Young Pennsylvanians like me are worried about the impact of climate change on our environment. We support clean air, clean water, and reducing our carbon footprint—but we also know when our leaders present environmental solutions that are merely political theatre.
This fall, Pennsylvania lawmakers will spar with Gov. Tom Wolf over his push to join a carbon cap-and-trade program, called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Scientists identify greenhouse gas as the number-one cause of manmade climate change, and Wolf wants to take action on the issue, with or without support from the state Legislature, via RGGI.
The problem is, RGGI will cost Pennsylvanians in jobs, local economic growth, and higher energy bills, while doing absolutely nothing to fix climate change. It has already been adopted by 11 other states across the northeast, and data from these states shows exactly how superfluous the program is in the effort to speed up the reduction of carbon emission.
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Using data from Pennsylvania RGGI Modeling Report, Wolf boasts that RGGI will “further our commonwealth’s climate goals, mitigate ongoing damage from climate change and invest in our workforce.” I wish that were true.
The RGGI report is a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) document intended to put a data-driven veneer on the “green energy” lobby’s policy priorities. A quick dive into research not from RGGI’s own website or the Wolf administration shows why Pennsylvanians should question the findings.
Analysis by Ceasar Rodney Institute’s David Stevenson and his team of experts, for example, convincingly refutes the report’s—and Wolf’s—primary argument that RGGI will lower emissions. It shows that because the demand for high-emission energy production remains the same, emissions are merely shifted elsewhere—they don’t just disappear. Meaning that because we all still use the same energy for our phones, computers, air conditioning, etc., RGGI would only reduce emissions in Pennsylvania by exporting their production to other states.
Young Pennsylvanians shouldn’t fall for this scheme. Gov. Wolf gets to look like a climate hero for “reducing” Pennsylvania’s emissions, but his actions would have zero actual impact on the environment.
It’s a puppet show, and we’re not entertained.
Gov. Wolf gets to look like a climate hero for ‘reducing’ Pennsylvania’s emissions, but his actions would have zero actual impact on the environment.
I support solutions that actually reduce emissions. When adjusted for emissions export, Pennsylvania’s gradual switch from coal to natural gas has accounted for more of a reduction in emissions than the 11 RGGI states combined, according to the same study. That’s while remaining an energy exporter: Pennsylvania is a top ten state for exporting energy per capita. Meanwhile, none of the RGGI states produce more energy than they consume per capita.
And the fake benefits of RGGI aren’t limited to the emissions bait-and-switch. The DEP report claims that revenue from RGGI will be used on renewable energy generation and add 3,083 jobs. But the report leaves out important context: while adding a few thousand government-funded jobs, RGGI will also eliminate tens of thousands in the private sector.
As the Ceasar Rodney analysis shows, between 2007 and 2019, RGGI states have experienced an 8.6% drop in goods manufacturing; Pennsylvania manufacturing during that period dropped only 0.9%. If our state were to join RGGI, we would see a $6.6 billion per year loss in Real GDP, and 46,600 lost jobs over time. Among the many factors that go into calculating job loss energy cost is among the most important, and RGGI would increase it.
By entering RGGI, Pennsylvania would shoot its economy in the foot for no decrease in emissions and no net gain from tax revenue. We would lose out on electricity generation and jobs in industries like energy and manufacturing.
Young Pennsylvanians would hit the job market in a state whose natural resources and economic potential were mismanaged by the last generation. It’s time to wake up to the reality that this problem will not be solved, or even helped, by Gov. Wolf putting on a show. Instead, he should be helping to encourage our state’s next generation of entrepreneurs to create new and transformative solutions, such as carbon capture technology and improved nuclear energy technology.
Michael Green is entering his third year studying economics at Ursinus College near Philadelphia.