Friday, April 22, 2011

RGGI Is Not Causing High Energy Costs

The News Journal has published an op-ed by Dr. Chad Tolman on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and the science of climate change:
Emissions-control program not to blame for high energy costs
The April 14 opinion piece by State Rep. Jack Peterman, like his recently introduced bill -- saying that Delaware should withdraw from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative -- is based on bad science, bad economics and misleading statements.
While he doesn't say so, like the Caesar Rodney Institute he quotes, he denies the science of climate change, which is now generally accepted by the best climate scientists.
The U.S. National Academy of Sciences recently issued a report titled "Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations and Impacts Over Decades to Millennia." The summary in an accompanying booklet, "Warming World: Impacts by Degree," says, "The impacts of human activities -- particularly emissions of carbon dioxide ... are so vast that they will largely control the future of the Earth's climate system. This future could ... deliver an extreme change from today's climate to entirely different climate conditions that will last many thousands of years. The eventual course of the climate system over millennia will be determined largely by the actions taken this century."
Keep in mind that Delaware is very vulnerable to sea-level rise -- both because the land is sinking and because Delaware has the lowest average elevation of any state in the country. Sea-level rise might be 5 feet (1.5 meters) in the coming century, and could be more. Rep. Peterman's constituents in coastal communities along the Delaware Bay in his District 33 should be concerned about that.
Rep. Peterman's bill, HB 86, says that Delaware has 50 percent higher electricity costs, that employers leave the state for that reason, and that Delaware homeowners pay about $500 per year in higher energy costs -- implying that RGGI is to blame. In fact, during the last three auctions of carbon-dioxide emission allowances under RGGI, the market price has been less than $2 per ton of CO2. That corresponds to about 0.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity produced from coal and about 0.1 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity from natural gas. These are about 1 percent of the retail cost of electricity -- about 15 cents per kilowatt-hour from Delmarva Power for residential customers -- adding less than $1 a month to a typical home electricity bill.
That money is used to help weatherize homes, buy more energy-efficient appliances and promote renewable energy development -- especially solar power.
The main reason for higher electricity costs in Delaware is the lack of adequate generating capacity in the state and the need to bring in electricity over congested power lines.
The problem would be eliminated with sufficient development of our abundant renewable energy in the form of offshore wind and solar power -- which the Caesar Rodney Institute opposes. Apparently it wants to see as much fossil fuel burned as possible.
Rep. Peterman, like the Caesar Rodney Institute, chooses to ignore the health and environmental benefits of moving from burning fossil fuels to using renewable energy sources. A recent complete life-cycle analysis of the real cost to citizens of burning coal for electrical power ("Full cost accounting for the life cycle of coal," by Paul Epstein and others) found a best estimate of 17.8 cents per kilowatt-hour for the health and environmental damage of burning coal for electricity.
Rep. Peterman also ignores the great work that Gov. Jack Markell, Alan Levin of the Delaware Economic Development Office and Collin O'Mara of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control have been doing to bring new green industries and jobs to Delaware.
That's where the future is -- not with the old energy technology of the past century. We should be supporting the governor in moving forward -- not moving backward. For this reason, we should reject HB 86.
The League of Women Voters of Delaware, the Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Delaware Nature Society and Delaware Audubon Society all support an active and comprehensive energy/climate change plan that can make Delaware the First State in the coming green energy economy. Join us.

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