Renew Oregon: Clean Energy Jobs

Wind turbines on a snow covered field. Wind turbines are often used as a sustainable form of clean energy. Photo by Jason Blackeye via UnSplash.

Renew Oregon is an advocacy coalition working towards providing clean energy solutions for “businesses and workers, healthcare professionals and parents, farmers and ranchers, faith and community organizations, and individuals coming together to move our state [Oregon] away from polluting energy [and closer] to a clean energy economy,” according to reneworegon.org. They are currently (and in the foreseeable future) working towards creating living-jobs in Oregon that protect our air and water from pollution. Renew Oregon has a huge mission ahead of them. They currently have plans to transition Oregon’s energy economy to a primarily wind and solar power supplied system that also supports energy efficient construction. One of their driving forces is their goal of growing “local companies and creating good-paying jobs that can support a working family and can’t be shipped overseas– everything from engineers to designers, electrical and construction workers, secretaries and custodians.” They will facilitate these changes along with many others through their Clean Energy Jobs Bill. 

According to Renew Oregon, Clean Energy Jobs is “a proposed law to put a limit on climate pollution from the largest polluters in Oregon, and charge them a price for what they put in our air. It will reduce pollution from burning fossil fuels, which causes global warming and makes people sick, and invest in communities across our state to create good-paying jobs and a thriving economy, especially in communities that need it most.” It is undeniable that the citizens of this beautiful state are often affected by decreased air quality, especially during dry months and fire season. Many Portlanders are at risk for respiratory illness and the chance of accelerated pre-existing conditions when pollution is prevalent in the city’s air and water. Pollution and climate change are pressing issues that are growing every day. Renew Oregon believes that we have a responsibility to leave our descendants a sustainable future, but “climate change and unchecked air and water pollution from dirty energy sources are putting that at risk. This proposal will help us leave a better world.” 

Renew Oregon’s plan is very clear with this new bill. They will “cap” climate pollution throughout the state to an estimated 25,000 tons of greenhouse emissions per year. This number seems large, but Renew Oregon simplifies it as the equivalent of burning 113 train cars full of coal. This aforementioned “cap” will not affect small or local businesses. A worry for many consumers concerns the cost. The businesses that are not “capped” will pay for every ton of pollution that is released into our air. The price is not a flat rate and will change over time to encourage a reduction in emissions. They are also aware of the necessity for investing in a sustainable economy. Renew Oregon plans on redirecting hundreds of millions of dollars towards sustainable energy solutions to make solar more affordable. When solar energy solutions become more attainable, homeowners and businesses will be incentivized to upgrade to sustainable alternatives for their home energy. “Investments will be targeted to rural communities for projects like wildfire prevention, drought protection, and clean energy. Equity and a just transition to clean energy are central to the policy,” according to Renew Oregon. 

Unlike some may believe, this is not an unrealistic plan. “Large polluters continue to try to scare people away from action with claims of economic disaster. History is our proof of success,” states Renew Oregon. Eleven U.S. states have successful programs currently in place. After being granted a long term probationary period, all of these programs have resulted in a prosperous economy, decreasing climate pollution, and stable energy prices. “Oregon’s Clean Energy Jobs Bill is the kind of bold climate action we need that reduces emissions and creates jobs, protects our forests and working lands, and strengthens the economy in communities that need it the most,” said Climate Solutions Executive Director, Gregg Small, in an interview with Forbes. This bill has also received approval from Governor Kate Brown, Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek.

Everyone was sure the bill was going to pass. However, a very unexpected turn of events transpired during the weeks when the bill was up for vote. Eleven Republican state senators hid out of state to prevent the Senate from moving the bill to a vote. In an interview with The New Yorker Shilpa Joshi, the coalition director of Renew Oregon, commented, “What these senators are doing is anarchistic. It’s scary. There are no rules anymore.” Opposing members of the Senate worked their hardest to prevent the bill from passing. The bill was backed by all nine of Oregon’s federally recognized Native American tribes, Oregon’s utilities, and Nike and Uber. 

Before the actions of these eleven Senate members and their decision to walk out on the capital, this bill was hours from passing. Renew Oregon is still working hard with legislators to ensure its success this year. This bill continues to be Renew Oregon’s priority. They are cautiously optimistic about 2020. “We hope legislators will be more successful in 2020, because the cap-and-invest program in Clean Energy Jobs is the biggest thing Oregon can do to take responsibility for our share of the climate crisis. However, for the sake of our children and our state, we cannot allow another failure,” stated Renew Oregon.

There are many ways that you can help ensure this bill’s success in 2020. There are volunteer opportunities available including becoming a Digital Change Agent, hosting a house party, writing a letter to the editor, and helping with community events. You can also sign the Clean Energy Jobs Petition which can be found on reneworegon.org. They are currently attempting to reach a goal of 4,885 signatures. If you know a business owner or own your own business, you can endorse Renew Oregon and their mission. Lastly, you can donate to the Renew Oregon Action Fund. It is a one time donation, and can be as low as one dollar. Support Renew Oregon in building a sustainable state.

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