Thursday, March 17, 2016

Renewable Energy and Partisan Politics in Oregon

Oregon has just passed an ambitious clean energy bill that calls on the state's utilities to eliminate coal by 2030 and use 50 percent renewable (mainly solar and wind power) by 2050. That 50 percent excludes the 40 percent of Oregon electricity that already comes from hydropower. There are also provisions for small community solar projects and other liberal goodies.

Almost as interesting is the way this happened. Democrats hold majorities of both houses of Oregon's legislature and the governorship. But just as Obama did  with the Affordable Care Act, they tried to bring in some Republicans so they could have a bipartisan bill. But just like Republicans in DC, Oregon's Republicans refused to enter negotiations, then tried to stonewall and hope the bill would somehow die. They failed, pissed off Democrats in the process, and the result is a bill more liberal than it would have been if half a dozen Republicans had signed on.

These strategies may lead to electoral success – the Republicans did very well nationwide in 2010 – but at the price of letting Democrats write and pass whatever bills they want, and in fact of motivating them to pass more liberal bills than they might have otherwise. American politics is continuing to move farther away from bipartisan compromise and toward party line voting, with who knows what consequences. Instead of the muddling moderation that has been the American way since World War II, will we see stark oscillations between liberal and conservative rule, with attendant chaos? The Sanders administration launches national health insurance, but then the Cruz administration repeals it? That seems unlikely to me, but unlikely things keep happening.

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