Friday, August 31, 2018

The gas tax is kind of a carbon tax. It could be raised and extended to other fossil fuels. Keep it simple.

View from Western Washington University's Music Building plaza during smoky skies Aug. 2018.

Most carbon taxes, like one's proposed by Washington Governor Jay Inslee, seem too complex, but I will vote yes anyway. I think they are designed by politics. Tax big industries, like oil refineries, to make it look like we aren't taxing consumers, but industry passes it's cost along to consumers anyway. Really, to be honest, it is taxing consumers. I still support the idea. It's better than nothing.

A carbon tax can be made more simple, however. Make it like the gas tax that is seen at the pump. In fact I would combine the gas tax and the carbon tax concept. Just make it one tax; rather than two taxes.

There are 3 big ways in which energy is consumed and I would put a tax on each of them. Basically only 3 products to tax so it could be simple. Oil, natural gas and coal. The tax would reflect how much carbon is placed into the atmosphere from each of these items.

Natural gas would have a slightly lower tax than oil or coal as it's carbon content is lower.

The price levied on coal would effect the price of things like electricity, depending on how much of the electricity mix comes from coal at a given time.

The carbon tax could be low, at first, like maybe even just adding the equivalent of a few cents per gallon of gas. This would address the fact that a carbon tax is somewhat regressive. Quite a few low income people have to drive to work, for instance. At least a small tax would be a start. Better than nothing. If future legislatures, or the voters, wanted to raise it, they could.

I think Washington's carbon tax proposal would automatically ratchet higher over time. This might be hard to swallow politically. My idea wouldn't ratchet up automatically, but would rely on the legislature, or the voters for that. Maybe that's not strong enough, but at least it's a start. I hate to say it, but if skies get smoky enough, voters might take more kindly to these taxes.

As for the tax on oil, much of it would show up as a higher gas tax. People are already used to the gas tax. It goes to transportation infrastructure; the highway fund. I keep hearing that the gas tax needs to be raised as roads and bridges are in poor repair. Gas is quite cheap, in USA, compared to other countries. The cost of maintaining the highway network keeps rising. Just raising the gas tax would be like a carbon tax in a way.

Even raising the gas tax is difficult politically. It's justified by the need to improve public infrastructure. Maybe other carbon taxes could be looked at in the same way. Ironically, it might have to be sold by saying it's money for highways.

I would try and use a lot of the money for green transportation. Public transit, pedestrian improvements and bike paths. Bellingham has a similar tax in place now. It puts some money into roads, but emphasizes alternative transit. It's called Bellingham Transportation Benefits District 1. This money comes from a sales tax, however. The tax was passed by voters in 2010. It brought back Sunday bus service after some cuts. It also pays for street improvements with emphasis on pedestrian and bicycle safety.

I know, the public grumbles if they think they are paying for buses or bicycles that they don't ride, but alternative transportation does help the cars by reducing traffic.

Taxes on natural gas and coal could go toward things like making our power grid smarter. Green energy and conservation. Like with the gas tax, it's basically infrastructure.

The tax could be raised by future legislatures, but, admittedly, it's a fairly regressive tax. As for the problem of income inequality, in USA, we really do need more progressive income taxes as well. I think of the carbon tax as dealing with infrastructure and carbon reduction needs. It can't do everything. Income inequality could be addressed with different taxes.

If people could figure out how to give up their cars, alternative transit does address income inequality. It's usually cheaper than car ownership.

Washington State's latest carbon tax proposal will be on the November 2018 ballot. I think it's more complex than my idea, but I still plan to vote yes. It taxes a lot of businesses and exempts other businesses out of the fear of driving certain businesses to other states. The tax proposal is the result of a lot of public consultation. Complex, but maybe the best we can do given the circumstances. Here's an informative article I read about that proposal.

Still, I think we could benefit from relating our thinking about carbon taxes to the already successful gas taxes.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Diary of my 2018 bicycle tours reprinted from Facebook.

Also see more photos on Flickr.

I'm on vacation now, but the heatwave has effected my original travel plans. Bicycling through Eastern Washington to my 45 high school reunion seems quite daunting as over 100 degree temps are predicted again. I plan to bicycle west of the Cascade Mountains instead.

Global warming is making these heatwaves and the forest fires more common as the years go by. August is becoming less of a good travel month in this region. Still, I plan to visit places like Victoria, BC and the Olympic Peninsula. It's been about a year since I've even ventured beyond a 23 mile radius of Bellingham.

