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NE regional greenhouse gas initiative begins

 Posted by on September 26, 2008
Sep 262008

By John DeFore

This week, for the first time in the United States, an auction was held allowing power plants to bid against each other for the right to spew carbon dioxide into the air.

The goal, of course, is to reduce atmospheric carbon by finding the best way of putting a price tag on it for polluters. Ten Eastern states — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont — have formed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (or RGGI, pronounced “Reggie”) to coordinate their efforts by placing mandatory overall caps on emissions levels, then auctioning off allowances for CO2 emissions that can be traded between companies. As a result, companies will have a financial incentive to clean up their own act as quickly as possible.

Other regions of the country, from the state of Florida to a Western Climate Initiative, are either studying or actively planning similar cap-and-trade programs; this one is the result of five years of research and planning and is partly inspired by earlier efforts to tackle acid rain. According to Thursday’s press release, “Under RGGI, the ten participating states will stabilize power sector carbon emissions at their capped level, and then reduce the cap by 10 percent at a rate of 2.5 percent each year between 2015 and 2018.”

A ten percent reduction over ten years, of course, is a far cry from what most activists would like to see. But it’s a more substantial measure than any being taken on a nation-wide level, and the states promise to invest the funds raised in “energy efficiency programs, renewable energy stimulus efforts and other programs to benefit consumers. As a result, RGGI will deliver economic and environmental benefits and improve energy security through reduced use of fossil fuels.”

Six of the participating states offered allowances yesterday, selling credits for over 12 million tons of carbon emissions. Other states will sell their credits in future auctions, the next of which takes place in December.

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