Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) would cut the emissions by 10
percent by 2019, forcing up electricity prices because of greater
dependence on increasingly expensive natural gas. This Northeastern
initiative, spearheaded by a Republican, New York Gov. George
Pataki, is viewed by environmentalists as foreshadowing national
limits. It is an end run around President Bush's opposition to
mandatory reductions. During early December negotiations in Montreal
on the Kyoto pact, European Greens praised RGGI as a repudiation
of President Bush's dismissal of global warming alarmists.
of Romney, originally inclined to support RGGI, represents a major
setback for the Greens. Sen. John McCain, an advocate of national
carbon limits, runs far ahead of Romney in early Republican presidential
polls. But on this as on tax policy, McCain conflicts with not
only Bush but also the Republican consensus. McCain's proposal
for national mandatory carbon limits has been rejected by the
Republican-controlled Senate, most recently, 60 to 38, in June.
In contrast, Romney may have a leg up in coal-producing states.
He also is attracting interest from automakers and other industries
that oppose mandatory CO2 limits.
of Mitt Romney has provoked screams of protest in blue-state Massachusetts.
"For those in Congress who have fought the Bush administration,"
said Democratic Rep. Martin Meehan, "it was heartbreaking
to watch the Romney administration attempt to dismantle efforts
to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the Northeast."
called it a "national embarrassment for Massachusetts,"
both industrial and consumer interests in the state stand to benefit
from Romney's apostasy. The governor grew skeptical of RGGI after
first showing interest in the compact, and late in September he
convened a high-level meeting with industrial and environmental
interests in Boston. The industrial representatives told the governor
he would face continued economic decline in Massachusetts if he
did not reject the compact. The Greens told Romney that RGGI was
just the first part of a national plan to fight global warming.
necessarily force greater reliance on natural gas for electric
power, applying further pressure to boost prices. The per million
BTU price soared to an astronomical $14.80 in Dec. 14 trading,
though the price since then has dropped to $11.10 on Dec. 30.
agrees that carbon limits will force up electricity prices steadily
far into the future. The disagreement is over how much the costs
will go up. A study done for RGGI shows the cost per consumer
rising $34 a year every year for 20 years, but business groups
call that number laughable in view of how much CO2 caps really
will cost. That is unnerving for Massachusetts, which now has
the nation's highest electric power bills. However, the bigger
impact could be on the cost to industries that threatens the loss
concern over carbon caps is shared by other Northeastern governors.
Republican Donald Carcieri of Rhode Island, Republican Robert
Ehrlich of Maryland and Democrat Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania also
took their states out of RGGI conformity. But the governors of
Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York
and Vermont are still in the compact, ready to impose a heavy
economic burden on their citizens. Outside the Northeast, the
states of California, Oregon and Washington also are moving toward
can lead politicians to make promises that they would regret.
It happened to George W. Bush at Saginaw, Mich., in September
2000 when he took a position hardly noticed at the time. "We
will require all power plants to meet clean air standards in order
to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide," he said. That never
really was Bush's position, but it led to a misunderstanding between
the president and his first Environmental Protection Agency administrator,
Christine Whitman, that haunts him to this day. It appears Mitt
Romney will avoid that pitfall on his long uphill climb to the