October 21, 2005

RPS makes it cheaper to pollute

An interesting analysis of the effects of a "renewable portfolio standard" (RPS) in New Jersey that would require 20% of the electricity sold in the state by 2020 to be from renewable sources was brought to our (National Wind Watch's) attention by Dan Boone, Conservation Chair of the Maryland Sierra Club.

The 206-page report was prepared in December 2004 by the Center for Energy, Economic, and Environmental Policy, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, State University of New Jersey, for the Office of Clean Energy, New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, and is available as a 2-MB PDF at www.bpu.state.nj.us/reports/EIAreport.pdf.

One of the things it found, which is hidden deep inside the paper and completely absent from the summary, is that the RPS would have no effect on sulfur and nitrogen emissions except to make it cheaper to exceed current limits. The report notes that the Energy Information Agency of the U.S. Department of Energy came to the same conclusion about a national RPS. That is, the RPS would not reduce emissions and would benefit only the polluters, who would enjoy lower prices because of the greater supply of "green credits."

Only with correspondingly stricter caps on noxious emissions would this ironic effect be avoided. But then the RPS wouldn't be necessary. Politicians and their once-environmentalist supporters evidently prefer the easier path of imposing an RPS -- especially easy as it benefits polluter-donors more than our health and ecology, as long as the public believes we're all doing something grand to save the planet.

And so the market triumphs. Bad money drives out good.

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