Guest Op-Ed: RGGI must be repealed, not watered down
While there are many fallacies about the merits of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the erroneous idea that the program stimulates job growth is keeping a few of the enamored hanging on. Let’s take a moment to demystify the situation.
Pennsylvania understood the economic hazards of RGGI when that state decided not to get involved with the 10-member initiative. New Jersey, Delaware and Maine are among the member states besides New Hampshire now considering their withdrawal for the same reasons. I do hope common sense triumphs in these reconsiderations. I also hope the New Hampshire Senate follows the lead of the House and gets out of the program before it’s too late.
Forget for a moment that RGGI is a broad-based tax on energy production that adds to the costs of everyone who participates in the economy, including government itself. Forget for a moment that the last Legislature tapped the RGGI fund that was supposed to pay for “green” jobs and used the money to offset its unbalanced budget.
Focus instead on the bottom line: When government uses tax dollars to stimulate job growth, it is taking money by force from people who are producing wealth honestly and giving it to people who cannot create wealth on their own because there isn’t enough demand for their products. It’s never good when government picks the winners and the losers. In the case of RGGI, everyone is a loser.
Thankfully, studies of similar models in other nations provide a stern warning to anyone who thinks RGGI will create jobs here. In Spain, for example, every “green” job “created” through that country’s renewable energy program cost about $774,000, and only one-in-ten of those jobs became permanent. Even more troubling, the creation of each “green” job led to the destruction of 2.2 other jobs in the private sector due to the taxes incurred by the program and the resulting energy cost increases. In Italy’s program, the numbers were less encouraging. Each “green” job cost between $700,000 and $1.7 million to “create,” and that effort cost 4.8 private sector jobs each. This sounds more like job destruction than job creation to me.
The fact of the matter is that government doesn’t create jobs, private industry does. No one is stopping entrepreneurs from seeking private capital to develop their own clean energy facilities. If it were a good idea to pursue these projects, the private sector would support it without government lifting a finger. Maybe the industry will develop on its own one day; maybe it won’t. Either way, it costs too much for us to force it.
Let’s face it: The only reason we ever got involved in RGGI was because proponents envisioned a greater good, and now even that good is in doubt. Carbon dioxide is a beneficial gas that we exhale. It also helps plants grow. It’s doubtful that it has anything to do with global warming, since temperatures have declined in the last 12 years despite increased carbon dioxide emissions. That said, even if you still subscribe to the idea that carbon dioxide is correlated with global warming, consider this: The CO2 reductions proposed by RGGI’s 10 member states through 2018 would be completely replaced by emissions growth from outside the region in just seven days. Is it really worth it to keep such an economically dangerous program going for such meaningless results?
Andrew Hemingway is the Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire.