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Time for Government to Pop the Superficial and Focus on What’s Important

Being in the car less, recently, I’ve fallen behind on podcast listening, so the episode of Changing Gears to which I listened while working out last night was a few weeks old.  The guys were explaining the various reasons (having to do with materials, labor, and politics) that Rhode Island’s roads don’t last.

Not long afterwards, I was back at the computer and thinking (again) how far Internet technology has come in the past year… when the power went out.  All the Zooming, podcasting, on-demand streaming, and other innovations that this viral crisis has made so critical to basic life fell of the table of social organization in an instant.  On a clear night, the flow of electricity just stopped.

Growing up, I don’t remember ever losing power when the weather didn’t provide an obvious explanation, and it seems to be becoming more common in recent years.  Every time it happens, I can hear a few more generators running, as my neighborhood adapts to this new reality over time.

While the world has been substantially shut down, I’ve also been catching up on reading legislation that managed to receive floor votes.  Here’s one to ban disposable plastic shopping bags, and I note the news today that San Francisco has now banned reusable shopping bags to prevent spread of COVID-19.  Another bill that didn’t manage to get a vote in the innocent days before the pandemic (House, Senate) would have criminalized the intentional release of balloons into the air.

Yes, while a virus was spreading around the planet bringing death and economic ruin, Rhode Island legislators were pondering a bill titled “Relating to Health and Safety – Balloons.”

Whether we’re talking about the roads or the power grid or the budgetary desperation we’re hearing from our elected officials, the message ought to be clear:  Rhode Island has to get back to basics.  Stop worrying about balloons.  Stop micromanaging the economy.  Stop confiscating tax money from people in order to fund superfluous things or pet projects.

This crisis is illustrating the necessity of government for a variety of functions, but it is also proving the need for government to do those critical things well.  And that means focusing on them, including a halt to the drain of taxpayer money to things that just shouldn’t be priorities.  Both basic government functions and private-sector activity are more important.

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Casimiro and Vella-Wilkinson on Pending Legislation

Guests: Julie Casimiro, State Representative, H-D 31, rep-Casimiro@rilegislature.gov
Camille Vella-Wilkinson, State Representative, H-D 21, rep-vella-wilkinson@rilegislature.gov
Host: Richard August
Topic: Vaping and other pending legislation
Host: Richard August Time: 60 minutes
Representatives Casimiro and Vella-Wilkinson discuss a broad range of pending legislation and other matters, which have their concern. Topics include vaping legislation; a veteran joint oversight committee; pharmacist having birth control prescription authority; reproductive health; firearm legislation; climate control; out of school time learning; early parole for young rehabilitated offenders; military sexual assault trauma; and more. Other matters include the need for a constitutional convention; line item veto; minimum wage; and candidate endorsements.

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Promising the World to Sell the Policy

A couple things should be observed about the claims of RI Department of Environmental Management Deputy Director Terrence Gray on State of the State, recently.

Mr. Gray was on the show to talk about the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI).  That’s a proposed regional organization that our state government wants to permit to tax gasoline to create a slush fund for projects that can fit under the “green” umbrella.

The definition of the “tax” is the first observation that must be made.  At one point, Mr. Gray insists that TCI is not a new gas tax, but then he proceeds to describe the mechanism by which the tax is implemented.  It reminds me of an old Remi song about cap-and-trade schemes:

It sounds like cap and trade is a tax we pay then
No sir, cap and trade is just a regulation

See tax is when there’s money spent
this is just a fee to the government

With TCI, the new regional government artificially limits gasoline production and distribution, forcing companies to bid for “allowances.”  The profit from these bids goes to government.  It’s a tax.

Which brings us to the spending part of the equation.  The other important observation one can make from Mr. Gray’s commentary is that he tried to sell the new tax on a wide variety of great things that could be done with the money, when obviously, it can’t go to everything.  So, when convenient, he’ll talk about spending it on public transportation… or charging stations for private cars… or some sort of dividend or fund to offset the new costs for residents.  Until there’s a written plan, it’s possible to say that the money will do any number of wonderful things.

