The BETC is Central to Oregon's Clean Energy Future

The BETC has brought jobs and revenue to Oregon

Today, Oregonians get seven percent of our energy from wind – an impressive first surge in moving beyond dirty foreign fossil fuels, fighting climate change, and creating jobs with local clean energy. Yet we must do more, as Oregon still gets 40% of our energy from coal.

Oregon’s Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) has been a key contributor to making our state America’s leader in jobs related to clean energy and sustainable industry. Oregon’s wind industry is the fifth largest in the country. While the BETC could benefit from some improvement, it has spurred hundreds of local jobs in our struggling economy that will not only increase energy independence for our state but also create stable income for Oregon families. We shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Yet this remains a real risk, especially if Measures 66 and 67 don’t pass on January 26, just before the start of the February legislative session.

A recent independent study from ECONorthwest found the BETC brought in $350 million in [positive net economic impact to Oregon]state revenue and created 700 jobs in 2008 alone. Many of these jobs are in the rural counties hardest hit by the recession. Not only do wind farms create jobs, they provide millions of dollars in local property tax income – allowing places like Moro, Grass Valley, Heppner, and Ione to invest in schools and roads.

The BETC represents the will of the people

This is what Oregonians are calling for. We all want family-wage jobs. Three quarters of Oregonians believe the legislature should take action to reduce global warming pollution – including a strong majorities of every age range, both genders, and a majority of Democrats (89%), Republicans (52%), and Independents (74%), according to polling done by Grove Insight for the Oregon Conservation Network..

The BETC is a central part of the action Oregonians are looking for to create a clean energy future, one where Oregonians move away from imported oil and coal, and toward harvesting clean energy and confronting the climate crisis. The BETC is critical to creating a future where jobs designing and building efficient buildings, installing weatherization, and building and maintaining wind turbines and solar panels are a central part of our economy, and a part of our national and international leadership in taking responsibility for our impacts.

Left unabated, climate change is projected to cost us 5 to 20 percent of our gross domestic product. Investing in creating a clean energy future is a smart way to avoid those costs while also spurring Oregon’s local economy.

For those concerned with the budget, a note about scale

While significant, at $167 million over two years our clean energy investment is less than our subsidy of bar owners to encourage gambling - $187 million. And it is dwarfed by other subsidies:

  • $797 million for estate inheritance,
  • $983 million for corporate pensions,
  • $353 million for real estate windfalls,
  • and $380 million for timber.

In a state with a $54,000 million biennial budget, we must make room for smart, forward-looking investments that drive our future economy.

Like most bold innovations, the BETC has had growing pains and will benefit from fine-tuning based on what we’ve learned after implementation. OLCV is eager to work with legislators to ensure the BETC is reformed responsibly, so Oregon remains a leader in clean energy and cutting energy waste through conservation. Oregon’s families, our economy, and our environmental legacy depend on it.

Editor's note: the phrase "state revenue" in the original blog was misread by some as implying tax revenue; a more precise technical economics term now replaces it. However, the report states that Oregon actually gets net tax revenue from the program, to the tune of $13 million in 2008. The joys of blogging.

 

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Oregon League of Conservation Voters | 133 SW 2nd Ave., Ste. 200 | Portland, OR 97204 |  Phone: 503-224-4011 | Fax: 503-224-1548