Is a low-carbon fuel standard running out of political gas?

State Sen. Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens is pondering whether to move the bill out of the committee.

  • Wednesday, April 10, 2019 1:34pm
  • Opinion
Is a low-carbon fuel standard running out of political gas?

If the Democrat-controlled Legislature fails to pass a low-carbon fuel standard this session, Steve Hobbs, one of their own, will get blamed.

He knows it.

The Lake Stevens Democrat is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, where the legislation got a hearing on April 4.

Technically, the legislation, House Bill 1110, needs to be approved by the panel by April 9 to have a shot at becoming law. Hobbs has made clear he isn’t a fan of the bill and has made no commitments to bring it up for a vote.

Environmentalists and progressive Democrats, including Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, have been turning up the heat on him to advance it. Representatives of the oil industry, trucking association and business organizations are lobbying him equally hard to bottle it up.

And a few House colleagues who helped to pass it on a 53-43 vote want it to die, as well. Apparently they voted for it with their fingers crossed, hoping the moderate Hobbs would put the brakes on it in the Senate.

“There are House Democrats who came up to me and said, ‘Are you going to kill that bill because I voted for it knowing you would kill it,’” he confirmed.

The bill would require that gasoline be produced with a little less concentration of carbon molecules. Then, when the fuel gets burned while powering our cars and trucks, a tad less greenhouse gas and other pollution-causing emissions would be generated.

Folks driving this policy point out California and Oregon have gone in this direction, and new standards have not triggered a collapse of their economies or crushed their car-loving cultures.

Opponents caution it won’t be easy or cheap to do. Ultimately, gas prices would climb in Washington, at least a couple of pennies a gallon, to cover the corporate tab for research, development and distribution.

This is what causes Hobbs to lose interest.

If gas prices go up, gas purchases will go down. Economists call it price elasticity of demand. It presumes cost-conscious consumers would find ways to curb their fuel consumption due to its higher price.

So what’s great for the environment is not so great for the state’s transportation budget. Gas taxes are its primary financial fuel and any drop-off means potentially less revenue for preserving and maintaining highway infrastructure, let alone financing new projects.

“I don’t want to pass something out that takes money away from our budget,” he said.

What’s the end game? Does Hobbs seek something in exchange for moving the low-carbon fuel standard legislation to the next stage?

What he might be willing to deal on is a new transportation package equivalent to what lawmakers passed in 2015.

He is trying to find sources of money for a few critical projects like widening the westbound U.S. 2 trestle between Lake Stevens and Everett, and building a new bridge for I-5 over the Columbia River. And he’d like to bolster funding of transit and make a serious dent in removing culverts and other barriers to fish passage.

Early in the session he proposed a $16 billion package. It would even be partly funded with a carbon tax, a favorite of environmentalists. Yet it’s gotten the brush-off from Democratic legislative leaders and the governor, who has championed the value of putting a price on carbon to arrest climate change.

Hobbs is also open to establishing a cap-and-trade system as long as it generates dollars for transportation. Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, has introduced a bill that could be such a vehicle. It, too, looks to be a long shot.

For the three-term senator who still harbors aspirations for statewide office, it’s a situation with few options for a win.

Hobbs will endure political bruising under almost any scenario.

And he knows it.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@covingtonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.covingtonreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Opinion

Guest columnist Greg Asimakoupoulos is chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores in Mercer Island.
It’s time to talk turkey about turkeys | Guest column

So how do you feel about turkeys? When I was 12 years… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Not much changed from what we knew on election night | Roegner

This column was due before the election was certified. However, not much… Continue reading

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Honoring heroes goes beyond lowering flags to half-mast | Brunell

Lowering our flags to half-staff seems to be an all too familiar… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
The rest of the story: Sound Transit, Rolovich and Lambert | Roegner

All of the reporters I know are ethical and trustworthy. But I… Continue reading

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
When it comes to power, Washington may be falling behind | Brunell

For years, Washington state masked its high business and regulatory costs with… Continue reading

tsr
Domestic violence victims need more housing options

Column: As a result of stay-at-home measures from the pandemic, domestic violence rates have worsened in King County.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
A look at city council races around the region | Roegner

I have been following elections in King County for close to 40… Continue reading

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Why should the threat to Taiwan concern us in WA? | Brunell

Unfortunately, what happens in Taiwan doesn’t just stay in Taiwan — it… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Election 2021: Closer look at King County races | Roegner

The race for Mayor of Seattle will dominate the regional media, but… Continue reading

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Our economy works when consumers pick winners | Brunell

Poland and America are like two trains passing each other in opposite… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Big-time politics: Redistricting for 2022 elections | Roegner

Based on new census data, which shows Washington state has grown by… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Questions surround vaccine exemptions for state workers | Roegner

With about 4,800 state employees in 24 agencies requesting vaccine exemptions, which… Continue reading