N’east States May ‘Cap and Trade’ Transport Emissions

Photo:  Robert Jack Wikimedia CC License
Photo: Robert Jack Wikimedia CC License

The northeast of the United States is starting to get serious about addressing the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions: the transportation sector.

Nine states — Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia — plus Washington, D.C. have committed to creating “caps” on emissions and participating in a trading system that will help lower tailpipe emissions. Three other states, New York, Maine and New Hampshire, are participating in a planning process around developing “caps,” under the heading of the Transportation & Climate Initiative of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States.

A new coalition of environmental, business and community groups that launched this week to help support the plan. The plan will be modeled on an earlier effort, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, that created a cap-and-trade system for power plant emissions in those states. Since that program’s launch, emissions rates in the participating states fell 16 percent more than the national average. Electricity prices also went down for consumers, declining 3.5 percent in the first seven years compared to 7-percent price growth nationwide, according to an analysis [PDF] by the Acadia Center, a clean energy think tank.

But transportation progress has, until now, been lagging. Currently about 42 percent of the northeast and Mid-Atlantic region’s total carbon emissions come from transportation. Participating states and regions would assess their total emissions from transportation and then set a goal to reduce them over time.

The plans are not yet fully formed. The way “Cap and Invest” works, pollution emitters — in this case, potentially fuel suppliers — would monitor their emissions. When they exceed their allowances, they are able to buy credits that can be traded on an open market across the states. The most recent auction for power plants in the gas initiative program generated $67 million, for example.

This chart shows how prices for carbon are set in the Northeast based on progress toward emissions goals. Graph: Arcadia Center
This chart shows how prices for carbon are set in the northeast based on progress toward emissions goals. Graph: Acadia Center

The revenues from the sales could then be invested in initiatives aimed at making transportation more sustainable.

“Charging stations for EVs, or creating a dedicated bike lane, what we’re really pushing is to make sure that it’s going to things that are going to mean the most reduction in pollution,” Morgan Folger, of Environment America, which is part of the Our Transportation Future consortium leading the effort, told Streetsblog.

A large gathering was held in Boston this week with key stakeholders, facilitated by the Georgetown Climate Center. Our Transportation Future and the affiliated environment business and community groups, hope to provide the support needed to realize the plan. The nine participating states have agreed to complete their plans by the end of the year. Then they would need to be adopted by each state, allowing the credits to be traded across the entire regional market.

Massachusetts’s Republican Governor Charlie Baker recently expressed support for the concept. Commonwealth Magazine estimated it would generate between $500 million on the high end and $150 million on the low end in new revenue for the state, and could be much-needed source of revenue for Boston’s transit agency, MBTA. The low-end estimate would cost the average driver about $2 per month, Commonwealth’s Andy Metzger reported.

6 thoughts on N’east States May ‘Cap and Trade’ Transport Emissions

  1. Devastating news for human-caused global warming proponents.

    “The sun, not CO2, drives Earth’s climate,” says Dr Roger Higgs, long-time consultant geologist and sedimentologist.

    Higgs bases his statement on four vital points:

    Global warming and cooling are driven by the sun, specifically by the solar-sourced Interplanetary Magnetic Field, which regulates incoming cosmic rays, which in turn govern cloudiness and thus global temperature (the breathtakingly elegant Svensmark Theory).
    Global temperature oscillations lag 25 years behind the causative solar magnetic fluctuations. This 25-year lag is due to ocean thermal inertia in remarkable agreement with the 15-20-year time lag by calculated theoretically and independently by Wetherald et al. 2001 and Abdussamatov et al. 2012).
    The idea that CO2 is the main climate driver, despite its scarcity in Earth’s atmosphere, ie 400 parts per million (that’s just 1/2500th), near plant-starvation level, contrasts starkly with CO2’s 1,000 to 4,000 ppm levels for most of the last 600 million years.
    Earth is now cooling. Global warming ended in 2016: proof that the sun, not CO2, drives Earth’s climate. Moreover, from AD500 to 1200, CO2 levels were anti-correlated with Earth’s temperature.

    “The reality is that man’s industrialization just happened to occur in a period of solar-driven warming, a mere coincidence, causing governments to needlessly spend trillions of taxpayer dollars on CO2-reduction efforts,” says Dr Higgs.

  2. @Tom I’d hardly call one guy from years ago “devastating news”

    Even if the AGW crowd is completely wrong we’ll have cleaner air, healthier people, and real energy independence, along with lower costs.

    With that in mind, I’d be perfectly happy if Higgs is right.

  3. No one ever disputed there are natural cycles just that human activity is much rapider and will result in a more severe change.

    And I dont think a Petroleum industry consultant is what we would consider unbiased. What a joke.

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