My Turn: RGGI program: small actions, big results
My mother always told me – as I bet yours did, too – “Waste not, want not.”
Her wise words inspired me five years ago to open my Barrington business, Seacoast Energy Alternatives. Today, I sell everything from high-efficiency furnaces to solar panels to composting toilets, all in the service of helping people save energy and money. And I’m proud that New Hampshire has a similarly thrifty spirit, which has led to its involvement in a pioneering energy-saving pact, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
On Feb. 17, the Sunday Monitor published a column suggesting RGGI is a failure, economically and environmentally (“RGGI doesn’t work – let’s not make it worse,” Grant Bosse, Viewpoints section). Neither charge is true.
Let’s start with the economy. The agreement, joining nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, caps greenhouse gas pollution by power plants while auctioning off “allowances” for the carbon they emit. The auctions so far have raised nearly $33 million for New Hampshire, most of which have paid for energy-saving programs at town halls, schools, police and fire departments, businesses, and homes. The programs are projected to reduce consumer energy costs by nearly $61 million over the next several years.
They’ve also generated an estimated 458 new job-years – a measurement that reflects jobs created multiplied by the number of years the jobs will exist.
What impresses me most among these projects is the weatherization of 225 homes throughout New Hampshire, owned by families that are struggling to make ends meet. These residents have received new insulation and more efficient windows, all helping reduce electricity bills. I’d like to see more RGGI money finance such programs, which help our state’s economy as they help these individuals, who by saving money on energy can spend more in ways that will help create jobs.
I know from running my business that Americans care deeply about energy – and particularly how much we have to pay for it. That’s why, once most New Hampshire residents understand how RGGI works for them, they’re happy we belong.
Today, state governments have to take the lead on developing America’s clean-energy economy. I doubt we can expect much progress from Washington, where even common-sense energy efficiency measures have become a partisan football.
What about the environment? Columnist Grant Bosse scoffed that it’s “hogwash” to think RGGI’s new goal of lowering carbon emissions by 70 million tons a year will help combat climate change, when the United States emits close to 6.8 billion tons.
It’s true that the pact’s contributions seem small, stacked up that way. But as my mother and probably your mother would say, small actions often lead to big results. Rosa Parks, remember, was just one person on a bus. RGGI’s pioneering path, which has given New Hampshire residents a chance to save money while cutting pollution, over time could have just as huge an impact, and more.
(Jack Bingham is owner of Seacoast Energy Alternatives in Barrington.)