Industry leaders worry clean-fuel program could hurt economy

Proponents believe it would incentivize necessary switch to green economy

Democrats in the state Legislature are backing bills aimed at reducing carbon emissions and pollutants put into the atmosphere by transportation fuels with the goal of achieving a 95% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by the year 2050.

One of the co-sponsors, Sen. Joe Nguyen, D-White Center, said Senate bills 5412 and 6272 would allow the Department of Ecology to put rules into place that limit the use of dirty and carbon-emitting fuels and set new objectives for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Nguyen said the limit on traditional kinds of fuels will inspire the innovation of new, cleaner fuels and incentivize their development and use. He believes this will create new jobs and industries around alternative energy sources.

According to Nguyen, Washington already produces these alternative clean fuels but they are often sold out of state. He believes a policy like this will increase their demand and use in Washington. However, while these policies are intended to reduce the state’s carbon emissions and make clean alternative fuels more available, industry spokespeople are concerned about the economic costs.

They worry this kind of legislation could reduce the supply of fossil fuels in the state, and the cost could rise as a result.

Ben Buchholz, a representative of the Northwest Agricultural Cooperative Council, testified to the Senate Environmental, Energy and Technology Committee Jan. 16 asking for the rejection of this legislation.

Buchholz said these policies would disproportionately impact rural communities and industries such as agriculture. He said laborers in rural areas often commute long distances to get to work, and increased gas prices could affect their ability to support themselves and their families.

He said he knows farmworkers who have already had to make tough financial decisions about whether to pay for gas to get to work or whether to pay for groceries.

Buccholz said his family owns a fruit tree farm in Prosser, and that behind labor costs, fuel is their second-largest expense.

Sheri Call, executive vice president of the Washington Trucking Associations, also testified against the passage of this legislation, citing that rising fuel costs would not only impact the trucking industry but in turn, affect all consumers.

“When the cost of truck transportation goes up, the cost of everything goes up,” she said.