If we look to the spending of the similar Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which covers energy production with a regional cap-and-trade scheme, we can get some sense of what actually happens.  Maybe early on the money is used to offset something in the costs to average Rhode Islanders, but inevitably, the funds drift toward government, whether solar for municipalities, buses for RIPTA, or similar programs.

Those may or may not be worthwhile projects, but one suspects it would be a harder sell if it were made clear that TCI is, yes, just another tax to fund government activities, which ought to be funded already if they’re good ideas, given the amount we already pay for government.

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Q & A On TCI, The Transportation & Climate Initiative

Q. What is TCI?

The Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI) is a multi-state regional agreement designed to drive up the price of motor fuel (gasoline and on-road diesel). As a regressive tax, the TCI Gas Tax will disproportionately harm low-income families, especially those who live some distance from commercial centers or their workplace.

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State of the State: Terrence Gray on TCI

Guest: Terrence Gray, Deputy Director, RI Dept. Environment Management, dem.ri.gov
Host: John Carlevale Time: 30 minutes
TCI is a multi-state effort of transportation, energy and environmental agencies to work collaboratively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through fees. The model is a “cap and invest” approach which Gray explains will generate revenue which will be invested in more environmentally friendly systems to cut greenhouse gasses. The challenging question is: Will these fees levied at the petroleum produces increase the cost of gasoline and diesel fuel?

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We’re Backing The TCI Gas Tax Proponents Into a Corner

It is not by accident that the proposed Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI) is losing support among many of the states it has targeted… to the point where some proponents are considering a Plan-B.

Last week, I traveled to Boston to meet with other organizations from east coast states who oppose TCI, a regional compact targeting 12 states and Washington DC that seeks to impose a 5 to 17 cent per gallon tax on gasoline and diesel fuel, with the intent of forcing Rhode Island to drive less often and into more costly and less convenient electric vehicles and public transportation options.

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Anti-TCI Gas Tax Coalition Meets

The first observation that a conservative might make upon reading Chris Lisinski’s State House News Service article on a press conference of groups opposing the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI) gas tax is the skewed perspective.  According to Lisinski, conservatives’ expressing their view on an issue “deepened tensions between the think tanks who hosted it and environmental groups.”  When environmental groups hold similar events, are they ever described as “deepening tensions” with people who disagree with them?

Still, hearing from folks on the other side is always valuable:

One of those individuals, Environmental League of Massachusetts President Elizabeth Henry, told the News Service that she did not intend to ask any questions but hoped to hear a clear alternative for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from TCI opponents. She said that hope went unfulfilled.

“We have a statutory obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050,” she said, referring to the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008 that sets an emissions reduction target. “Climate change mitigation is statutorily mandated, and if not TCI, then what? I’m open to hearing it, but I feel like we have a really great solution in TCI.”

As Rhode Island’s governor attempts to impose the absurd goal of 100% renewable energy supply in her state by 2030, we should consider what Henry is making of this “statutory obligation.”  If it can’t be met without imposing overly restrictive burdens on the people of the state, then remove it.  Presumably, one is supposed to bow in the face of “statutory obligations,” but the reality is that the obligations are only statutory.  They can be changed easily with another statute.

Thus does the Left like to box a democracy in, to make it seem as if the people have no choice.  In this case, TCI is an attempt to hide the choices that have been made, as one of the TCI-opponents explains:

“Why are they doing this through this interstate compact? Why don’t you just raise the gas tax by 17 cents? The infrastructure is already in place to collect the tax, you wouldn’t have to hire any more bureaucrats to do it,” said Rob Roper, president of the Ethan Allen Institute in Vermont. “The reason they’re doing it through this convoluted, expensive means is because it’s a CYA program for politicians who don’t want to be seen as raising a tax.”

Supporters of this sort of environmental policy take intricate steps to make it seem as if the public has no choice and then to make it difficult to find accountability when they don’t like the choices that have been made.

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Executive Order of Priorities

Of course, an executive order like the one that Rhode Island Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo just released, saying that Rhode Island will be 100% reliant on “renewable energy” by 2030, is subject to all the usual political caveats.  Most notably, she’ll be long out of office by the time that date rolls around, and even by the time any imposed restrictions start to really bite.

Reading the press release, however, something else jumps out:

Governor Gina M. Raimondo today signed an executive order committing Rhode Island to be powered by 100 percent renewable electricity by the end of the decade. Her executive order directs the state’s Office of Energy Resources to conduct an economic and energy market analysis and develop actionable policies and programs to reach this bold, but achievable goal.

“When we meet this goal, Rhode Island will be the first state in America to be powered by 100% renewable electricity,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “We’re already leading the fight against climate change, but we have to take increasingly aggressive action if we want to avoid catastrophe. As governor of a coastal state and mom to two teenagers, I’m fully committed to protecting the beauty of our state and our way of life for future generations.”

Where’s the executive order that 100% of Rhode Island students will graduate from high school… and with performance at grade level?  Where’s the executive order that everybody who wants a job will have one?

Now, I’m not actually asking for executive orders on these issues, because I think they’d be a foolish approach to policy, but the governor’s global-warming order is foolish for the same reasons.  It does, however, show her priorities, and one suspects her perpetually bad approval ratings are evidence that Rhode Islanders don’t share them.

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For and Against a TCI Gas Tax

The Gaspee Business Network — an alternative business group to chambers of commerce — has published an interactive table showing the opposition or support of the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI).

Such lists have long been a tool of professional lobbyists.  The movie, The American President, comes to mind, in which the president (Michael Douglas) begins to date an environmental lobbyist (Annette Bening).  The Internet has increasingly broadened its utility to the general public.  If our elected representatives are going to be representative, the people need to know where they stand.

You might be surprised, however, how difficult it is to find out where they stand.  Send out emails asking where the various legislators who represent your town stand, and you’ll find some don’t bother to respond.  And some of those who do will give answers that evade and/or must be interpreted.  Asked if they support TCI, they might ask if there’s specific legislation.  Asked about the concept in principle, they might stop responding.

As of this writing, only 19 of 113 legislators (17%) have provided an answer, or something close enough to interpret as one.  The only one deemed by Gaspee Biz to support the initiative is Senator James Seveney (D, Bristol, Portsmouth, Tiverton).  Notably, Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello (D, Cranston) opposes it.

Imagine if tables like this were available for every hot-button issue the legislature was facing!  That might cut back on some of the late-night votes and horse trading.  And then imagine an electorate that actually paid attention… that would make all the difference.

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A State That Doesn’t Need to Raise Gas Taxes

With the advocates for the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI) now revving up for their cause, and with Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo remaining intrepid in her desire to push Rhode Islanders out of their cars for the good of the planet, Ocean Staters might wonder where we stand already on the gas tax.  Fortunately, the American Petroleum Institute has compiled information on all states’ gas taxes, and the Tax Foundation provides this useful map:

TaxFoundation-GasTaxJuly2019

 

Taking note that none of these numbers includes $18.40 added per gallon by the federal government, we can say that Rhode Island is most definitely not in need of new taxes on this basic fuel.  If the TCI tax were to be implemented at the 17-cent high that has been cited, the Ocean State would rocket to 4th highest.

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Living the Governor’s Dream

On a number of topics, Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s interview with Kim Kalunian of WPRI was disturbing, with the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI) taking the lead.  The segment points directly to her political philosophy and presumption of authority.

In pushing for a new tax on gasoline, she envisions herself as a sort of superhero, pushing forward regional plans for incremental socialism in order “to save our kids and to save us.”  Such is the arrogance and bad-faith-argument of all demagoguery.  Well, look, if you want to save the planet, you have to give me money and power.  You do want to save the planet, don’t you?

Not to worry, though.  The governor also sees a benefit for you right now:  “Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to drive your car to work?”  If your answer to that question is “no,” Raimondo doesn’t seem to have a good answer for you.

Of course, progressives have an answer to every specific point you might make:  Government will take care of you.  Perhaps you dread the idea of being forced into taking public transportation to work because you don’t know how you’d manage to get one child to day care and the other to school and slip out for errands at lunchtime all according to a bus schedule.

Not to worry!  Government will subsidize day care and before-school programs so you can spend less time with your children and deliver them under the wings of the state earlier, so as to catch the bus.  Government will also change zoning to force all workplaces into condensed areas so that all of your errands will be within walking distance of your job.  (And don’t forget that government will help you sterilize yourself so you don’t have to worry about any more children complicating your life.)

