We have several elections here in Oregon that are being closely-watched across the country, but none more so than the race for governor, in which unaffiliated candidate Betsy Johnson and Republican candidate Christine Drazan both stand a chance at beating Democrat Tina Kotek and ending Oregon’s decades-long streak of blue leadership.
Drazan, Johnson and Kotek’s platforms vary widely on many issues, and their climate policies are no exception. Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter Dirk VanderHart recently interviewed the three candidates on the important topic of climate change.
Although Oregon’s biggest environmental pressure point has historically been the timber industry, the climate impacts of our transportation system have more recently come into the spotlight as a top issue for Oregon voters. (After all, the transportation sector is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon.)
Here’s how each candidate responded when asked, “Do you support widening highways as a strategy to ease congestion? What specific steps will you take as governor to decrease greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles?”
With respect to transportation, consumers should have the option to purchase an electric vehicle, it shouldn’t be a requirement and our current energy grid cannot support a prohibition on gas or diesel-powered vehicles. I support widening our highways, by building more lanes. I believe we can both reduce traffic times and reduce emissions from idling engines. But this is an incomplete solution unless we address jobs. We need to ensure that people can access work within a reasonable distance from the home that they can afford. As long as we place housing and jobs at opposite ends of the metro area, we will face congestion challenges, we must take a more holistic approach and provide economic opportunity to all communities.
Of course I would increase highway capacity when necessary to more efficiently move vehicles through our highways. The more we maintain efficient flow, the less emissions will be released. I believe vehicle emission standards must be addressed federally to keep Oregon businesses competing on a level playing field.
When investing in transportation infrastructure, we should be ensuring our roads and bridges are safe. We should also be adding transit options and improving bike and pedestrian access. I don’t think this is an “either/or” conversation. I believe we can have safe roads that aren’t clogged with traffic all day long and smart strategies to reduce pollution from cars and trucks.
You can find out more about the three candidates’ climate policies in the full OPB interview. And thanks for asking this question Dirk!
Taylor has been BikePortland’s staff writer since November 2021. She has also written for Street Roots and Eugene Weekly. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org