Pennsylvania Senate Committee Wants to Keep State Out of Greenhouse Gas Program

May 24, 2021 Updated: May 24, 2021

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is pressing for his state to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a program intended to cap and reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector.

However, State Senate Environmental Resources and Energy (ERE) Committee Chairman Gene Yaw (R) told The Epoch Times that Wolf’s proposed plan to enter Pennsylvania into RGGI is not going to help the environment, instead it will have devastating economic impacts on the state’s energy and manufacturing industry.

RGGI is a regional program in response to climate change. Initially joined by seven states including Connecticut, Delaware, and Maine in December 2005, its members now include eleven Northeastern states. RGGI sets a cap for total carbon dioxide emissions for the power sector in each state. In order to comply with RGGI regulations, power plants in these states must purchase allowances for each ton of carbon dioxide they emit annually.

Joining RGGI Will Hurt Pennsylvania’s Energy Industry and Business Investment

Yaw said that if Pennsylvania becomes part of RGGI, it will be the only major energy exporter among the member states. The carbon tax on power plants will destroy the industry and lead to a loss of thousands or even tens of thousands of jobs.

In an interview with The Epoch Times on May 17, Yaw said, “RGGI is, in my opinion, a very, very superficial attempt to do something about global warming and emissions … It is not going to help the environment but hurt Pennsylvania. It’s going to raise Pennsylvania’s electric costs eventually.”

In addition, Wolf says he’s going to raise $300 million from the RGGI allowance.

“Where’s it going to come from?” Yaw asked. “It’s the energy consumers and any business that uses a lot of electricity [that’s] going to get hit really, really hard. So then the next thing is that business is going to move [out].”

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) advocates that joining RGGI will bring great benefits to the state.

“DEP’s modeling estimates that from 2022 to 2030, participating in RGGI would lead to an increase in Gross State Product of nearly $2 billion and a net increase of over 27,000 jobs in this Commonwealth. The results also show that overall citizens of this Commonwealth could see a cumulative increase in Disposable Personal Income of $3.7 billion by 2050,” the DEP’s website states.

Yaw thinks otherwise. “There is no empirical evidence that shows that whatsoever. I mean, that is just dreaming. The jobs that are going to be lost now are real,” he said.

He mentioned that 20 years ago, reputable scientists claimed we were going to have an ice age and almost everyone believed so, but presently, the scientific community predicts that the temperature will increase by 6 degrees in the next 30 years.

“Climate change has been happening for the last 20,000 years. It is natural,” Yaw said.

Yaw further pointed out that the world population has tripled in the past 60 years. As mankind now needs three times as much food and three times as much shelter, there is no question that the climate has been changing and will continue to change. The key issue is to focus on things we can do without hurting local people, such as reducing the emission of methane gas, he said.

According to Yaw, joining RGGI would cost Pennsylvania hundreds of thousands of jobs. He expressed deep concerns that a group of people just want to move forward with the RGGI program without addressing these problems.

Biden’s Climate Change EO Will Hurt US Manufacturing

RGGI is a regional version of President Joe Biden’s executive order, which he signed in response to the “climate crisis” on his first day in office. One of the stated goals is “a carbon pollution-free electricity sector no later than 2035.”

Yaw said in his opinion, these moves hurt U.S. manufacturing tremendously. “In the next 30 years, the primary growth areas are going to be Africa, India, and China. And the primary fuel source in those three areas of the world is [still] coal,” as manufacturing will “go to locations that have much less environmental concerns than what we have here in the United States,” he said.

He called on the Biden administration to look at the big picture when tackling climate-related issues. “Energy is the key to any economy,” he emphasized.

Clean Energy Is Not Clean

Wind and solar are often referred to as clean energy by anti-fossil fuel activists. However, producing solar panels and windmills requires a lot of mining for resources, especially rare earth minerals.

“I have said this repeatedly, ‘you cannot have clean energy without fossil fuel.’ There is no clean energy project anywhere ever. You cannot have clean energy without mining,” Yaw stated. “We don’t like mining because it’s dirty. But where did the minerals come from—that are used to build whatever it is—whether it’s made out of steel, or concrete, or aluminum, or the rare earth elements that are needed for batteries and solar panels.”

He further explained that solar panels are made from aluminum or steel frames, and steel in turn comes from mining iron ore. Silica is needed in the making of glass. People simply look at the low emissions from the end results, and never bother to ask how much emissions were involved in building the materials.

“All energy production has three stages to it, in my opinion, one of them is the manufacturing process,” Yaw said. “Even if you’re dealing with a nuclear power plant, which I agree that there’s no emissions at the end, but what about the millions of tons of cement, or concrete, steel, plastics and everything else that went into building a nuclear power plant?”

Another issue in the energy industry is storage. Yaw said he is not aware of any method that can be used to store the electricity produced by windmills or solar panels. In addition, disposing or recycling these clean power generators, including dealing with nuclear waste, is yet another matter of concern.

According to Yaw, the radioactive half-life of the uranium-235 that is used in nuclear power plants is over seven million years. That means the land where that waste is located is basically useless for millions of years.

“I’m not against energy, any type of energy. I think that we need a diverse energy portfolio and there’s room for all forms of energy in it. The way you develop the most reliability, I think, is having diversity in your energy portfolio,” he suggested.

The reality is, “how do we make steel without coal?” If climate change activists insist that we are not going to make steel in the United States, some other countries will make it while Americans will “smugly say we have a clean environment,” Yaw said.

He called on climate change activists and decision makers to be honest with each other. Tackling climate change is a huge undertaking. Therefore, we need to look at a global approach, he said.