All of your needs will be answered, if you just sacrifice your freedoms to the better judgment of the governor.  You do want to save the planet, don’t you?

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TCI Gas Tax Unnecessary; RI Already Won the War on Carbon

As you probably know, Governor Gina Raimondo is proposing that Rhode Island sign on to TCI (Transportation and Climate Initiative), a regional carbon cap-and-tax program on transportation that would involve, among other things, Rhode Islanders paying an additional tax on gas and diesel of seventeen – twenty four cents+ per gallon. A couple of Justin Katz’ excellent posts about TCI are here and here

Let’s discuss the stated purpose of TCI. According to the governor, it is to save the planet by getting Rhode Islanders to give up their cars. This is not an exaggeration; below is what the governor says about TCI in this December interview with WPRI’s Kim Kalunian (starting at minute 03:15).

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Don’t Let Silence Seem Like TCI Gas Tax Support

Around Thanksgiving, I spent some time trying to understand what the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI) was, what it would do, and where it was in the process.  While poking around, I discovered the public feedback form and table of the feedback so far.  At the time, there were around three comments from Rhode Island, all supportive.

Now that tide has turned in a big way, with dozens of comments from Rhode Islanders, almost all opposed.  Here’s John Cullen from Lincoln:

Stop burdening tax paying citizen with more taxes that do little or nothing to better the lives of ordinary taxpaying citizens.

Do not create more taxes for others to parasite off those who drive gas powered vehicles.

Start your low carbon initiative with China and India before you attack myself and other Rhode Island Taxpayers.

The big contrast in RI results over the past month and a half points to an important lesson I’ve been learning over the years.  It’s understandable just to shake one’s head and not get involved, coming to the reasonable conclusion that your one voice won’t make a difference because things have either been decided by insiders or the public opinion will overwhelm the decision with or without you.

Even if one of those two possibilities is true, however, it’s important for the people in power to know that there is opposition.  Where no opposition is expressed, decisions can be presented simply as the public desire.

This is especially notable when it comes to things like municipalities’ comprehensive plans.  Such documents are often developed by a handful of people on an unelected committee, working with professional consultants (who are often thinly disguised advocates), with “public input” from a very limited number of people who were willing to spend a boring night or two at a public meeting without being on the committee.

Yet, when the report is released and the plan adopted, the government moves forward under the pretense that it is the people’s vision for their community.  That’s often true only inasmuch nobody cared enough to keep track of it and make time to object, which is a very weak form of support, indeed.

Conversely, when a public forum like the TCI feedback table shows overwhelming opposition to the project, it at the very least removes the value of a propaganda tool and might even become the basis for elected officials to listen to their constituents.

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Regional Opposition to Regional Gas Tax Imposition

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has joined with allies throughout the Northeast in opposition to the proposed Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI), which Rhode Island’s Democrat governor, Gina Raimondo, has described as an attempt to make gasoline less expensive so Rhode Islanders will give up their cars.  As the letter that the Center has signed notes:

The TCI Open Letter discusses how the TCI gas tax is “the equivalent of a sin tax – a penalty for engaging in bad behavior” (driving), as defined by radical environmentalists.

“Hard-working Rhode Islanders should not be purposefully punished for driving their kids to school, going to work, visiting family, going shopping, or delivering goods and services,” said the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse. “We are proud to stand with our coalition partners in opposing this stealth tax on gas. Our coalition letter points out how the TCI Gas Tax will especially harm low-income and rural families.”

New Hampshire has declined to join, and Vermont remains an open question.  In Rhode Island, it would be unconscionable of the governor and/or the General Assembly to deprive their already-overburdened people of the opportunity for some small advantage over their neighboring states.

One consequence of continuing policies that make Rhode Island the poor neighbor of Southern New England should be that we can’t chase after every shiny “green new deal” that makes its way through insider circles.  Our neighbors have healthier economies; if they want to ding their residents with a scheme like this, that’s up to them, but Rhode Island should not follow suit.

