Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Friday, May 27, 2011

RIP RGGI: Not in Our Backyard

Yesterday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie put the nail on the coffin of the 10-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in New Jersey, declaring that the initiative is a “failure.”

“RGGI has not changed behavior and it does not reduce emissions,” the governor said at a Trenton news conference. “RGGI does nothing more than tax electricity, tax our citizens, tax our businesses, with no discernable or measurable impact upon our environment.”

New Jersey is the first state to opt out of the program. Liberal environmentalists fear New Jersey’s withdrawal could serve as a model for other states to withdraw. According to the Bergen Record “similar efforts in New Hampshire, Maine, and Delaware were met with resistance in recent weeks.” The Record is unclear who put up the resistance in those states: the environmentalists or the Tea Party activists.

Here in New Jersey, we know who put up the resistance: Steve Lonagan and the Americans for Prosperity group. Everyone who was worried about their electricity rates skyrocketing this summer, from businesses to senior citizens facing the prospect of having to shut off their air conditioners, owes Lonagan and the AFP a debt of gratitude. Whew!

New Jersey was put on the RGGI hot seat in 2008 by former Gov. Jon Corzine. RGGI is a cap-and-trade program the Garden State participated in with nine other Northeastern states. The goal is to reduce carbon emissions 10 percent by 2018. Just how they figured on accomplishing that goal by shutting off air conditioning for the elderly and for people working in office buildings with no windows that open is the stuff of fairy tales.

The way RGGI works is that each power company must buy a carbon “allowance” from the state for every ton of carbon it emits. The allowances are purchased through periodic auctions, and the rate fluctuates based on market conditions – and weather conditions. Combined, the states have “earned” more than $860 million through the 11 auctions held so far. New Jersey has earned $102 million.

The Record complains that under state law, those revenues are supposed to be used for greenhouse gas emissions programs, such as those that promote energy efficiency, reduce electricity demand, and preserve forest and tidal marshes. You must be blinking your eyes by now. Save forests and marshes (which breed mosquitoes)? But only $30 million has been spent on clean energy, while Gov. Christie used $65 million in RGGI funds to balance the state budget.

That sounds pretty “green” to me. Good for Gov. Christie. Now that’s the way to govern. Of course, the Record and the environmentalists tried to portray themselves as victorious, with 12 projects geared towards helping businesses install solar panels. My brother’s company has installed solar panels, although I don’t know whether his company invested their own funds in the project, accepted a tax break (which would be okay), or whether they accepted actual money. But it sounds like greenmail to me.

The Sierra Club insisted the cap-and-trade scheme would only result in a one percent increase in electric rates. There is of course a “villain” in their version of this “scheme” – David Koch (pronounced “coke”), an owner of Koch Industries, Inc., a private energy conglomerate that specializes in refining petroleum. According to the Record, RGGI’s defeat in New Jersey is the “fault’ of Koch’s $2.7 million contributes to 26 AFP chapters in New Jersey in 2009.

This victory for Christie puts more pressure on him to run for president in 2012. He keeps refusing, modestly, saying that he has to fix New Jersey. He’s been succeeding and the more he succeeds, the more appealing he is as a GOP presidential candidate, especially against a field of, for the most part, weaker or not-yet-ready for primary time players.

What can a guy do? If you’ve got the right stuff, Gov. Christie, you’ve got the right stuff. Don’t hide your light under a bushel of modesty. You must have the right stuff if Obama's henchman are looking for the "wrong stuff" on you.  If you do run and are elected, you might want to think about Mr. Koch as your Secretary of Energy.



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