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PSU sparks carbon tax conversation
Author: Christina Williams, Institute for Sustainable Solutions
Posted: March 19, 2013

Portland State University hosted British Columbia’s Environment Minister and a roomful of business leaders who gathered Wednesday morning to learn about the potential for a carbon tax in Oregon.

Terry Lake, an elected official from Kamloops, British Columbia, shared the stage with Tom Potiowsky, former Oregon state economist and director of the Portland State University Northwest Economic Research Center. The center last week published a report about the feasibility and economic opportunities presented by enacting a tax policy similar to the carbon tax adopted by British Columbia in 2008.

The report, “Carbon Tax and Shift: How to Make It Work for Oregon’s Economy,”  (available online: http://www.pdx.edu/nerc/carbontax2013.pdf) found that shifting the tax burden — reducing individual and business taxes at the same time the carbon tax is implemented — could prove beneficial for Oregon’s economy.

Lake gave a frank overview of British Columbia’s experience with its carbon tax, a policy that was enacted with exceptions made for some agricultural industries and with financial relief provided to low-income households.

“We had a simple system,” Lake said. “We said we were going to do it and we did it.”

Lake urged Oregon and other U.S. states to join the province in its efforts to fight climate change — something he said British Columbia has been able to do by reducing emissions without sacrificing economic growth.

Similarly, Potiowsky said, the economic impacts of a similar carbon tax enacted in Oregon would be “relatively minimal.”

Potiowsky will be joined by Lake in providing testimony to lawmakers in Salem this week. Four carbon tax-related bills are under consideration this session by the Oregon Legislature.

The PSU carbon tax report, funded jointly by the Energy Foundation and the PSU Institute for Sustainable Solutions, provides economic modeling and data to support the debate.

As Potiowsky put it: “This is a first look at how to implement the tax in Oregon.”