Younger residents of Albany and the rest of Oregon might be interested in Initiative Petition 50, which would drastically affect everybody’s life by banning the use fossil fuels in 30 years.
The secretary of state has just received the certified ballot title: “Greenhouse gas emissions from industry, fossil fuels must be eliminated by 2050; requires rules, enforcement.”
This ballot proposal by a couple of citizens, one from Bend and the other from around Cannon Beach, has the virtue of simplicity. No complicated system of emission caps, allowances, trading, and a bureaucracy to make it all work as the Democrats in the legislature want. No, a simple ban with strict rules and, presumably, emission cops to enforce them.
Start a gasoline motor in 2050, and somebody will come and arrest you or do some other enforcement kind of thing. Same thing if you turn up the thermostat to fire up your natural-gas-burning furnace on a winter night. Of course that can’t happen, because by then there would be no motor fuel for sale, and the gas company would have closed down.
We’d have 30 years to prepare for this happy day. Right around 2040 or so, cars running on gasoline or diesel would start becoming worthless. Who would buy a clunker that will become illegal in a few years? People would have to start buying electric vehicles without trading anything in. But first somebody would have to produce 4 million electric cars and trucks to replace the existing fleet.
In its 2018 report, the Oregon Department of Energy says transportation fuels accounted for 38 percent of all the energy Oregonians used in 2016. Electricity accounted for 35 percent, and natural gas and fuel oil another 27 percent.
So, if natural gas and other fossil fuels are banned, we’d have to just about triple electric production to make up for the loss of heating and transportation energy. But as of a couple of years ago, nearly half of electric consumption in Oregon came from burning coal and natural gas. These sources would no longer be available under Initiative 50. (Coal won’t be available anyway, under existing laws.)
The department says Oregon’s total energy use has gone down in recent years because of greater efficiencies. So maybe in 30 years they won’t have to replace all the energy that now comes from fossil fuels. But they would still have to replace a huge chunk. If they don’t, Oregonians will be looking at more blackouts, burning wood for heat, and hopping on bikes for their commutes.
It’s uncertain whether Initiative Petition 50 will garner enough signatures to get on the ballot or, if so, whether it will pass. But just in case, if you expect to live past 2050, you might want to think about the changes a ban on fossil fuels would mean. (hh)