My column in today’s Erie Times-News (PA) on Gov. Tom Wolf’s bid to ensnare Pennsylvania in the Northeast state cap-and-tax scheme known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
Gov. Tom Wolf has started the process to enlist Pennsylvania in the battle to stop climate change.
He has proposed for Pennsylvania to join something called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI, pronounced “Reggie”). RGGI is an agreement between Northeast states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions via a cap-and-trade system.
If Pennsylvania joins RGGI, power plants in the state will be required to purchase permits for every ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted. The scheme is for the price of the permits to go up and their availability go down every year so that it becomes more and more expensive for power plants to emit CO2.
What could go wrong a plan to make electricity cost steadily more?
If you listen to Wolf administration, the answer is nothing. Gov. Wolf estimates that emissions will decline by a cumulative 188 million tons by 2030, electricity prices will be 3% lower than they otherwise would be by 2030, personal income will be slightly lower by 2030 (-0.02%) but state revenue will be slightly higher (0.02%), and there will be public health benefits worth an estimated $6.3 billion by 2030.
The whole idea of this scheme is to “combat climate change.” Will it? Regardless of whether you believe United Nations science on climate, an indisputable reality is that human activities produce about 55 billion tons of emissions ever year and the UN has projected that those emissions are increasing with no end in sight.
So by 2030, when RGGI membership supposedly will have reduced state CO2 emissions by a total of 188 million tons, the world will have emitted more than 550 billion tons. So RGGI in Pennsylvania will reduce global emissions by a not-so-whopping 0.034%. The insignificance to the global climate and weather of that level of emissions cut is obvious. So RGGI will accomplish nothing for the climate or environment.
But electricity prices will be 3% lower, says Gov. Wolf. How will electricity prices be lower if the cost to produce is going to increase every year? That’s easy. Pennsylvanians would be paying slightly less for electricity because they will be using a lot less electricity.
Gov. Wolf wants to reduce cumulative electricity use in Pennsylvania by a whopping 27,822 gigawatt-hours by 2030. The other word for this so-called “demand reduction” policy is “rationing.” Though the world is awash in cheap energy, electricity will be arbitrarily rationed by government decree in Pennsylvania.
And let’s not forget that compared with states without excessive CO2 emissions regulations, Northeast states already in RGGI have seen their electricity prices rise 64% faster, according to the Commonwealth Foundation.
What about the projections for personal incomes and state revenues? I know of no state government that can successfully predict your or its income 10 years in the future. But if you work in, or depend on the coal or fracking industry, RGGI is not designed to be a job security program for you. Such high-paying jobs are earmarked to be redistributed to much lower wage wind and solar workers.
Although the Wolf administration projects the state to come out ever so slightly ahead by 2030 because of RGGI’s cap-and-tax design, this is questionable. There will be offsetting lost tax revenues from reduced coal mining and fracking. Also, it’s hard to imagine how making people pointlessly poorer will boost state tax revenues.
Finally, there is the claim that RGGI’s emissions cuts will bring public health benefits that, if hypothetically monetized, are worth billions of dollars. This is nonsense.
Pennsylvania’s air quality is already clean and safe.
There is no scientific or medical evidence indicating that the historically low levels of power plant emissions across Pennsylvania are harming anyone’s health or that lowering them further will make anyone healthier.
In contrast, it is well known that unemploying people or otherwise making them poorer negatively affects their health. That is certain to happen as Pennsylvania’s RGGI membership shutters coals mines, fracking fields, power plants and their support industries.
What’s the bottom line? Pennsylvania’s participation in RGGI will accomplish nothing for the environment, climate or public health. Instead, energy prices will increase. Personal income and state tax revenues will be put at risk. Electricity rationing will only move Pennsylvania’s standard of living in the wrong direction.
The cap-and-tax wolf is at the door, Pennsylvania. Don’t open it.
Steve Milloy publishes JunkScience.com. He served on the Trump EPA transition team and is the author of “Scare Pollution: Why and How to Fix the EPA.”
January 8, 2021 at 05:05PM