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Next, They’ll Come for Meat

Earlier today, I highlighted Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s intention to make gasoline more expensive because “we have to get off of gas-guzzling cars for the existence of us.”  By pure chance, today, I also came across this indication, in The Economist, of the future of this sort of argument, under the headline, “How much would giving up meat help the environment?”:

IT IS NO secret that steaks and chops are delicious. But guzzling them incurs high costs for both carnivorous humans and the planet. Over half of adults in both America and Britain say they want to reduce their meat consumption, according to Mintel, a market-research firm. Whether they will is a different matter. The amount of meat that Americans and Britons consume per day has risen by 10% since 1970, according to figures from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.

People who want to eat less livestock—but who can’t quite bring themselves to exchange burgers for beans—might take inspiration from two recent academic papers.

Whether we’ll freely take inspiration from those two academic papers, we can predict that somebody else will take inspiration to use government to force us to stop being “meat-guzzlers.”

Once we allow that government can use its power to nudge us away from exercises of our freedom, activists will find an endless series of activities that the world would be better off without.

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Raimondo Comes for Your Car

The Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI) is scheduled to put out its initial memorandum of understanding (MOU) today, which the northeastern states will consider signing in order to impose a new gasoline tax on their residents.  It was therefore helpful of Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo to be so clear and direct about her intentions for Rhode Island, during a recent Providence Journal interview:

“Yeah, there is going to be some element of a fee on fuel. Now, how do you assess it? What do you assess it at? … What do you [do] with the proceeds? That still needs to be figured out,” she said about the plan, which is modeled on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative program for the energy sector.

What’s her message to Rhode Island drivers about the costs of the program being passed on to drivers at the pump?

“It is a fact we have to get off of gas-guzzling cars for the existence of us,” she said. “If we don’t do it, we will all be in much bigger trouble because climate change is here and it is real and we need to meet the challenges.”

She doesn’t know how much the fee will be, how it will be collected, or even what it will be used for.  The whole point is to make gasoline more expensive so you have to give up your car.

She added, “By the way, there will be benefits to consumers. This money will result in more, better, faster electric trains, more electric forms of busing and public transit.”

Isn’t that wonderful?  You lose the ability to afford your car and the freedom that comes with it, and you’ll get public transit in exchange — along with a requirement to trust in and rely on a government that can’t seem to do anything right.

Wealthier people (like Gina Raimondo) will be able to buy electric cars (thus transferring their fossil fuel consumption from gasoline to energy production), which raises the question of whether this is a power grab or a condescending statement.  Is the governor pushing you into a lower class, or is she saying she doesn’t trust you to use freedom responsibly because you are already of lower class?

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Progressive Pressure

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for December 16, included talk about:

  • The governor’s Projo interview
  • Where’s all the money go… in Providence and RI?
  • Progressives’ state-killing tax proposal
  • Women’s caucus: another progressive organization

Open post for full audio.

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New Gas Tax: The Governor’s Unwelcome Holiday “Gift” to be Announced This Week

If the Raimondo administration gets its way and bypasses the General Assembly to sign on to a new regional carbon-tax scheme, called the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), Rhode Island motorists will find a plan to increase gasoline taxes in their stockings this year.

The TCI gas tax is a cap-and-trade tax on gasoline proposed by environmental extremists who purposely want gasoline to become so expensive — estimated at an extra 24 cents per gallon — that you will be financially forced to walk or bike to work and around town. We’re expecting an important announcement this week on the new tax…stay tuned.

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A Far-Reaching Conversation on State of the State

State of the State co-host Richard August invited me on for a full hour of the show to cover a broad range of topics, from Tiverton’s recall election to broad political philosophy.

12-9-19 A Different View of Matters from John Carlevale on Vimeo.

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Rhode Island motorists could find new gasoline taxes in their stockings

This Christmas season, Gov. Gina Raimondo could be the Grinch who stole affordable gasoline. If the Raimondo administration gets its way and bypasses the General Assembly to sign on to a new regional carbon-tax scheme, called the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), Rhode Island motorists will find a plan to increase gasoline taxes in their stockings this year.

TCI is a cap-and-trade tax on gasoline proposed by environmental extremists who purposely want gasoline to become so expensive — estimated at an extra 24 cents per gallon — that you will be financially forced to walk or bike to work and around town.

