Posts Tagged 'Governor Kulongoski'

Peak-Hour Tolls And Global Warming

I’m intrigued by (Oregon) Governor Kulongoski’s speech last Friday on transportation and global warming. It’s not many politicians who are brave enough to consider peak-hour tolls, which are also known as congestion pricing.

London and Stockholm have found that these reduce rush-hour traffic by about 20%, which is huge in the transportation context. The tolls were highly unpopular at first, but became more accepted as people found themselves spending less time stuck in congestion.

I agree that peak-hour tolls are the right thing to do. Why? My personal willingness to pay them stems from my deep concern about global warming. In terms of fiscal policy, we sorely need pricing signals that reflect real costs of services. Oregon’s gas tax has not risen since 1993. But inflation has progressed so that our gas tax is now only covering 27 cents on the dollar of our actual road transportation costs. Most of our highways were constructed to last for 50 years — and were built about 50 years ago.

That means that Oregon is going further in the hole financially with every mile driven and gallon of gas consumed. And our atmosphere is going further in the hole at the same time, since every gallon of gas we burn creates 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, which is the primary source of global warming.

The Governor’s Climate Change Integration Act named ambitious goals in reducing global warming emissions, while being noncommittal about methods of reaching the goals. His specific idea of requiring drivers to pay part of the real cost of driving via a peak-hour tolling system would reduce vehicle miles traveled, and help Oregon reach those goals.

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Focus the Nation: The Unanswered Question

Last night my husband, friends and I and 3,200 others gathered at University of Portland for Focus the Nation. College students quizzed Governor Kulongoski and other elected politicians on solutions to global warming while OPB did a live radio broadcast.

My first thought: young Jesse Jenkins of the Cascade Climate Network is my current top pick for president in the 2020 election. (Who says I can’t think ahead?) His smart, impassioned opening speech was that effective, that anchored in conviction.

My main thought, though, is about the question that a student asked but did not get answered. “Where’s the sacrifice?” he called from the back after one of the politicians gave a techno-wonk response to how we would reduce our carbon emissions sharply and quickly enough to avert global disaster. The room got quiet. The panel did not volunteer to respond.

OPB’s moderator Sandra Tsing Loh rushed to fill the void by saying playfully, “Ah, sacrifice. We’ll get to that question later, if we have time.” That time did not materialize.

With our nation needing to reduce our carbon emissions 80% by 2050, new technologies cannot save the day. Even energy conservation and energy efficiency — which we should all be practicing aggressively — are not enough. We have to use radically less fossil fuels, period, which means changing how we live.

Enter the concept of sacrifice, which the nameless man with the prophetic voice understood. I have been changing my life for awhile now with small sacrifices, and I’m willing to keep going farther in that direction. The last time our nation embraced the notion of sacrifice was during World War II. Can we not muster the moral fiber that our parents and grandparents did?

I’d like to hear others’ thoughts on this, both pro and con.