Our guest blogger is Stephen Lacey, Climate Progress Reporter/Blogger.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wants to kill New Jersey’s participation in the nation’s first successful carbon trading program. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a ten-state climate and clean energy program that has reduced emissions and brought tens of millions of dollars to New Jersey ratepayers. Following a multi-million-dollar campaign to derail RGGI by the Koch front group Americans for Prosperity, Christie today called RGGI a “gimmicky” program that is “nothing more than a tax on electricity.”
But in a 2008 campaign ad, Christie said, “I will be New Jersey’s number-one clean-energy advocate.” He explicitly embraced President Obama’s climate and clean energy goals, which included a national cap-and-trade system for clean energy investment:
There is no doubt that renewable energy is the future here in New Jersey and there is really no better time for us to begin the discussion about how it will not only lead us to energy independence, but also how it will help create more good paying, middle class jobs in New Jersey. It’s a change that President Obama stands firmly behind. I couldn’t agree more.
Christie has now joined Tea Party opposition to Obama’s clean-energy policy to the detriment of programs he once supported. In his press conference today, Christie said he didn’t want to “overplay” the benefits to ratepayers because “we’re not talking about a huge difference.”
In fact, in addition to reducing New Jersey’s emissions by around 80,000 tons per year, this “gimmicky” program brought back $29.6 million to New Jersey ratepayers in 2010, supporting enough clean electricity to supply 20,000 homes. A new progress report out from RGGI shows that for every dollar invested by the program, states have gotten $3 to $4 in benefits.
“There’s only one thing you need to do in order to pull out of RGGI – ignore all the tangible, clean energy benefits. That’s it,” said the Conservation Law Foundation’s Seth Kaplan to Think Progress. “Christie’s had a good record in the past. The only reason to pull out now would be to score some ideological political points.”
New Jersey follows three other states – Delaware, Maine and New Hampshire – that have considered pulling out of RGGI. Resisting the polluting influence of Koch-backed lobbying and media campaigns, all those states decided to remain in the program because of the proven, positive benefits to ratepayers and businesses.
Politico notes that Christie is trying to make clear that he is not a global warming skeptic. “In the past I’ve always said that climate change is real and it’s impacting our state,” Christie said at the start of a 14-minute prepared statement. “There’s undeniable data that CO2 levels and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are increasing. This decade, average temperatures have been rising. Temperature changes are affecting weather patterns and our climate.”