It was predictable that the Seattle Times would oppose the only measure ($) available to Washington voters to address climate change. However, it’s amazing that people that self-identify as journalists could be so intellectually dishonest in their endorsement. Besides simply lying to their readers — which a newspaper really ought not to do — they can’t manage to maintain a consistent argument from beginning to end.

For starters, the Times says we should wait and let someone else take the first steps:

Washington should coordinate its response with other states, to prevent cross-border job losses. It should also seek a national carbon tax.

Others have taken the first steps. 194 countries have signed the 2015 Paris Agreement.  Perhaps there might be national action if Democrats gain firm control of the federal government, but the Times editorial board is working hard to prevent that ($). In any case, Washington is coordinating its response with other states and provinces. But the region’s “newspaper of record” chooses to misinform its readers about the world.

The state should also strengthen regulations directly reducing pollution, and continue making strong investments in alternative energy, conservation and clean technologies.

Yes, the state should be funding those investments. This editorial doesn’t suggest where the money could come from. A carbon fee would work!

Now comes I-1631, repackaged as a carbon fee. In one key respect – accountability – it’s the worst of the bunch. It would collect more than $1 billion yearly. An un-elected board appointed by the governor would propose how to spend it. The initiative requires seats for powerful entities, such as labor and tribes, promising them large cuts.

The Legislature has the final say on appropriations. But the carbon board is structured to be a political juggernaut. Legislators might have difficulty mustering political will to change course.

The logic of this excerpt immediately collapses upon inspection. The measure isn’t “accountable” because it’s an “unelected board” that has to — report to the elected legislature. But the legislature won’t have the “political will” because the resulting legislation will be too popular! The Times is ultimately mad because a panel of experts and stakeholders will be able to propose legislation in Olympia.

Global warming is critical. But I-1631 is not do-or-die. Sponsors opposed the 2016 carbon-tax initiative. It aspired to be revenue neutral, by cutting other taxes, and didn’t fund their wish list.

My, that I-732 seems quite reasonable, with no grubby progressive politics or interest group spending! The Times hates taxes and would surely have supported using carbon proceeds for tax cuts!

Oh, wait.

Reading these two editorials, two years apart, illustrates the total intellectual bankruptcy of right-wing organizations that pretend to be concerned about climate change. Their argument then was that state action was unnecessary because President Hillary Clinton would save us. Changing facts simply lead to different excuses, not a reconsidered position. That equally self-contradictory editorial was concerned both that I-732 might reduce government revenue in a time of austerity, and also that it might be used for government spending instead of tax cuts. (!)

No, “big polluters” won’t bear these costs. Look at any utility or cable bill to see how taxes and fees are passed to consumers.

In the real world, the vast majority of the opposition funding is coming from the petroleum industry. One might wonder why they are so interested in something that won’t affect their profits.

The Editorial Board then finishes with concern trolling about the middle class and rural people. Let’s set aside that this is economically illiterate: when carbon-intensive things get more expensive, people switch to alternatives. Set aside that fuel-efficient options don’t exist in this editorial. If they are so opposed to raising costs on people, why do they plead for a national carbon tax that presumably would have the same effects? Perhaps their interest in national action only exists in a world where that action is impossible?

Inexplicably, in February this same board praised an almost identical bill ($) in the legislature, refuting almost every point they’re making today. The author of that bill is campaigning for I-1631, but one might object to the subtle differences. The Times could have written a narrow objection based on those small changes. But instead, they chose to spin out a litany of contradictory Fox News talking points: current policy is fine, there isn’t a problem, the problem is too big to solve, we shouldn’t do anything until others move first, and Will Someone Please Think of the White Working Class. I wish that February’s editorial board could have a conversation with October’s.

Meanwhile, the Everett Herald, Tacoma News Tribune, and the Olympian are established newspapers with more sober analyses of the stakes this November.

Brent White contributed to this column.

55 Replies to “Seattle Times: Intellectually Dishonest Yet Again”

  1. You too can live a happy life free from hypocrisy and lies if you simply don’t read The Seattle Times.

  2. Exactly. It’s like opposing light rail because BRT is less expensive, then opposing BRT because it costs too much. Or saying that should vote against something because this other alternative would be better, even though that other alternative has no chance. Both of these strategies are essentially saying “Do nothing” without directly saying it.

    1. Oh, there’s an even better part. Oppose something, then when it passes anyway, oppose the next step after that, saying the first measure was so wonderful and is doing these great things so we don’t need another step.