Like all far-left contrivances to reduce carbon emissions, TCI, a green-new-deal-type gas tax, will harm economic growth and will take money out of your pocket. Rhode Island already suffers from an Ocean State Exodus, where far too many of our children and loved ones, business investors, and neighbors are leaving for lower-cost living in other states. The TCI tax would be one more piece of coal that will drive people out of state (pun intended).

Most Rhode Islanders want a balanced approach, where there are multiple choices for abundant and affordable energy. But green-Grinches in government want to limit your options, and will force you to pay expensive new taxes if you make the wrong choice.

Only the General Assembly can raise taxes. Fortunately, the governor cannot unilaterally impose a new tax on gasoline without legislative approval. But the governor has purposely tried to keep this TCI tax under the radar. Her team has been working stealthily with unelected bureaucrats at TCI to advance the imposition of gas taxes among 12 Northeast states.

Did you know that the really high electricity prices we pay, among the highest in the country, are partly because of a different regional cap-and-trade program, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)? RGGI imposes tax-like fees on electricity power plants, which, of course, get passed on to you. Unfortunately, RGGI has been a complete failure; it has significantly increased the cost of electricity but has resulted in no added emissions reductions!

And now they want to try the same failed idea on gasoline with a TCI gas tax. Like RGGI, TCI is designed to increase the cost of fossil-based fuel so much, that families like yours — and businesses where you work — will be forced to use less of it.

Part of the RGGI and TCI schemes is that the extra money you pay at the gas pumps and on your electric bill is supposed to be spent by participating states on energy projects that are favored by greenie Grinches. Rhode Islanders understand that it is patently unfair for government subsidies to be handed-out to benefit a specific industry or company … at the expense of everyone else.

History has proven that too many government regulations and taxes on energy mean that the beneficial use of America’s rich natural resources might be put out of reach for many. Worse, such government imposed taxes as the RGGI tax and the TCI tax are regressive; they disproportionately harm low-income families who already struggle to pay heating bills and gasoline costs.

Also, many businesses, similarly burdened with higher energy costs, will be forced to reduce employee work hours, cut jobs, or even shut down and move to another state.

The secrecy must end now. The governor should have been more transparent about an issue that will cause economic hardship for many. I call on Ms. Raimondo to reject the TCI tax plan, expected out on Dec. 17; and I call on Senate and House leadership to ensure there is a robust public debate about whether you and I should pay higher gasoline taxes.

RGGI has failed miserably … and TCI is also doomed for failure. Why should any Grinch force any of us to pay unnecessarily higher gasoline taxes if it will not result in any environmental benefit?

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The TCI Tax Looms

Over the coming months, Rhode Islanders will be hearing about the implementation of the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI), a cap-and-trade scheme for the northeastern states to impose a new tax on gasoline.  A brief that the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity released last week gives some of the details, including a quick look at TCI’s predecessor scheme, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which is directed at energy production, whereas TCI focuses on gasoline:

[Then-Governor Donald Carcieri’s] assurances that his policies would not severely hurt Rhode Islanders have proven unreliable. As he made his announcement, Rhode Island was enjoying the second-lowest cost per kiloWatthour for ultimate customers’ electricity in New England, at $13.08. By January 2019, this average price had increased to $20.12, by far the highest in the region. This 54% increase compares with an 18% increase nationwide over the same period (to just $10.47 per kWh) and 17% in New England overall (to $18.22 per kWh).

Despite enduring an increased cost for energy, RGGI states have experienced “no added emissions reductions or associated health benefits from the RGGI program,” when compared with different states that have otherwise similar energy policies, according to David Stevenson, Director of the Center for Energy Competitiveness at the Caesar Rodney Institute in Delaware.

It looks probable that these programs harm the economy and fail to achieve their stated objectives.  Why would the governor charge forward with another one?

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Many Forms of Political Performance Art

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for December 9, included talk about:

  • Cicilline v. Trump
  • Energy protesters at the State House
  • Empty Wexford
  • Sports gambling lawsuit goes forward
  • Truck toll lawsuit goes forward
  • The Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI) tax

Open post for full audio.

