New Jersey’s New Dem Gov Takes Apart Christie’s Legacy On Energy Policy

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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New Jersey’s newly-elected Democratic governor ordered his state to re-join a regional carbon trading program some Republicans claim could result in higher energy prices.

Gov. Philip D. Murphy is thrusting the state back into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which requires power plants to purchase permits for carbon emissions. His move was a punch in the gut in some respect to a portion of former Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s legacy.

“Pulling out of R.G.G.I. slowed down progress on lowering emissions and has cost New Jerseyans millions of dollars that could have been used to increase energy efficiency and improve air quality in our communities,” Murphy said in a statement Monday night.

“Five year ago, New Jersey faced Superstorm Sandy,” he noted, before suggesting that the storm’s deadly effects were partially a result of increased carbon emission use driving up global warming. Other coastal states are fully on board with the program.

New Hampshire, Maine, Maryland, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts are among several Northeastern states that have joined the RGGI. California adopted its own cap-and-trade last year, and Washington state’s legislature is also mulling a possible price mechanism.

Christie, for his part, withdrew New Jersey from the program in 2012, telling reporters at the time that the RGGI “does nothing more than tax electricity, tax our citizens, tax our businesses,” with little data to show an impact on the environment.

A mixture of natural gas production and other energy production methods have helped offset the need for reliance on coal plants for electricity in the Northeast. Electricity prices have declined an average of 3.9 percent since 2009, but prices leaped during a recent cold snap this winter.

Yet the average does not accurately reflect the very real risks associated with targeting the fossil fuel industry.

Americans used more gas during the most-recent cold snap than they did during the so-called polar vortex that covered the U.S.’ eastern half with arctic air in 2014, according to data from PointLogic Energy, an oil and gas firm that monitor gas usage.

The country consumed more than 143 billion cubic feet of gas as temperatures dipped to all-time lows on New Year’s Day, the data show. Prices for natural gas skyrocketed to the highest levels in a month — gas is not the only fossil fuel states are turning to for warmth this winter.

Coal-fired power generation also jumped from around 20,000 megawatts on Christmas to more than 45,000 megawatts, according to a Dec. 29 report from Bloomberg. Demand for oil also jumped six fold, Bloomberg reported.

The increase in gas prices led officials to accept gas imports from Russia, despite sanctions exacted against the state over tampering with U.S. elections. Russian state-owned shipping company Sovcomflot delivered gas from Siberia’s Yamal LNG, a joint venture established by Russia’s Novatek, France’s Total and China’s CNPC, to a terminal on Britain’s Isle of Grain late last year, according to Reuters.

Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Berhad then sold the product to Engie SA, a French company. The gas was loaded on the Gaselys, a ship bound for New England with a mixture of liquid natural gas from multiple locations. While the delivery was delayed, the ship is expected to make port in the very near future.

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