By Eric Hansen of Ashland, Oregon. Eric Hansen is a co-founder of True South Solar, employing 20 people in southern Oregon in the growing solar industry.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley stuck his neck out this month by opposing the Jordan Cove fracked gas pipeline and export project and arguing instead for investment in clean energy jobs and infrastructure.
Merkley gave a number of reasons for opposing the project that has been proposed by a Canadian multinational corporation that is eager to pipe fracked gas for 229 miles across southern Oregon and then export it to Asia from a massive new terminal at Coos Bay on our coast.
He said it is unacceptable that private landowners who don’t want the pipeline crossing their land are being threatened by this private Canadian company with the use of eminent domain – a power designed to accomplish critical public projects.
He pointed out that “the terminal would become the largest carbon polluter in Oregon, with emissions equivalent to putting half a million gas-powered cars on the road.”
With studies showing that fracked gas is “at least as carbon-polluting as coal,” burning it in Asia “would generate carbon pollution equal to an additional 3 million gas-powered cars on the road.”
With a renewable energy future within reach, he said, “it makes little sense to help Asia leap from coal to natural gas, locking in carbon pollution for decades.”
We have to “shift from building large-scale fossil fuel infrastructure, including Jordan Cove, and instead invest massively in building the enormous backlog of infrastructure projects that will improve our state and nation, not damage it,” Merkley added. “We can energize our construction economy by building desperately needed drinking and wastewater systems; improved bridges, roads, docks, jetties and rail; electric lines; and rural broadband.”
Sen. Merkley has been an effective advocate in Congress for job-creating investments in small ports on the coast, safe drinking and wastewater infrastructure projects, and low-cost loans that would help put people to work making homes and businesses more energy-efficient.
The solar industry employed more than twice as many workers as the coal industry last year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, and solar jobs grew 17 times faster than the overall economy.
Yet, as Sen. Merkley and other senators have said, the Trump administration and leaders of Congress are using pending tax legislation to cripple the solar and wind industries in favor of oil, gas, and coal.
The tax bill also would divert $1.5 trillion – that’s trillion – that could have been invested, in part, in the kind of clean-energy and infrastructure jobs that Sen. Merkley has advocated, providing a real, bottom-up boost for jobs throughout the economy.
Sen. Merkley showed he has the courage to stand for sustainable jobs, affordable energy, and urgent climate action. It will be interesting to see whether Gov. Kate Brown – who has the power to stop the Jordan Cove pipeline and export terminal – will do the same.
It will be interesting to see whether the 2018 state legislature finally passes the Clean Energy Jobs Act that would raise money from the very largest polluters to speed our transition to cleaner energy sources and greater energy efficiency.
Our state should be supporting the growing solar industry in rural communities through strong policies, not supporting steps that take us backwards and undermine renewables.