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Opinion
The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.
 

In Our View: State Republicans adding to energy discussion

The Columbian
Published: December 14, 2022, 6:03am

In striving for a prosperous future and sustaining Washington’s strong economy, how we power our homes, businesses and vehicles will determine the level of success. Transitioning to a green economy, maintaining reliable and affordable energy, and recognizing the threat posed by climate change will factor into the kind of state we leave for future generations.

That’s why it is encouraging to see Republican lawmakers join the fight to move our state forward. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and offering little other than criticism, GOP legislative leaders recently unveiled what they are calling “Power Washington.”

From a practical standpoint, the proposal makes some good points and falls short on others. But from a political standpoint, adding to the discussion is preferable to the stance of national Republicans, who too often deny the realities of climate change.

In introducing the policy, Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, said: “It’s time for our state to create better energy policies. Our Power Washington plan is the first step in taking a more reasonable approach when it comes to all phases of energy in our state.”

He added: “We can address our energy needs and do it in a way that is sustainable, affordable, less disruptive, and keeps our vehicles moving and our homes and offices heated and cooled. We need a power grid that is reliable and uses all sources of energy.”

There is room for argument in that assertion. There also is room for pointing out contradictions. If “all sources of energy” include an increase in the use of fossil fuels, the proposal is not sustainable. Washington has been a national leader in working to reduce the burning of fossil fuels, which exacerbates climate change that has contributed to extreme weather events, threatened our forests and diminished our fisheries.

Republican leaders also see natural gas — a fossil fuel — as a way to reduce heating costs for homes and businesses, and they blame the state’s 49.4-cent-per-gallon gas tax for contributing to high prices at the pump. In truth, providing disincentives to destructive behavior through high prices is a reasonable approach to creating a state that is environmentally responsible.

But Republicans are wise to highlight the importance of hydropower in our state, and a suggestion to promote nuclear power warrants discussion.

In this regard, there is common ground to be found with Democrats. A report in August from Gov. Jay Inslee and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray concluded that breaching four dams on the Lower Snake River would help preserve salmon runs, but first the hydroelectricity produced by the dams should be replaced. And Inslee has been open to the use of nuclear power to help bolster the state’s energy supply.

In addition, Power Washington emphasizes the use of hybrid and hydrogen-powered vehicles to help reduce reliance on gas vehicles. This seems to be a more realistic approach than Inslee’s ambitious but pollyannaish plans to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035.

Amid all this, the most important item is the fact that state Republicans are joining the conversation. As Democratic Sen. Marko Liias told The Olympian: “I’m encouraged that while it isn’t a plan that meets the needs I think we have for the state, they’re at least presenting some alternatives and beginning to acknowledge that there’s a climate crisis.”

Democrats don’t have all the answers, either, and collaboration will be essential. But admitting that we have a problem is the first step to recovery.

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