state and local efforts to cut greenhouse gases and also mandated the Legislature to take steps to reduce carbon emissions to 10% below 1990 levels by 2012. They failed, and Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed the bill into law.
This session, representatives of the same special interests - the logging industry, the dairy industry, and manufacturers such as Weyerhaeuser and the Oregon Metals Council - trooped before the energy and environment committee to testify against HB3610. Unable to kill the state's anti-global warming initiative outright, their strategy now apparently is to starve it to death.
Ironically, the same week that the committee folded under pressure from the polluters, news media carried reports of disturbing environmental changes that could have a devastating effect on Oregonians and their state's economy. An Oregonian story described how shrinking glaciers on Mt. Hood threaten the survival of the Hood River area's world-famous orchards. And another account described how a vast "dead sea" - an area without enough oxygen to support fish, crabs and other marine life - has developed off the coast of Washington and Oregon, probably the result of altered wind patterns caused by rising temperatures.
Twenty years ago the cry from conservatives was that global warming didn't exist - it was a myth manufactured by liberals who, for some never-explained reason, were bent on "destroying America." Ten years ago the spin was that global warming might exist, but human activity didn't cause it. Today, virtually everybody - even George W. Bush - has finally gotten around to admitting that global warming is real, it's at least partly caused by us and our machines, it's a significant problem, and we should try to do something about it.
Everybody, it would seem, except the lobbyists for the offending industries and the Queens of Denial who back them in the legislature.
There's still a slim chance of getting HB3610 to the House floor before the legislature adjourns the current emergency session on Feb. 29, but it will take a lot of pushing. You can help push by going to the EnvironmentOregon website and signing the organization's online petition to state lawmakers.
In the meantime, here's THE BOOT for members of the energy and environment committee, in the hope it will make them wake up and discover it's not 1988 anymore.