      1. Well, guess that’s the difference between The Times and STB. Where the more successful the project, the worse the incompetence and wasted opportunity it demonstrates.

        One mitigating factor, though. Since there’s hardly anybody left that remembers Forward Thrust, the Times has lost a priceless comparison that always worked.


  3. One interesting thing that I imagine this could do is substantially raise the price of gasoline (& all other oil products) in Oregon. If I’m understanding this right (& please correct me if not), the tax is levied at the place of production, not the end sale. Or, is there some kind of credit for out-of-state transactions?

    Oregon has no oil refineries and gets virtually all of its supply from the Washington refineries by pipeline. Some is delivered by ocean from California, but CA is not exactly a cheap place to refine either.

    1. Then Oregon’s petroleum costs should go up. The pollution is created in WA, and even if the product is shipped to OR the pollution still occurred.

    2. I think the fee is only for products sold in state, even though it’s levied at the refinery level.

  4. I canceled my Times subscription 20 years ago and somehow I still manage to keep up with the news and stay informed.

  5. I’m voting no. There is no point anymore. We can’t even get half the people in this country, a supposed first-world, educated country to agree that the problem even exists! We will NEVER get the rest of the world on board, we will NEVER even get the red states on board. And even if we did, do you really think countries/companies/people won’t cheat? The powerful will continue to evade the costs, use new regulations to stifle competition, and the rest of us will see our quality of life reduce for no tangible benefit now or in the future. And what about the people living in 3rd world countries? Are you willing to tell them they have to stop modernization efforts so people in the future might have it easier? “I know you want electricity and connectivity but we burned a whole bunch of coal on the other side of the world in West Virginia so just be happy with your hut.”

    If it was just futile that would be one thing but the reality is focusing on this losing issue hurts other progressive efforts that really can make a positive impact on so many people’s lives. If you want to make a difference don’t have children and ride a bike or transit rather than drive alone.

    1. “We will NEVER get the rest of the world on board…”

      The rest of the world is on board. Did you read about the Paris Agreement? Did you read the post?

      1. Paris is mostly a bunch of empty promises, or promises to do next to nothing. The most impactful countries outside of the US will do basically nothing. It’s a sham.

    2. Voting no makes you part of the problem. Maybe other people won’t come around, but collective action by government is the only solution. Individual actions like riding a bike or using transit or buying different things aren’t enough.

      Legislation like this initiative is how we will start addressing the problem, and it’s better to try than to join the deniers in actively destroying the habitability of the planet.

      1. I know most Republicans are just there for the bigotry but a few still just hate taxes. Voting yes means more support for Trump, Kavanaugh, Rossi and the rest of the (yes, truly) deplorables. The Paris Agreement has as much enforcement power as a pinky swear. The die has long been cast. Progressives should stop wasting political capital and focus on the rest of our platform that actually helps people now.

        I certainly don’t think the state of Washington should be leading the charge. WA will be a (comparative) climate change refuge; other states have way more to lose so let’s let them lead the way. Oh wait – they are cult of ignorance red states so they won’t ever do it? Right, that’s my point.

      2. Voting yes means more support for Trump, Kavanaugh, Rossi and the rest of the (yes, truly) deplorables.

        I’ll just wait here for an explanation of this statement.

        *dies of starvation*

      3. I know most Republicans are just there for the bigotry but a few still just hate taxes.

        RapidRider says

        Voting yes means more support for Trump, Kavanaugh, Rossi and the rest of the (yes, truly) deplorables.

        I’ll just wait here for an explanation of this statement.

        *dies of starvation*

        The explanation was the preceding sentence,
        “I know most Republicans are just there for the bigotry but a few still just hate taxes.”

        I don’t know why the snark is necessary. I agree with you that this is a big problem I just don’t agree that we can solve it and I also believe that as long as this is a political issue it is not an issue worth spending political capital on when we have much more important issues that can help people living on this planet now. The “tax and spend Democrats” ads write themselves and they play really well with low-information voters.

      4. Except there will be a whole year between the passage or failure of the initiative and the next election cycle. In that time (assuming passage), these same “low-information voters” will have moved on to the next topic some angry television guy is yelling at them. I-1631 will have been forgotten by them and life will move on.

        These people would still have voted for Trump, Rossi or whatever legislator is put in front of them with an American flag on their lapel and an (R) next to their name, regardless of the passage or failure of I-1631. Therefore, let’s not let the voting habits of a few extremely staunch GOP voters influence our opinion of a very important initiative.