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Governor’s Back Door TCI Tax Would Cost You At The Pump

The prices for gasoline could soon rise dramatically for your family if the Raimondo administration undercuts the authority of the General Assembly, and moves forward with its plan to sign-on to a new stealth carbon-tax scheme – the TCI Tax… a move that would necessarily increase costs on families and business at the pump, and that also could lead to Constitutional legal challenges.

This tax – a green-new-deal type government mandate – is also a regressive fuel tax that will disproportionately harm low-income families, who will struggle much more than the wealthy to pay the higher gasoline prices.

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Rhode Island’s Very Own Green New Deal

How much more money can Rhode Island’s political class take from your pocket using green energy as an excuse?

The Ocean State has already signed on to the Transport and Climate Initiative, a cabal of Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states designed to foster a radical change (for the worse) to our economic well-being through costly green energy policies.

Indeed, this very well could be Rhode Island own version of the “Green New Deal,” driving costs higher and higher.

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The Short Leap from Progressive Energy Plans to Dictatorship

Pause a moment and imagine what the plan for net-zero emissions proposed by the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats of America actually means:

The plan for Cranston is to power the city with a combination of sources. Thirty percent of homes would be fitted with rooftop solar arrays while commercial, industrial and town-owned sites would have ground-mounted, rooftop or canopy systems. Vertical wind turbines — smaller and narrower than the conventional three-bladed ones — would also go up in parts of the city.

Batteries would store energy for when it’s needed and the power would be distributed on a modernized grid. Finally, aggressive energy-efficiency programs would accelerate upgrades in lighting and heating and cooling as well as insulation improvements in homes and buildings. The plan would avoid developing green space.

Around one out of every three houses in the city would have to have rooftop solar, in addition to businesses and government buildings.  These wind turbine things would be all over the place.  Somewhere, somehow, the city would house and maintain giant batteries.  Oh, and the government would embark on an “aggressive” campaign to force property owners to upgrade their electrical systems, their heating and cooling systems, and their insulation.  (One suspects that’s not the extent of the new impositions.)

All of this in a state where even managing to “modernize” our energy grid would be a miracle of public policy, given political and economic realities.

In short, this is not a serious proposal. It’s somewhere between an ideological fantasy promoted to push people away from their sense of liberty and a green-energy-industry sales pitch to an overly credulous population.

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Where the Utility Money Comes From

The double-take-inspiring headline in the Providence Journal is, “Regulators: Utilities, not customers, should pay for gas outage on Aquidneck Island.”

While perfectly willing to believe there was some form of negligence on the part of the utilities when the natural gas stopped flowing in January, we might also be tempted to ask:  Where do the regulators think the utilities’ money comes from?  Sure, $25 million can come from reductions imposed on those who invest their time or money in the organization or from planned operational expenses or some other nook or cranny of the business, but all money that goes out ultimately has to come in, and that means customers.

No doubt, there’s waste to be found in the entire system (utilities are, after all, quasi-governmental in their nature), but taking money from different areas will have consequences.  If the organization becomes less profitable, or the possibility of profit becomes riskier, then fewer will be willing to make a career or a company out of it.

Now turn and look at the issue in the other direction.  If we want 100% uptime in our utilities under all circumstances, we’re going to have to build in waste and redundancy.  There would have to be people (unionized people) watching things that don’t actually have to be watched 99% of the time, like the faulty valve in this case.  There would have to be multiple pipes carrying multiple streams of fuel along multiple paths so losing one wouldn’t shut anything down.

In Rhode Island’s current situation, extra personnel is made impossible by regulations that keep prices down through political force while keeping costs high.  The extra infrastructure is made impossibly by the NIMBYism and environmental extremism of the region and the regulations that follow on those things.

So, whether the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers was correct in its judgment in this case is not the most important question for Rhode Islanders to ponder.  What sort of energy reality do we want in the Ocean State, and what are we willing and able to do to bring it about?  Unfortunately, our civic system has developed such that nobody benefits sufficiently in the moment from finding a solution for the long term in order to promote one, and too many people benefit from keeping a pleasant, superficial fantasy alive.