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Great opportunity to boost the economy

Last modified: 1/21/2011 12:00:00 AM
Recently, a group of state lawmakers introduced legislation to withdraw New Hampshire from participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. RGGI is an agreement by the governments of 10 northeastern and mid-Atlantic states to impose a regional cap-and-trade program on their electricity-producing sectors. Given the mounting evidence that the RGGI program is a massive failure that is serving only to damage New Hampshire's economic competitiveness, withdrawal can't come soon enough.

RGGI creates 'CO2 Budget Trading Programs' wherein allowances for emissions are auctioned off in New York City at government-regulated prices. Over time, the number of allowances available for purchase are reduced, forcing power plants to find other ways to not violate the cap set under RGGI.

As the allowances dwindle in number, the cost for each permit climbs, raising compliance costs for the power plants and consumers of energy.

The goal, supporters have claimed, is to reduce emissions and help state governments fund so-called 'green-energy' programs.

Yet, as with all cap-and-trade schemes, the program is about forcibly raising the cost of producing - and thus consuming - electricity. If electricity costs more, the argument goes, people will be forced by their limited incomes to use less.

Yet the politicians behind RGGI were smart enough not to tax consumers directly, knowing that taxpayers would never tolerate such a program.

RGGI concentrates compliance costs on large electricity producing operations, costs that are subsequently passed down to consumers in the form of higher electricity bills.

The RGGI program was supposed to be state-level placeholder for a national cap-and-trade scheme. Thankfully, it now appears that the job-killing monstrosity will not happen on the national level.

Evidence the RGGI program is failing can be found in the fact that, in the most recent permit auction, the emissions permits sold for just 57 percent of the offering.

Not quite the wild cash bonanza proponents of the plan promised the government when it was launched.

In New Hampshire, the RGGI scheme has raised an estimated $28.2 million from similar auctions since 2008. Supporters say this money was taken from 'polluters' and spent on 'green-energy projects.'

However, it is much more honest to say that this money was taken by regulators from consumers in the form of higher electricity bills and then redistributed to environmental special interests friendly to the politicians in power.

Thankfully, New Hampshire has a golden opportunity to end the rate hikes, special interest handouts and excessive regulations that have come to define RGGI. Ending the state's participation in the poorly conceived cap-and-trade program now will set New Hampshire on a more prosperous path in the years ahead.

(Corey R. Lewandowski is state director for Americans for Prosperity.)


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