        The snark was a poor attempt at humor, because I’m not used to people making sensational claims and then coming backing them up when questioned. Definitely wasn’t necessary.

    3. Climate change is going to result in probably hundreds of millions of deaths in the 3rd world you claim to care so much about.

      Nor does doing something about climate change in any way prevent development in the third world. We have alternative technologies to coal power and gasoline that work fine. In fact, our clean hydro energy in Washington state is much cheaper than the electricity in coal states. Coal is not that cheap. Hydro, wind, and solar don’t require you do build a huge mine and dig it out of the ground.

      The rest of the world is on-board with doing something about climate change. Even China is basically going to ban gas cars. The US is the one major country where a lot of people don’t believe in climate change.

      The reality is that this is a do or die situation. It’s like we are in a building on fire, and a group of people is intentionally blocking the exit because they don’t think the danger is real. We are way past the point where anyone should be listening to these delusional arguments.

      1. Brendan, so why don’t we actually do something that will effectively address the problem, like ban gasoline fueled cars? Why doesn’t the measure vow to replace the less sustainable parts of our power infrastructure with more solar and wind? Where is the actual “climate initiative” in this proposal? The burden of a fee is too easy for the biggest polluters to shift on to others. And if the goal is to change the behavior of the ordinary people who will end up paying these fees – people driving to work, people drawing energy for heat at their homes, etc – why not address the issue with a law that’s actually targeted at that behavior? These initiatives seem like a certain populace are wanting to feel like we are doing something constructive about the problem of climate change, but don’t actually want to go so far as to dramatically change the ways they live and move around, which ultimately is what we need to do if we really care about curbing the future effects of global warming.

      2. Because all politicians that would be required to do that are bought and paid for by big industry. You’ll never get even the Dems to completely ban fossil fuel use in the US. It will have to happen through other means.

      3. For the record, gasoline-fueled cars are responsible for a minute fraction of the total air pollution.

      4. You don’t think big industry will realize what’s happening if we start with an initiative that’s presented as a fee? I disagree – they’re well aware of the climate change tide and what it portends for their businesses. The real problem is what you say here: “You’ll never get even the Dems to completely ban fossil fuel use in the US.” Yes. People in the US don’t want to eliminate a fossil fuel dependency on which the foundation of our economy and way of life rests. It’s a huge problem – at worst it’s the end of society as we know it – and impact fees won’t solve it.

      5. I voted no. I voted yes for the past tax neutral initiative. I can’t stomach the ‘climate industry’ businesses and Indian Tribes lined up at the Multi-billion dollar money trough.

      6. Rob, the group that ran the last initiative, CarbonWa, is one of the groups endorsing I-1631. I can pretty much assure you they are not interested in trying the I-732 approach again.

        When it comes to climate change, playing crabs-in-a-bucket won’t save any crabs.

        Feel free to pull together $20M+ to run your own initiative the way you think it should be done.

    4. ” And what about the people living in 3rd world countries? Are you willing to tell them they have to stop modernization efforts so people in the future might have it easier? ”

      Already on it, (A) T. Just had my travel agent re-route me through Austin on my way down to Tanzania so I can clue the Texans in on how much better their state’s future will be if they trade these questionable solar panels and wind turbines for the coal and oil whose main advantage is, in addition to dirtier, being more expensive.

      East Africa…a lot harder sell. Their new business class, especially women, have yet to realize how much weight they’re going to put on eating our lunch for breakfast. But I also see on my text screen an apology that the sneaky Chinese just tricked them into a fifty year contract that’ll scare a lot of cows with those big white blades.

      Whose own people (well, mostly Zebu’s) just shrug and settle for the rights to supply the US fossil fuel lobby with enough organic fertilizer to keep the lawn at The Seattle Times’ headquarters green ’til the US comes back from being a desert. Aw, too bad I can’t get a refund on my ticket. Have to settle for side-trip to Riyadh. They’re tired the US begging like a dog (Infidel or collie, they don’t care) for oil. So soon as our account is settled in return for the whole US treasury…

      They’re taking bets on how many three hundred trillion dollar jets us Americans will sell them for a solar panel the size of a postage stamp. That much sand’s got a lot of glass. Which incidentally you can get your fingers cut off with if you’re not real careful.

