My Turn: 3 reasons Republicans should stay the course with RGGI
As an avid conservationist and a registered Republican, I say it’s time we stop letting political partisanship interfere with protecting our air and water quality and the health of our climate. Somehow over the past few years, these values got stuck in the divide between polarized Democrats and Republicans. We can’t afford to let them stay there.
In New Hampshire, we now have an excellent opportunity for a redirect.
Next week the state Senate will vote on an important aspect of continued participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a pioneering pact joining nine northeastern and mid-Atlantic states that are fighting pollution while attracting new clean-energy jobs and investments.
For the past three years, RGGI has put a limit on carbon dioxide pollution by its member states’ electric utilities. The nine participating governors recently agreed to make that limit stronger; now each state’s leaders must say yea or nay.
Allow me to offer three good reasons why staying the course makes sense for New Hampshire Republicans like me.
Mainstream New Hampshire Republicans, after all, believe in conserving, which is just what this agreement does. It promotes energy thrift for the benefit of consumers, our economy, and the air and water we all share.
Since the pact began, greenhouse gas emissions by the nine states have dropped by 23 percent – equivalent to taking 2 million vehicles off the road for one year.
At the same time, electricity prices have decreased by an average of 10 percent across the participating states.
Mainstream New Hampshire Republicans also love to grow the Granite State economy – and again, this agreement is doing just that.
While RGGI began as an effort to fight climate change, it is an economic boon for its member states, generating greater rates of growth in each participating state than would have occurred without it.
Impartial economists at the Boston-based Analysis Group conclude the pact has produced more than $1.6 billion in net value for the regional economy, while creating 16,000 new jobs.
And experts predict the stricter standard will bring even more lucrative investments in energy efficiency and clean energy.
Finally, mainstream New Hampshire Republicans really like a free market – and while this isn’t precisely how RGGI has been characterized in the past – if you’ll give it some thought, you’ll see that the pact, in fact, goes far to level the playing field for energy.
For all too many years, Americans have been paying billions of dollars in subsidies for fossil fuels.
We’ve paid them directly, with taxpayer dollars that support profitable oil and coal interests with all kinds of write-offs, and indirectly, since pollution from these fuels can cause illness and premature deaths, further challenging America’s already overburdened health care system.
As climate change accelerates, bringing with it more extreme weather events, such as the storms that hit the East Coast late last year, we taxpayers surely will have to pay for those damages as well.
RGGI is the first U.S. effort to put a mandatory price on carbon pollution, requiring those who create the pollution to shoulder their share for the harm it causes.
That’s not only fair, but sends a clear market signal to encourage American innovators, investors and entrepreneurs to support new technologies that will help America compete in the emerging global clean-energy economy.
While my father was a registered Democrat, I switched parties many years ago, inspired by watching how so many of New Hampshire’s then-moderate Republicans reached across the aisle to get things done.
Today, I’m heartened to see an increasing number of my Republican colleagues putting partisanship aside, recognizing common values and supporting the RGGI pact, which makes our state a better place to live for Democrats and Republicans alike.
Like the emerald leaves of our birch trees in the spring, green is beautiful enough all by itself, without muddying it up with Blues or Reds.
(Charlie Niebling of Boscawen is a consultant and former general manager for New England Wood Pellet, a privately held renewable-energy company with 80 employees, based in Jaffrey.)