Part of the situation is that there is a lot going on in Bellingham. Things that are hard to miss; like I just heard that The Atlantics are playing in Boulevard Park this evening. The Atlantics are real fun to dance to. Delaying my travel plans yet one more day.

My trip has started. Now at ferry in Anacortes headed to Vacouver Island.

Some images from my bike trip so far. Highway 20 on way to Anacortes. Yes, it was better to stay in this area during the hotspell. Morning fog in Anacortes. Even a few drops of rain, but mostly dew falling from trees. A side trip to top of Mount Erie City Park. Looking down on the morning fog. Looking down on an oil refinery. Then the ferry to Sidney, BC. Still in view of Mount Baker seen over welcoming flowers in Sidney.

Yesterday, a bigger meal than I expected at Smitty's. I think they call it Ihop on our side of the border. Smitty's sounds more scrumptious.

I eat slow so might as well go on wifi. Look up Royal Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. Should I ride up that hill again as I did in 1996? The page says it is no longer open to public except for special events. Okay, don't bother.

Follow link from their website to another page. I took that photo! Many of my pictures are now in the Wiki. I donate to Creative Commons. Oh, a broken link. They gave me credit, but I moved a page when I reorganized my site. As I waited for my food to digest I fixed that. Now there's a page to land on when wiki credits me.

Galloping Goose wild goose chase

I wish there were more campgrounds along Canada's Galloping Goose Trail. Headed out the trail, I decided to have a more restful day and not go out as far as Sookie where I went in 1996. Instead, I left the trail and rode a ways on the busy Trans Canada. Shoulder was good, but yes it is the scenery of thundering cars and trucks. Not too far, though, a nice lake for swimming, but in a "day use only" park. Thetis Lake.

Years ago, there was a campground, but on private land. I stayed there in 2016. It is no more. I thought I would proceed on to another provincial park down the road. Goldstream Park. I missed the campground entrance and ended up in this beautiful canyon, but I wasn't appreciating it as well as I could as my mind was more pragmatic looking for the campground. So, turn around, back up the hill to the campground entrance only to find that the campground is full. Then it's along Highway 14 a while maybe finding woods to hide in. Not too late yet at least.

Eventually, I am almost at the far end of the trail anyway and back on the trail near Sookie. Some dog walkers tell me about a resort just a few kilometers farther. It's a bit expensive and sort of shabby, but I stayed there. It was an okay day, but much of my Galloping Goose day turned out to be wild goose chase. Bike touring does take some patience.

Riding Blackball Ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles.

Looked at remaining part of Elwha Upper Dam west of Port Angeles on Thursday. They tore most of the dam down to return the river for salmon. Took pictures that I will share eventually.

Main destination part way up road to hot springs, where Upper Elwha Dam was removed for restoring vast salmon runs in the river. Salmon coming back might help the dying population of Orca Whales in Washington State waters. The whales feed on salmon and scientists think they are starving. The Orcas may be going extinct. So many people come to Salish Sea region in love with the whales. Whale watching industry is now a big part of local economy. As we humans are loving the whales to death, destroying the salmon habitat with paving over much of the spawning grounds along rivers. Maybe we can still save the whales by inconveniencing ourselves a bit. Removing some obstacles, protecting more flood lands along rivers, removing more culverts, living more compactly ourselves.

Almost to the hot springs, but not quite.

At end of the road past Upper Elwha dam site is Olympic Hot Springs. I like the social scene of clothing optional places so I head on up the hill. Due to road washouts, no cars allowed on that road for miles. Only bikes, horses and pedestrians. A very hot day so no one is on the road.

Some folks like springs with no people, but I like the social side of the experience. For just hot water, there's a good shower at the campground. As I head up the long hill, I wonder if anyone is at the spring.

I get as far as the empty parking lot (parking from before the washouts) and decide to head back. From here, it's 2 more miles of walking to the spring. An empty (empty of people) spring isn't that important an experience as it's getting late and time to head back to the campground. The empty road, however, is a great experience. I didn't feel like the long climb up that hill was wasted at all though I didn't get to the spring itself. The ride up that hill was worth it in beautiful forest with no traffic. Exertion, which feels good to me, waterfalls, quiet, moss on craggy trees and it was even within cell service. Classical music from WFMT in Chicago. The whole experience was very meditative.

Heading east to Sequim Bay and not quite to Mount Walker.

