Around the States: NJ Pulls Out of Carbon Trading; Delaware Offshore Wind in Doubt; Pacific Northwest Ready for Aviation Biofuels

NJ Pulls Out of Northeast Cap-and-Trade Compact

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced he is pulling the state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) at the end of the year.

RGGI – the only cap-and-trade system in the US – has been under assault by fossil fuel interests since the midterm elections when Republicans gained more influence in the Northeast and throughout the country.

Earlier this month key legislative committees in Delaware and Maine as well as the New Hampshire Senate voted to reject efforts to pull out of the landmark carbon trading system.

Christie called RGGI a "gimmicky program that does not work," according to a Bloomberg story. He added that it is merely a tax on electricity, residents and businesses.

But a recent survey conducted by Public Polling Policy found that the majority of New Jersey residents support RGGI participation, despite any additional costs.

The survey results, released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), found that 60% of respondents are willing to pay an additional $0.75 per month on their electric bill to cut carbon emissions. NRDC says that figure more than covers the costs associated with participating in RGGI.

47% of respondents said pulling out of RGGI would be inconsistent with the governor’s stated commitment to clean energy.

Christie’s action mirrors that of Republican Governors in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, who have backed away from commitments made by predecessors to participate in a cap-and-trade program for Western states and provinces.

The RGGI was adopted by 10 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states in 2005. It has been successful not only in reducing global warming emissions from power plants, but also in channeling funds to clean energy projects in those states.

Efforts to roll back RGGI are being fueled by Americans for Prosperity, a corporate front group bankrolled by leading polluters, including Koch Industries, who have been aggressively moving to eliminate regional cap-and-trade programs.  

Christie also announced his state would immediately ban any new coal plants and confirmed his commitment to NJ’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES). The RES commits the state to sourcing 22.5% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2021. He also announced a new State Energy Savings Initiative Oversight Committee, which will design a framework for increasing energy efficiency at state-owned buildings.

Here’s what Joe Martens, Commissioner of NY State’s Dept of Environmental Conservation said about RGGI:

The RGGI program has been extremely successful in supporting clean energy, reducing electricity bills and lowering greenhouse gas emissions throughout the region. In New York, investment of RGGI auction proceeds in energy efficiency improvements is leading to savings for thousands of New York residents and businesses and to the creation of thousands of high quality jobs.

Regionwide, emissions from the power plants covered by RGGI have gone down much faster than expected, providing the New York and its partners in RGGI with the opportunity to further strengthen the RGGI program. With the support of a broad range of stakeholders, New York will continue to participate in RGGI.

Delaware‘s Offshore Wind Farm in Doubt

NRG Bluewater Wind, the company planning to build an offshore wind farm off the coast of Delaware, has delayed construction of a preliminary wind testing site.

According to a report in The News Journal, the decision by Congress to eliminate new funding for renewable energy loan guarantees is causing the company to rethink its development plans. That agreement was part of the budget compromise that avoided a government shut down in April. Loan guarantee programs have been critical to financing many large renewable energy projects in the US over the last two years.

In addition, the production tax credit – another major incentive for renewables – expires at the end of the year, and may not be extended, considering the state of ongoing budget negotiations.

The boom and bust cycle of US incentives for renewable energy development has been, and continues to be, a major barrier for the industry’s progress here. When incentives are in place, the industry rapidly expands. When they are about to expire, investors get nervous and pull back. Everyone scrambles to renew them at the last minute. This is not the way to grow an industry.

Without these incentives there is "considerable uncertainty into the financing for and viability of all U.S. offshore wind projects," NRG spokesman Dave Gaier told The News Journal.

The Cape Wind project – the offshore wind farm planned for Massachusetts’ Nantucket Sound – is also in question again. Developers found out earlier this month that its application for a loan guarantee will not be considered before the September 30 cut-off date.

Pacific Northwest Ready for Aviation Biofuel Industry

The Pacific Northwest is ripe for the creation of an aviation biofuels industry, according to a 10-month study by Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest (SAFN).

The report finds the region has the diverse feedstocks, fuel-delivery infrastructure and necessary political will. However, as with any new energy supply, political support at the state and federal level is critical in the early stages of development.

While the study does not advocate for permanent government support, it recognizes that focused public investments and parity with other biofuels programs will be needed to place the industry on an economically competitive basis.

Boeing (NYSE: BA), Alaska Airlines (NYSE: ALK), Portland International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Spokane International Airport and Washington State University partnered to identify the potential pathways and actions necessary to make sustainable aviation biofuel commercially available to airline operators.

Unlike ground transportation sectors, the aviation industry has fewer energy alternatives. For at least the next 20-30 years, commercial and military jets will need liquid, high energy-density fuels with the same technical performance as petroleum-based fuels.

To make a sustainable biofuels industry a reality, the study outlines an integrated approach recommending the use of many diverse feedstocks and technology pathways, including oilseeds, forest residues, solid waste and algae.

In addition, the study outlines the long-term importance of securing aviation biofuels as a top government priority and using the aviation industry to drive growth in domestic production.

"The course is clear that aviation biofuels are key to the future of sustainable air travel," says Lawrence J. Krauter, CEO, Spokane International Airport. "We can no longer base our future on imported petroleum, especially if the United States wants to remain an aviation leader. The SAFN study proves domestic biofuels are feasible and offers an economic opportunity for us to remain competitive as an industry and move toward a sustainable, domestic fuel supply."

Read the SAFN study recommendations:  

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