Around the horn on climate: Winslow/RGGI/Christie

One has to live in hope that we’ll someday again get some agreement from across the aisle that climate is urgent. It’ll happen sooner or later — the question is whether it’s soon enough. With this issue, Dan Winslow has an opportunity this year to get some needed daylight between himself and the national GOP. I wish I could say there was precedent for that in his record of legislation or remarks … but here’s some of what he said two years ago:

During last week’s snowstorm he poked fun at his legislative colleagues by tweeting the threadbare joke that any winter storm disproves the theory of global warming:

I’m not making this up: just received word from the House Committee on Global Warming that Wednesday’s meeting postponed due to snow storm.

What a riot he is. When the former occupant of his House seat, now-Senator and fellow Republican Richard Ross tweeted back, hinting that Winslow might want to make it clear that he was only joking, he grudgingly complied — “A joke gents.”  But then he quickly rejoined the global warming sceptics by reciting their faux-modest epistemological confession:

Although I do not have enough information to know whether the reported warming is a result of natural causes, manmade causes, or both.

Someone who “doesn’t have enough information”, or who “isn’t smart enough”, a la Charlie Baker, or “too busy”, a la Chris Christie, is someone who just doesn’t want to think about it. It’s not even global warming denial … it’s denial of denial — trying to get out of having to grapple at all with a very difficult and complex issue. If Winslow is who he says he is — a bipartisan problem-solver — he should be bold and show us something. That would be genuinely welcome in this Senate race. I would love to have him and Markey fight it out over who can best effect change in Congress over climate.

RGGI, our regional cap-and-trade system, is getting stronger (press release):

RGGI States Propose Lowering Regional CO2 Emissions Cap 45%, Implementing a More Flexible Cost-Control Mechanism

… Improvements include: A reduction of the 2014 regional CO2 budget, “RGGI cap”, from 165 million to 91 million tons – a reduction of 45 percent. The cap would decline 2.5 percent each year from 2015 to 2020.

… Analyses indicate that today’s proposed changes would:

  • Reduce projected 2020 power sector CO2 pollution more than 45 percent below 2005 levels.
  • Preserve the significant reductions that have already occurred in power sector CO2 emissions, and drive further reductions. The new cap is projected to generate approximately 80 – 90 million tons of cumulative emission reductions by 2020, when compared to the current RGGI program, and annual emissions in 2020 are projected to be approximately 14 – 20 million tons lower than they would be otherwise.
  • Result in a modest increase in allowance prices, with allowances expected to be priced at approximately $4 ($2010) per allowance in 2014 and rising to approximately $10 ($2010) per allowance in 2020.
  • Have minimal net impact to consumer’s electricity bills. Overall, the average electricity bill for residential, commercial and industrial customers is projected to increase by less than 1 percent.
  • Generate an additional $2.2 billion ($2010) for reinvestment. These investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy save consumers money, create jobs and enhance energy security, and drive further emission reductions.

Saving money, helping the economy, saving CO2 … what’s not to like? NJ used to be part of RGGI until Chris Christie pulled them out, calling it a “gimmick”. Christie, whose state has 9.6% unemployment and just got smashed by a big, warming-fueled storm, should be glad to have such “gimmicks.” He doesn’t have time for this? Someone get this man a ladder so he can climb down.


Recommended by somervilletom, mark-bail.


6 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. On a concrete and more local level,

    the RGGI creates a market for renewable energy credits (RECs), which create financial incentives for green energy. Such a market led to the elimination of acid rain. It’s what we’d do with carbon emissions if the rest of the country weren’t crazy.

    As a selectman, I’m in talks with a company that would put solar panels up in our town and sell us power at a reduced cost. When you’re talking hundred-thousands or millions of kilowatts, a few pennies can be quite a savings. The RECs are trading low right now, but increasing the need for companies to conserve would boost the incentives again.

    • Mark, send me an email

      I’m the Chair of my town’s Renewable Energy Advisory Committee, we just signed an agreement similar to what you’re discussing, except the solar farm isn’t in our town. We’re slated to receive about 1/4 of our town’s annual usage from the solar farm in question, with first year savings of almost $100,000. I can give you some advice about what to watch our for in any deal you’re considering – john (at) tehans (dot) com

    • The first half isn't quite right

      It’s Massachusetts’ RPS standard which creates the market for RECs. The RGGI program creates a market for the (negative) value of CO2 emissions. These are not called RECs.

      RGGI drives up the cost of carbon-intensive electricity generation (coal and oil, natural gas less-so), which helps create market-based incentives for dispatching lower carbon generation on the hourly basis and market-based incentives for constructing new lower carbon generation on a half-decade planning basis.

      The revenue from RGGI is spent differently in each state. Massachusetts tends to spend the money on energy efficiency and the construction of new renewable generation. The best part? The spending on EE results in more savings than it costs — so that (helps to, or perhaps more than) offsets the added cost that RGGI imposes on electricity bills.

      • Thanks, Stomv.

        I knew you could explain this stuff better than I could.

        • I'm always happy to

          after all, it’s a bit “in the weeds” but I figure that if the folks on BMG understand this stuff a little better, then a wider swath of Democrats [and others!] will know a little more, speak up in favor a little louder, etc.

          It looks like I’ll spend about 2 days at work in late Feb researching the new RGGI rules to forecast the CO2 price [both floor and expected clearing price] out through 2020 or so. It’s complex because some state legislatures have to approve the new rules, whereas other states are more akin to legislature opt-out.

          My *very loose* guess about the real ramifications of RGGI are this: right now, gas is cheaper than coal, which has meant that in 2012 we didn’t operate our coal plants in New England very often… most of the time, they just sat unused. That will continue as long as gas is cheaper than coal. However, with RGGI turning up the dial, it will both (a) discourage the use of coal even if it does tick a shade cheaper than gas in the near term, and (b) discourage capital investment in coal plants in RGGI, thereby reducing the chance that the marginal plants will continue to be available at all. Because New England has spare capacity, this isn’t a reliability issue in New England. NY is a bit more complex due to the potential retirement of Indian Point. Delaware and Maryland — dunno, haven’t looked at it yet.

          FYI — RGGI is New England, New York, Maryland, Delaware. Chris Christie pulled New Jersey out of RGGI.

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Thu 30 Mar 8:37 PM