      The (Same Old) Mark

    5. Remember that movements start out small and grow big. One state imposing a low carbon tax leads to many states imposing a low carbon tax, which leads to higher carbon taxes and a federal carbon tax and…

    6. “I’m voting no. There is no point anymore. We can’t even get half the people in this country, a supposed first-world, educated country to agree that the problem even exists! ”

      That’s making the perfect the enemy of the good. An imperfect solution is better than no solution. And it can be improved later. I can’t see how you think the problem is important if you turn down an imperfect solution. You’re just letting the deniers, fossil fuel interests, and lazy drivers win.

    7. The real problem is that the things that could make a HUGE difference, like reducing air travel and meat consumption, are poison politically. So we can only do things on the margins.

  6. We’ll eventually get to a point where this becomes a crisis. A true crisis, not the “news blurb crisis” that occurs daily at City Hall or in Congress. We’ll be facing the flooding of cities throughout the world – the homes of millions if not billions of people at stake – floods, famines, desertification, and resulting mass migration and war. The world as we know it IS coming to an end. Only then will the number one climate polluter, the United States, come to the table to help solve this. I fear for what my nieces and nephews will be facing in the coming decades. I wouldn’t be surprised if this rivals the losses faced during the Black Death.

    1. “Medical knowledge had stagnated during the Middle Ages. The most authoritative account at the time came from the medical faculty in Paris in a report to the king of France that blamed the heavens, in the form of a conjunction of three planets in 1345 that caused a “great pestilence in the air”.

      This report became the first and most widely circulated of a series of plague tracts that sought to give advice to sufferers. That the plague was caused by bad air became the most widely accepted theory. Today, this is known as the miasma theory.

      The word plague had no special significance at this time, and only the recurrence of outbreaks during the Middle Ages gave it the name that has become the medical term.

      The importance of hygiene was recognised only in the nineteenth century; until then it was common that the streets were filthy, with live animals of all sorts around and human parasites abounding. A transmissible disease will spread easily in such conditions.”


      The fossil fuel industry is right that the climate is naturally changing. Same way the Medieval French establishment knew correctly that more people than usual were dying horribly.

      And well through the Civil War, US military surgeons knew that germs were for French sissies who couldn’t take the smell of an honest operating room. Or knew that what the Hell, the damn leg was gonna fall off anyhow.

      Your niece could do her thesis on theory that Climate Change doesn’t kill people, Establishments do. Though they’ll also always fight the cure worse harder than they will the disease.

      One real screaming age-old medical danger signal. Good chance smallpox won’t leave anybody around to feed the Black Death. The Vikings found America with a thick and savvy enough native population to make a porcupine out of a Dragon Ship with arrows.

      A few centuries later, arriving Homeless thanked God for a great gift of empty land. With real credit going to arrivals from Europe who brought both smallpox and a little personal immunity to it. And Indians with absolutely none infecting each other shortly before a million square miles of them died.

      True, empty. Coyotes don’t leave bones in one place. But what left any settlers alive: with that disease, a little immunity will leave a few people alive. None at all, match in a continent-size lake of gasoline. What we had better pray is that nobody ever thinks we’ve wiped out smallpox.

      Because one, there’s bound to be some left outside somebody’s lab where we’ll miss it. And two, we can’t make ourselves any vaccine without some. So worst danger isn’t a world nobody recognizes, but a world that thinks present comfort equals permanent future effort-free well-being. Or survival.


    2. I wouldn’t be surprised if this rivals the losses faced during the Black Death.

      One can hope for such a mild outcome. The reality is likely to be a world of cockroaches and weeds.

      1. China has quadruple the population and much of the carbon they produced is in order to sell products to the US.

      2. So, we should negotiate with China to reduced carbon emissions. (And please provide the link for your claim.) They are building rail transit like there is a tomorrow, while we dither and walk away from the rest of the world.

  7. In 2016, I voted no, thinking climate change is best addressed at the federal level. I cast this vote not knowing that we would have Donald Trump’s in the white house. Since we do, it is all the more imparative that we act at the state level because states setting precedents for other states is the only option we’ve got left.

    Even if the red states don’t go along, most of the country’s population – and energy consumption- is in blue states. And once clean energy becomes unequivocally cheaper than fossil fuels, even the red states will get on board with cleaner energy, simply to save money,even if they don’t care about climate change or the environment.

    Yes, state by state is not ideal. But at this point, it’s the only option left besides doing nothing at all. This time, I am definitely voting yes.

    1. State or Federal. Who says it can’t be “and?” Also, wish we’d lose this blue-state red-state business. Confederate uniforms were grey.

      Luckily, people change their minds one at a time. For variety of reasons. Been reading somewhere that Texas is going to wind and solar because they’re cheaper than fossil. Wouldn’t doubt that energy companies are diversifying for the same reason.

