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Carbon fantasy: Don't hike the RGGI tax

May 11. 2013 2:11AM

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has been busy raising your electric utility rates since 2008, in pursuit of a flawed goal that already has been reached naturally in the marketplace. Now some legislators want to raise your rates even more to combat global warming, which RGGI will do precious little to affect. The Senate should say no to this unnecessary and entirely political tax hike.

RGGI is a pact in which the New England states and three others agree to limit carbon emissions by law. The states then sell to power producers credits that allow those producers to emit specific amounts of carbon. Producers thereby pay for their emissions, giving them an incentive for reduction.

The current RGGI emissions cap is 165 million tons a year. The RGGI states are producing nowhere near that much carbon - not because of RGGI, but because of the marketplace. Cleaner-burning natural gas is cheaper than coal, and a big movement to gas in the past several years has reduced emissions. So has the economy. Less economic activity means less demand for power.

All of this means that the states don't have the RGGI windfall they desired.

Those emissions credits meant big bucks for states, which would then spend the money on energy efficiency projects. With little demand for the credits, the price for them has fallen, and states are out millions. But politicians always have plans for obtaining the cash they want to spend.

The RGGI states want to lower the carbon emissions standards from 165 million tons a year to 91 million. Why? To raise the price of the credits.

This will further increase electric utility rates, which RGGI boosters acknowledge. But it won't have any noticeable impact on the climate. India, China and other growing economies are belching out so much carbon that any reduction caused by RGGI limits will be overwhelmed. We will pay higher rates not to cool the planet, which this change will not cause, but to give the states bigger "energy conservation" slush funds.

The state Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee has approved the bill to authorize this RGGI change. It already has passed the House. The Senate is the only hope for avoiding this rate-hiking scheme. Senators should do their jobs and protect New Hampshire residents from this needless tax increase.

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