Oregon is failing to meet lofty climate goals, emissions from cars and trucks on the rise

Emissions in Oregon - KATU graphic.jpg

PORTLAND, Ore. – Oregon is not on track to meet its lofty climate goals as emissions rose in 2017, according to the most recent report from Oregon’s Global Warming Commission.

Greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon rose to levels not seen since 2010. Total emissions have been rising over the past three years. They had been going down steadily since 1999.

Angus Duncan, Chair of the Oregon Global Warming Commission, says these results are “extremely worrisome.” The state legislature created the commission to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Perhaps the biggest concern surrounds emissions in the transportation sector. It’s one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the state, and it’s growing.

According to the commissions 2018 Biennial Report to the Legislature, released last week, emissions from the transportation sector have gone up each of the past four years. In 2014, transportation accounted for 35 percent of total emissions, by 2016 it accounted for 39 percent.

“We are buying more vehicles, we're holding on to them longer they are bigger, they are less fuel efficient,” said Duncan.

Research shows Oregonians are driving more miles now than in years prior. That’s partially due to the growth in population and cheap gas.

“We are wealthier and we feel wealthier,” Duncan said.

The commission says Oregonians need to shift towards electric vehicles instead of large trucks, they need to embrace mass transit, and cities need to be built to efficiently move people around.

There is some good news, though. Emissions from electric utility companies are going down.

The commission examines Oregon’s two largest electric utilities, Pacific Power and PGE. From 2014 to 2016, emissions from those two companies decreased from 30 percent to 26 percent of Oregon’s total emissions. They are projected to cut their emissions to 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.

Duncan says PGE’s decision to shutter the Boardman coal-fired facility will help with projections. So will the commitment from Pacific Power and PGE to stop importing power created by coal-fired powerplants in other states by 2030.

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