Wolf Pollutes the Discussion on RGGI

Power plants aren’t the only things blowing smoke in Pennsylvania. Governor Wolf’s executive order forcing the state to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is based on deceptive “findings.” And his administration is polluting the discussion with misinformation.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection released a video repeating five misleading claims from the climate change activism group, the Acadia Center. Fortunately, David T. Stevenson, Director of the Center for Energy Competitiveness at the Caesar Rodney Institute, helped us expose the real impact of RGGI.

Claim 1: CO2 emissions from RGGI power plants have fallen by 47%         
Truth: The RGGI didn’t impact emissions. Using natural gas as alternative energy was responsible for 70% of the reduction and EPA restrictionsaccounted for the rest. 

Claim 2: Electricity prices from RGGI state[s] have fallen by 5.7%
Truth: This number compares RGGI states to all states, despite existing differences in regulations from those states. In other words, Acadia is comparing apples to oranges. When comparing RGGI states to stateswithout excessive regulations, RGGI states saw their electricity prices increase 64% faster.

Claim 3: GDP of the RGGI states has grown by 47%
Truth: GDP growth varied dramatically across the states. The impacts from revenue generated by the sale of CO2 allowances are minimal at about 0.1% of GDP. 

Claim 4: RGGI States have generated $3.2 billion in allowance auction proceeds
Truth: That money didn’t appear out of thin air, it came out of business' and consumers’ pockets. However, the Department of Environmental Protection forgot that when touting the generated revenue from selling CO2 allowances. This revenue ignores the $3 billion in increased cost to electricity imports for RGGI states. 

Claim 5: Reductions have resulted in over $5.7 billion in health and productivity benefits
Truth: This is unlikely as it is difficult to derive $5.7 billion in health and productivity from reductions that didn’t occur. While all states experienced energy efficiency gains, RGGI saw comparatively lower rates of improvements. 

Even without the RGGI, Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas emissions—which include CO2—have declined since 2000. The state, thanks to natural gas, also leads the nation in efficient and clean energy production. All this was accomplished without joining RGGI.

In addition to debates regarding the legality of the governor’s actions, there needs to be further discussion around the factual history of RGGI’s failure to decrease emissions while driving away jobs and increasing electricity costs. Recent reduction in emissions and clean energy production shows that Pennsylvania can fulfill the goals of RGGI without having to suffer dramatically increased energy costs under its burdensome cap-and-trade policy. 

Whether you want cleaner air or affordable energy, RGGI is not the answer.


1. These regulations were focused on reducing the use of coal and closing less efficient power plants that could not compete with the low cost of natural gas. David T. Stevenson, (February7, 2018). A Review of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Cato Journal.  

2. The states are Illinois, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Texas. David T. Stevenson, (February7, 2018). A Review of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Cato Journal.