I-1631: The Pursuit of Health and Happiness Vs. the Pursuit of Profits

In one corner of the I-1631 ring: the people and environment of Washington.

In the other corner: Big oil money, and lots of it.

We know that carbon emissions are changing our climate, causing sea levels to rise, increasing forest fires and choking our air. By putting a fee on carbon emissions and using that revenue to directly reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and slow climate change, we will provide a better, healthier future for our children.

“Yes on 1631” includes organizations and individuals that care about our future, our health and about communities that are particularly susceptible to pollution, climate change and the economic impacts of a shift towards clean energy. 

Gov. Jay Inslee, for example, is an ardent supporter of Initiative 1631. Inslee joins hundreds of businesses and organizations supporting the initiative, including the American Lung Association, League of Women Voters, Casa Latina, Union of Concerned Scientists, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, Washington Environmental Council, Sierra Club, REI, Virginia Mason, labor organizations, tribes, faith groups and, of course, The Nature Conservancy. We know that Initiative 1631 will make a positive, long-term difference in Washington.

 So who would oppose it? Big Oil. Opponents of I-1631 point to a diverse group of businesses and organizations on their side. And as of Sept. 18, the Association of Washington Business had indeed contributed $14,500 in cash and in-kind donations to oppose the measure.

But that amount absolutely pales in comparison to the flood of money that oil companies have poured into defeating I-1631. As of Sept. 28, contributions by Phillips 66, Andeavor (formerly Tesoro), Chevron, BP and American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers account for more than 99 percent of the $20 million funding the “No on I-1631” campaign. In fact, the amount of money devoted to defeating the measure is triple the $6 million gathered to support it.

ToscoRefinery_RobertAshworth_CreativeCommons (1).jpg

Why do the oil companies care so much? A fee on carbon emissions will cost them money. For oil companies that put profit over environment, that is a big problem.

I-1631 also sets a precedent. As the very first state to pass such a measure, Washington will have demonstrated that people believe in clean energy and support the idea that those who pollute the most need to chip in proportionately to counter their damaging carbon emissions. If Washington passes the carbon fee, other states will follow.

Opponents also say that I-1631 includes unfair exemptions that could put Washington businesses at a competitive disadvantage. Yet, careful, well thought out and fair oversight is built into the initiative.

Gov. Inslee, among many others, said it well. Speaking in August, beneath a smoky sky, he said, “This is a well-calibrated, sophisticated proposal, which will give kids cleaner air and will also give us clean jobs.”

So what can we do? Organize and vote!