Finally, some needed rain. I'm camping, tho at a wonderful hiker biker site in Sequim Bay State Park. My tent under tarp, I set out for day trip to Mount Walker. Just as I pass Discovery Bay, a massive rainstorm hits. Light refreshing tain last night, but today, dramatic. I duck under awning of store and nearby coffee shop just in time. Lightning, thunder and cloudburst. Fun to watch. Cell service must have been knocked out by storm, but I go on coffee shop wifi to pass time. Exciting. First big storm I experienced in years. Rain is now stopping so I may proceed on to Mount Walker for this day trip. By the way, a raccoon stole my little bag of granola but other than that no problem. Head back to Sequim Bay tonight and hope my tent didn't float away.

I thought Mt. Walker was north of Quilcene. It' just a bit more south and then up the long hill so I decided to head back to camp. Will look up the view on Flickr Images.

The storm was quite exciting. Maybe better than Mt. Walker's view. A red blob on my weather app passed over Discovery Bay while I was sitting high and dry on that store's porch. The timing was ideal. Otherwise I would have been drenched. Could be the hardest rain I've seen since 1998 as I was passing through Williston, North Dakota. I watched that storm from under the eave of a mini mall with general store, cafe coffee shop and cannabis dealership. Discovery Bay.

Historic gas pumps in Quilcene. Seen on Saturday. I also saw these on a trip in 2014.

The tarp over my tent worked very well. Tent stayed dry during yesterday's cloudburst. Now headed to Dungenus Spit as my bicycle vacation continues.

The zipper in my old tent gave out. I decided to get a new tent. Hope the new tent serves me for several trips. It is nicer than my old tent. Around the price of one night in a hotel room if I were to stay in a hotel. Just under $100.

Said to be largest madrona tree in state of Washington. Along a street in Port Angeles. Riding the Blackball Ferry between Port Angeles and Victoria, BC. A few days ago, I walked part way out Dungenes Spit near Sequim, WA.

Smog was mostly cleaned up in 1970s and 80s as we learned to remove particulate matter from emissions. That did not deal with the carbon dioxide, however. Now the smog is back as global warming leads to more forest fires and the particulate matter they spew. Carbon dioxide. itself, is an invisible and deceptively clean looking gas, but it traps heat from the sun.

This is what Olympic Peninsula looks like today. Smoke from fires in BC and so forth. I am camping west of Port Angeles and planning to take Tuesday Blackball Ferry back to Victoria.

Back to Victoria on Blackball Ferry.

Statue controversy in the news in Canada. City of Victoria removes statue of Canada"s first prime minister from city hall. Being removed because of his role in establishment of abusive residential schools. Reminds me of when one of our state legislators discovered a plaque in Peace Arch Park dedicating Highway 99 as the Jefferson Davis Highway. Davis president of the Confederacy in USA. Dedication took place in the 1940s. Since then, plaque was forgotten and hidden behind plant growth. It has been removed and re displayed with different descriptions. I think Victoria plans to do something similar.

I am now just north of Victoria. My tent set up in McDonald Park. Named for that prime minister, I think. A nice park however. Room for my tent, unlike the other park I tried a few days back.

While lots of people argue over the status of statues about historic figures that may have had slaves, bigoted attitudes, ignoring of child abuse, I have an optimistic thought about this. The controversy happens because society has progressed over the years. Attitudes and practices that would e considered bigoted today were basically normal back then. The normal is changing; at least in western societies. Probably the best way to deal with these statues is to keep them, remember history, but rewrite descriptions to acknowledge the faults as well as the accomplishments of historic figures. Even today, no one is perfect. To a large extent, we are all products of our times.

Ferry back to Anacortes and then get on another ferry for Orcas Island.

My bike is holding up great. No flat tires or other problems, but mechanical problems on the ferry has cancelled the ferry run from Sidney, BC to Anacortes, WA. Plans changed. Another day in Sidney as they say the next ferry will get into Anacortes around 10 pm. I'll head out on the noon ferry tomorrow. More time to explore Sidney waterfront.

My bike near Patricia Bay as I explored area around Sindey, BC.

Now on Orcas. Air starting to clear due to a marine push of air.

Experiencing Ocas Island with no power. Auxiliary power keeps store in East Sound partially open. They say power back on by evening. Cell service okay in town at least. No service at campground anyway. No point going to Doe Bay hot tubs today. No power there. Got enough to eat from partially open store running on aux power. Unique experience.

A ride to top of Mount Constitution on Orcas. A rather hazy view. Nice ride tho. Exercise for the day plus the ride I did earlier into East Sound.

Orcas getting smoggy again. Marine push of air was short lived. Forest fires in BC and around the western US are getting worse each year.

