Tag Archive | "CO2 emissions"

What Is RGGI? And, Why Should You Care?

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There is no doubt in my mind that the climate of the earth is warming.  I have, however, considerably less certainty as to its cause, and I have even less confidence in government’s ability to solve the problem – whether that government is at the local, state, or federal level.  I do, nonetheless, understand that most governments will use any crisis as an excuse to take away more of my money, my liberty, or both.


Like most of you, I am too busy earning a living to pay as much attention as I should to the goings-on of government at any level.  And so, it came as a complete surprise to me that, as our federal government debates Cap-and-Trade legislation, we in New Jersey as well as the residents of nine other Northeastern states already have it.  It comes in the form of an innocuous enough sounding acronym, RGGI, which stands for Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a pact entered into by the states of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Maryland in 2007.


As in all such proposed Cap-and-Trade schemes, it brands carbon dioxide (CO2) as a pollutant on the theory that this so-called greenhouse gas absorbs radiation and thus accelerates warming of the earth’s surface.  Yet, I wonder how it is that a gas necessary to sustain life on this planet can be labeled as a pollutant.  For those of you, like I, who have been out of grade school for more than a few years, CO2 is a prime player in the carbon cycle known as photosynthesis wherein plants absorb carbon dioxide, sunlight, and water to produce carbohydrate energy for themselves and oxygen as a byproduct.  This oxygen produced in the carbon cycle is essential to sustain human and animal life on earth.


Nonetheless, many now consider CO2 as an enemy of the planet and likewise, anyone or thing that produces it.  Of course, we each of us produce CO2 as a waste product of respiration when we exhale, and perhaps someday, if one extends the logic supporting Cap-and-Trade initiatives, each of us will have to pay some form of a tax for breathing.  But, for the time being, Cap-and-Trade programs target the largest producers of carbon dioxide, power companies and other large industrial plants.  The philosophy is simple.  According to Matt Elliott, the Global Warming and Clean Energy Advocate for Environment New Jersey, “We cap pollution, we charge polluters to pollute, and we put the money back into programs that conserve energy.”


While this sounds like a reasonable plan, consider the impact of Cap-and-Trade legislation.  Power companies and other large industrial CO2 producers are required to buy carbon dioxide emission permits issued by the participating states.  These CO2 producers are surely not going to bear the costs themselves.  Instead, they’ll pass it along to their consumers – their residential and business customers – in the form of hidden charges on their energy bills.  Thus, the sale of these emission permits is just another form of taxation (without representation, I might add) on the residents and businesses of RGGI’s participating states.  And, because these permits can be sold or traded, one can only surmise that this government-created carbon commodities market may be manipulated, as have other markets, by profit-minded insiders – increasing energy costs to end-users (i.e., you and me).


The ten auctions held to date have produced more than three-quarters of a billion dollars in revenue for the states.  So, you might assume that alternative energy programs in these states are booming and producing new investment opportunities and jobs for their residents.  Of course, if you did assume that, you’d be wrong.  In 2010 New Hampshire lawmakers voted to take all of that state’s expected $3.1 million share of the carbon emissions sale proceeds and use it to toward alleviating a $295 million budget shortfall. That move came after New York and New Jersey had staged even bigger raids on Cap-and-Trade funds.  New York transferred $90 million out of a fund of auction proceeds and into its general fund.  And, New Jersey pilfered $65 million from carbon-credit sales to help balance its budget.


Perhaps the worst part of the RGGI debacle is the agency’s lack of accountability to taxpayers.  Deemed a non-government agency despite its creation, funding, and governance by the ten participating states, RGGI operates behind an opaque veil.  The details of its online auctions and the nature of compensation and benefits provided its employees do not fall under the auspices of the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and so are not readily obtainable.  This shadow governmental agency, therefore, operates in relative secrecy and anonymity.


It is time that the spotlight of public scrutiny be shone on RGGI.  It will hike energy rates for residential and business customers while failing to achieve its mission.  Revenues generated by carbon dioxide emissions permits are neither cultivating significant new clean energy sources nor producing jobs.  And, according to projections of its own consultants and energy officials, RGGI is not expected to have any effect on carbon emissions until the year 2030.


Beyond providing its participating states a novel way to generate new revenues without “officially” raising taxes, RGGI is not benefitting residents of New Jersey or any of its participating states.  Now that you know, take action.  Contact your governor and state legislators and tell them to repeal their membership in RGGI.  For more information, check out the Americans for Prosperity repeal resource and No NJ Cap and Trade website.


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