It’s fair to say that Hurricane Sandy put climate change back into the national discussion. And if we’re going to move forward on addressing it, we should know what’s been tried and what works.
Is there any reason to believe catastrophic economic claims about controlling greenhouse gases? Well, no. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which has encompassed ten states (NJ was in and now out), is a cap-and-trade program that slowly limits carbon-dioxide emissions. I have little doubt that most folks in these states have very little idea that they’re under such a regime right now. It works. It cuts emissions. And it’s good for the economy, said a report from The Analysis Group last year.
- The regional economy gains more than $1.6 billion in economic value added (reflecting the difference between total revenues in the overall economy, less the cost to produce goods and services)
- Customers save nearly $1.1 billion on electricity bills, and an additional $174 million on natural gas and heating oil bills, for a total of $1.3 billion in savings over the next decade through installation of energy efficiency measures using funding from RGGI auction proceeds to date
- 16,000 jobs are created region wide
- Reduced demand for fossil fuels keeps more than $765 million in the local economy
- Power plant owners experience $1.6 billion in lower revenue over time, although overall had higher revenues than costs as a result of RGGI during the 2009-2011
I have personally benefitted from one such program: MassSave does free energy audits, changes out your incandescent light bulbs with CFLs for free, and gives generous subsidies for conservation work, like insulation. I’ve twice availed myself of their subsidies. My heating bills are lower, and the house is warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Quality of life = better. Cash flow = better. CO2 footprint = smaller.
MassSave is paid for partly out of proceeds from cap-and-trade. But there are other uses for cap-and-trade revenue:
Funds were also invested in other ways, all with positive economic outcomes, including worker training, community-based renewable energy projects, bill-payment assistance to low-income and other energy customers, land protection, and contributions to a state’s general fund to help close budget gaps.
Obviously, I think it would be best to keep that money flowing to conservation programs to max out the greenhouse gas benefit, which should be Object #1.
This is not killing us. In fact, RGGI is helping us, right now. On the other hand, the dead-weight of cleaning up after storms like Sandy is immense. So why not expand a program that’s actually good for the economy and for quality of life, which also cuts the risk of climate catastrophe? Any other states want these nice benefits we’re getting?