I listen to radio a lot as I ride. NPR or CBC much of the time, but other things as well.

Some conservatives are running ads against the carbon tax proposal on Washington State's November ballot. They say it will increase gas prices.

Duh. That is what it is supposed to do. Increase the cost of fossil fuel to provide more breathing room for alternatives. It is a tax on high carbon polluters, like oil refineries, but I realize that business passes its costs on to consumers.

Some conservative talk hosts are cringing as Trump gets down in the dirt and battles his detractors calling them lowlifes and so forth. These conservatives think that the economy is now doing great. Low unemployment, over 4% growth, the success of Trumpenomics. These hosts I have been hearing on the radio are kind of frustrated and say Trump needs to ignore the backstabbing and talk about the "great" economy.

Okay, I say the air is full of smoke from global warming forests burning fossil fuel economy. Lots of folks caught in the rat race still feel stressed keeping up as income inequality ravages the spirit. There's got to be more to live than just the pursuit of pure prosperity. That's the real problem.

The famous lion sculpture at Doe Bay Resort looks like it has a bronze or copper coating due to strange light in terribly smoky air. I hope my lungs can clean themselves out eventually as I am going up and down really steep hills to get around this island. Breathing in lots of forest fire smog. Starting to feel polluted. Looking forward to heading back to Bellingham for a while in the next few days.

On my way back to Bellingham. Should be back Tuesday night. While camping on Orcas, I met some other cyclists. One of them turned out to be a friend of mine from ecstatic dance in Bellingham. Small world. We rode together on Orcas for a while to the ferry.

Heading home from Orcas. Picture taken by one of the folks I met in Moran State Park.

I am now in Anacortes. Breathing smoky air caused by forest fires. Longer and more severe fire seasons, a consequence of global warming. I assume my lungs will clean themselves out after this trip. It isn't easy for/me to stay inside as they are recommending, but healthy lungs tend to clean themselves fairly well. I'm feeling okay.

Make that I arrive in Bellingham Wednesday afternoon. Having a good visit with my friend Kathy Reim from Skagit PFLAG in Sedro Wolley.

Just rolled back into Bellingham around 1:15 Wednesday. A good trip in spite of the smoke. My apartment is in good order. I have some vacation time left for relaxation and maybe a few shorter trips. It was a good trip.

Day trip to Vancouver, BC. Take train up and bike most of the way back, except for small part on the Skytrain. Photos from Vancouver trip 2018.

See more photos on Flickr.

Friday, August 10, 2018

My 2018 bicycle tour to Olympic Peninsula and Victoria, BC is in progress

Easier to put day by day posts on Facebook. If you do not use Facebook, I will transfer those posts and add more images when I get back to my home screen. The info will be on this blog and Flickr.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Fight against gerrymandering more important than debate over voter ID

Another alluring sound byte on the campaign trail, but you don't usually need ID to buy groceries. However, there are a lot of things, in society, that do require ID these days. Unfortunate, in a way, how security conscious we have become.

My liberal base might not want me to say this, but I can sort of see the rational for picture ID when voting. Sort of. The fight against gerrymandering is more important than the fight about ID, in my opinion. Gerrymandering is a big problem.

The fight to preserve lack of ID requirement for voting uses lots of political capital. Conservatives can score sound byte points by mentioning all the things that require ID; even if groceries are not among them. Meanwhile gerrymandering of political districts threatens to destroy the value and incentive for voting. Seems like Democrats tend to be better than Republicans in trying to take steps against gerrymandering even though both parties have contributed to the problem as well. Republicans tend to be the worse. The fight against gerrymandering seems more important to me than the fight over voter ID.

Here are a few other thoughts related to ID.

Voter ID is kind of a mute point here in Washington State as this state is all absentee ballot. No, we don't have to include a copy of picture ID when sending in the ballot. Really, absentee ballot is the way to go for voter participation.

The whole ID experience isn't necessarily getting worse at least in my case. These days we can make purchases with just a debit card and pin number. Back in my college days, I remember trying to buy text books at the college bookstore my freshman year. I gathered up a big stack of books, a heavy stack. Then waited in a 40 minute line to get to the checkout counter. They didn't take checks without several credit cards for ID. I had no credit cards. I had to go down to my bank, get cash and then start over. After that experience, I have been leery of paying by check. Glad checks are mostly a thing of the past.

Here's another problem. Seems like just about every job requires a driver's license. I don't drive so I am ineligible for many kinds of employment in this car based society. I have non driver's picture ID.