Cap-and-trade has been on my radar since last year. I learned how mental health resources were carved out of the bill and how a $10-million increase in welfare benefits wasn’t enough to offset Oregon’s unemployment. Negatives came in droves. All I could think was, “Oregonians will plummet to the bottom of the Maslow pyramid.”
I’ve been at the bottom of that pyramid. I’ve worked assembling football helmets by hand. I lost 20lbs in three months because I couldn’t afford food. My only means of transportation, a second-hand moped, was stolen. I slowly worked my way up the pyramid. I started work in a warehouse and eventually afforded online college.
I credit a specific group of people for helping me along my way. They are the working-class people I’ve been privileged with knowing. Co-workers at the helmet facility gave me furniture. Co-workers at the warehouse taught me the mechanics of my first car. So many impactful moments happened that I’m writing a book about it. I’m humbled by how dignified each person treated me.
The warehouse I worked in was at a power plant. Professionals from the utility’s headquarters visited the power plant and treated these people, who extended to me the warmest welcome, like garbage. I was treated like garbage. I know there exist good and bad in every social class. My rebuttal to anyone who tells me that I wear rose-colored glasses is this: How is it okay for UC Berkeley professor Jackson Kernion to call rural Americans “bad people”? How is it okay for Senator Peter Courtney to unilaterally declare Oregon’s working-class ways of life dead? How is it okay for Oregon legislators to label the intended destruction of blue-collar jobs “leakage”?
It will be a matter of time before Georgia Pacific moves production elsewhere and sells or shuts down the Wauna Mill if cap-and-trade passes. Not only will this dislocate over 1,000 residents, we’ll lose a valuable power-generating resource. The Wauna Mill's steam produces energy for the Clatskanie PUD through a cogeneration agreement. I can't imagine any alternatives other than the PUD purchasing power at a higher price and passing that expense onto us or the PUD completely disbanding if the Wauna Mill closes.
There is really only one option for the PUD to either purchase power from or relinquish its customer base to; Portland General Electric. With the portfolio that PGE boasts, it makes sense for the PUC to allow PGE expansion into our territory. This is the problem I have with that: lip service. I know that PGE’s CEO is a board member for Oregon’s Global Warming Commission. I know that same CEO is an advocate for the cap-and-trade bill. I also know that PGE declares a "Clean Energy Future” while its CEO makes deals with legislators to receive free carbon credits that can be sold for profit.
The hypocrisy of these actions concerns me; the disregard for genuine climate action because company CEOs will increase profits while they pollute and make us destitute. My community will lose not just by the loss of jobs due to the Wauna Mill shutting down, but also due to the skyrocketing power bills we will pay if cap-and-trade passes. It will kill small business, our schools, and us.
Profitable alternatives to cap-and-trade exist. I'm a proponent for nuclear power. There's a lot of misinformation about it. Our Navy's submarines operate with nuclear reactors. This specific energy solution would clean up emissions, put thousands of Oregonians into lucrative work, and produce more megawatts than coal. One problem (of many) with existing renewable options (wind and solar) is that we consume power at all hours of the day.
Renewable power generators peak and are useless the rest of the time. This is why power companies consolidate hydroelectric generation into their “renewables” portfolios, to make it look like more renewable power exists than what actually does.
My other suggestion is to let Oregonians vote on climate legislation. I’m not an uneducated country bumpkin. Neither are the community members I stand beside. We are hardworking Oregonians whose taxes pay for the lights inside our state’s capitol. Let us decide, have a voice, and steer our state. We the people.
Nikole Young, a Clatskanie resident, is not employed by or a spokesperson for Georgia Pacific, Clatskanie PUD, or Portland General Electric. Young said her opinions are formed through publicly-available information. Join the conversation. The Chronicle welcomes all sides of this issue.