Guest Viewpoint

(Maisie Plew/Emerald)

This piece reflects the views of Will Christensen, a student at the University of Oregon, and not those of Emerald Media Group. It has been edited by the Emerald for grammar and style. Send your columns or submissions about our content or campus issues to [email protected]

I’ve called Oregon home for my entire life. It’s without a doubt one of the best places a kid can grow up. We have sprawling suburbs, tight-knit communities and beautiful forests housing crucial wildlife — and way too much rain, of course. 

We Oregonians treasure our natural wonders and resources because they contribute significantly to the character of our state. So, if you asked someone in Portland if climate change is all that big of a deal, you wouldn’t hear the end of it. If we lose our forests, we might as well lose our state; we Oregonians know that. Where we have trouble, however, is finding a solution that works in Portland without hurting places like Pendleton.

State Senate Democrats proposed the first major solution to address these issues. Their highly controversial cap-and-trade bill aimed to cut emissions by 80% below their 1990 levels by 2050.The bill was stopped when GOP senators walked out in protest and left the state to avoid the vote. Many villainized the Right for the outcome, but what critics forget is that bill would have greatly cost farmers in the east and dramatically raised gas prices in the Portland-Metro Area, far beyond most lower income residents’ purchasing power, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting

All of these economic consequences are unnecessary for a state that only accounts for 0.7% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, according to the World Resources Institute while the U.S. as a whole contributes 16% to global emissions, according to data collected by Climate Watch. This begs the question: If a particular solution to a problem negatively impacts the livelihoods of most people, with no guarantee of recourse, is it really the best option we can come up with?

That’s where young conservatives like myself come in. We call our approach “All Of The Above,” a free market solution allowing for the best and most affordable technology to prevail. We would like the government, from local to federal, to deregulate the energy industry, ultimately allowing free and fair competition between energy sources. 

This approach does not subject individuals to authoritative and economically devastating government mandates, and it will give real value to the energy technologies of the future. Of course, this approach includes fossil fuels, which has been wrongfully criticized for the industry’s alleged lack of innovation. However, natural gas emits close to 50% less CO2 than coal, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and its recent rise has contributed greatly to the climate and the economy. This has allowed the United States to reduce its emissions at a faster rate than most other nations.

To advocate for this solution, the American Conservation Coalition, an organization that advocates for free-market and conservative environmental solutions, flew 45 college students, including myself, to Washington D.C. for three days. We were split into groups based on our home region of the United States and educated members of Congress and their staff about our message. All of the students were highly motivated, had vast knowledge of the energy industry and always had something to add to the conversation. I knew from the first day that our efforts to advocate for our position would be successful in the days to come.

The main event of the fly-in was our meetings with representatives and senators in D.C. The groups met with congressmen and women from both chambers, from Rep. Walden (R-OR) to Sen. Ernst (R-IA). The groups traveled from office to office advocating for our free-market solution to the energy crisis, and everyone we spoke with made it clear that they were keen on spreading our message. 

After the meetings, the groupattended areception, where Reps. Mast (R-FL), Curtis (R-UT) and Steil (R-WI) gave speeches. The speakers showed great enthusiasm forour cause, and they were clear about their intent to advocate for an All Of The Above energy approach.

At the end of the day, regardless of political affiliation, everyone wants to leave the planet better than they found it. However, most climate discourse often underestimates the utility of conservative solutions. An All Of The Above energy approach still emphasizes the importance of preservation, while simultaneously allowing the people that have relied on fossil fuel technology to carefully adjust. 

States like Oregon have no need to burden themselves with short-sighted legislation and must adopt a solution that leaves plenty of room for the American Dream. These people need to be considered before we move forward because they need to be part of the solution, instead of being told they are the problem.