Can Pennsylvania Grow Money from Trees?

Harrisburg, PA –  The Commonwealth Foundation (CF) today released Growing Money on Trees: An Analysis of PA’s Climate Change Action Plan, offering a cost-benefit analysis of a climate change plan prepared by the Center for Climate Strategies (CCS) for Pennsylvania.  The report-prepared by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University-finds little basis for the economic benefits forecast in the Plan.

The report by Beacon Hill Institute economists found that the Climate Change Action Plan “fails to perform the most basic task of any cost-benefit analysis-quantifying both the costs and benefits in monetary terms so that they can be directly compared.”

Among the most glaring problems with the Climate Change Plan:

  • Even if the Plan’s projections are accurate, the impact on global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would be negligible.
  • The Plan assumes no costs for many benefits.  For example, the Plan contends that switching to energy efficient light bulbs will create light bulb manufacturing jobs, but fails to account for the displacement of workers currently manufacturing less efficient bulbs.
  • The Plan assumes dramatic savings from replacing toilets and washing machines, but that no one would take advantage of these savings without government incentives (i.e. tax breaks).
  • The Plan estimates that each tree planted has an annual benefit of $113-a figure 6 times that which was found in another Pennsylvania study, which also found that the tree-planting recommendation would have a net cost of $4 billion, wiping out all the economic benefits of the Plan.

“The Climate Plan repeats the Broken Window Fallacy that government can create ‘green jobs’ by edict, without considering the impact on jobs of every other color,” said Nathan Benefield, director of Policy Research with the Commonwealth Foundation.  “By touting benefits without costs, assuming no energy conservation would occur without government incentives, and using flawed estimates, the Plan is useless for policymakers.” 

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The full report, Growing Money on Trees: An Analysis of PA’s Climate Change Action Plan is available online and by calling 717.671.1901. 

The Commonwealth Foundation ( is an independent, non-profit public policy research and educational institute based in Harrisburg, PA.