      Also hate special fear and trembling attaching to “tribal” and “base.” Throughout history, tribes, which are called clans if the members are white- well, red haired, freckled, and tattooed- spend as much time fighting among each other as with the dirty Campbells/MacDonalds . These are families. As are their quarrels, often mass-casualty.

      To our Founders, “Base” meant “Lowly.” No harm putting that on Twitter. Though a lot of those people were registering which candidate they liked worse. And for small specifics, really playing against type for a President who says opposite things in the same sentence. But to be “base” -ically fair and balanced, suspect a lot of Demorcats got tired of being left on one for one too many hitless innings.

      A Senator turned Secretary of State should at least have made the Republicans nominate Marco Rubio. Or, if they weren’t the yellow hypocritical draft-dodging cowards who derided a war hero for being captured- John McCain. Quality of a Base depends a hundred percent on who’s standing on it. ownership.

      Mark Dublin

  8. The looming problem of not being able to not even fund basic street and road maintenance through gasoline taxes is a huge issue. The problem with this measure is that it implies that the need is solely about merely choosing to reduce GHG when we are going to have to implement a better user fee system for pavement impacts no matter what the reason .

    The larger public would respond better if the primary focus is the need for addressing this structural funding problem because this would transcend the standard polarized arguments — and demonstrate a direct benefit for any revenue collected.

    1. Maintain blissful ignorance that we’re killing ourselves with fossil fuels and focus on a comparatively minor local thing, got it.

  9. I may vote yes for this, but it will be under protest. I don’t like that this will effectively encourage folks who do recognize the problem but voted against the previous, fundamentally superior, revenue neutral measure. The only reason I’m even considering voting for it anyway is out of a fear that if this one fails, a better solution will not be put up for another vote soon enough for it to be worth doing.

    But I’m furious that the previous measure failed in a state that really should know better.

    1. Don’t worry, some of us will never forget the turncoats at the Sierra Club, et. al. who sold out the environment because their feelings were hurt at not being included in the process of crafting an otherwise very deserving initiative.

      1. Not to venture too far away from topic, but the Sierra Club is more accountable to its membership than most other environmental groups are. The members elect leadership at all levels. Now their national leadership may sometimes overrule local endorsements and endorse the exact opposite way, but the members have recourse to elect people who will rewrite their national bylaws.

        With most of the groups, all we can do is boycott them, publicly shame them, etc. The Nature Conservancy used to have lots of people I did not consider friends of the Earth on their board. tNC seems to have changed course since then, and here they are endorsing I-1631, regardless of how much Big Petro tries to bribe them with contributions to get them to do otherwise.

  10. How about this gem, “I-1631 also discriminates by geography. Away from Seattle’s abundant transit and moderate climate, in the rest of Washington where **most live**, it’s a largely inescapable, regressive tax especially on middle income families.” (emphasis on **most live** mine)

    I, just like the Seattle Times, am too lazy to do real research, but Wikipedia states that WA has a population of 7,405,743 (2017 est.). The Metropolitan Statistical Area of Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue (all west of the Cascades and almost all in Sound Transit borders; Pierce, King and Snohomish counties) is 3,867,046 as of 2017. Last time we did math, this was more than half of the state of Washington’s population.

    The Seattle Time’s entire geography point is a flat, easily refutable lie.

    1. Did you really read what it said:
      “Away from Seattle’s abundant transit and moderate climate, in the rest of Washington where most live”
      As far as I know Seattle doesn’t transcend beyond King County, or am I missing something? I think Seattle is only about 6-700,000 people. And Seattle was just under 49% public transit usage. With all other areas of the state being considerably less dense and less conducive to public transportation.

    2. The moderate climate covers all of Pugetopolis and beyond. We’re building abundant transit if all of Metro’s, CT’s, PT’s. and ET’s long-range plans are implemented.

    3. A majority of Seattle Times commentors also believe that Eastern Washington subsidizes Western Washington and Seattle, so they’ll believe any false fact that pits the East vs the West.

  11. I mean, the oil companies have spent $22 million on opposing I-1631, so what’s a little more to convince the ST editor to post a puff piece?

  12. The fact of the matter is the majority existing outside of Seattle will be paying the majority of the fee and Seattle will be penalized the least stand to gain the most. Make all the claims about how robust Tacoma’s PT is and/or will be, or how Vancouver will someday allow Portland’s LR into city limits. Just know the system will never be equitable for those who will be paying the bulk over the life of the fees.

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