Northeast Cap-and-Trade Agreement Faces Uncertain Future

Established eight years ago by a bipartisan coalition of Northeast and mid-Atlantic governors, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative was the first cap-and-trade system established in the U.S. It now faces an uncertain future.
January 26, 2013, 9am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Peter Shattuck and Daniel L. Sosland pen an op-ed for The New York Times in which they explain why future of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which over its first three years reduced annual emissions by 23 percent and raised $952 million for clean energy programs, is now in question. "The nine states in the initiative are preparing to reset the emissions cap — or the total amount of carbon dioxide that power plants can emit — and some of the proposals would allow power plants to increase the amount of carbon dioxide they dump into the atmosphere."

"Opponents of the initiative, known as R.G.G.I., argue that lower-cost natural gas has eliminated the need for the program by reducing the use of dirtier coal and oil. Growing investments in energy efficiency and renewable electricity have also helped to reduce emissions by cutting demand for electricity from power plants that burn fossil fuels."

"But those developments don’t argue against R.G.G.I., which determines what electricity generators may not do — namely, discharge unlimited quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. If market forces deliver emissions reductions cheaper and faster than anticipated, then states should lock in that progress with a binding cap to ensure that emissions don’t rise and that incentives for reducing pollution remain."

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Published on Thursday, January 24, 2013 in The New York Times
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