Massachusetts Gov. Romney Unveils Climate Protection Plan

Massachusetts Gov. Romney Unveils Climate Protection Plan
July 1, 2004

James M. Taylor

James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute, and... (read full bio)

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (R) on May 6 unveiled the state's new Climate Protection Plan, which encourages private citizens and requires state agencies and the state's large businesses to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Ambitious Goals
Romney said his climate plan to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is one of the nation's most ambitious and represents a commitment to implementing the regional climate change plan adopted by the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers in August 2001.

The plan's goals are similar to provisions of the Kyoto Protocol--which was unanimously rejected by the U.S. Senate in 1997 and subsequently rejected by President George W. Bush--by calling for the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2010. It calls for an additional 10 percent reduction by 2020 through strict standards for old coal-fired power plants, promotion of renewable energy, encouraging "green" building technology, energy efficiency, cleaner vehicles, and public awareness.

The plan will not have a measurable impact on global or even national greenhouse gas emissions, since Massachusetts produces less than 2 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.

Some Wiggle Room
Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, Romney's plan focuses on voluntary initiatives, restricting any mandatory requirements to only a few large industries and the state itself. The plan includes no enforcement mechanism for requiring attainment of the goals.

The plan includes approximately 70 different policy initiatives but does not estimate how much those initiatives will actually reduce emissions. Nor does the plan estimate how much the initiatives will cost.

"Since the plan does not estimate how much its measures will reduce emissions, it is unclear whether it will meet its stated goals of reducing greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2010 and by what amounts to a further 10 percent by 2020," the Boston Globe reported on May 6.

Some of the most economically punitive measures activist groups frequently propose to reach such goals, such as energy taxes and emission caps, are absent from the plan. It is thus unlikely the state will suffer the economic consequences of capping carbon dioxide emissions. Research has found those costs could reach $6,300 per household by raising the price of goods and destroying jobs.

Romney already has rejected more stringent proposals. An earlier version of the plan obtained by the Boston Globe called for a reduction of greenhouse gases by 75 to 85 percent by 2050, but state officials have backed away from that provision.

State officials who drafted the final plan said there was "no scientific basis" for setting goals as far into the future as 2050 and that current technology would be unable to meet the reductions proposed for 2050.

"It was a consensus view that unless we could prove how we were going to achieve it, which was the whole point of the plan, that we should get on with the near- and midterm goals," said Douglas Foy, head of Romney's Office of Commonwealth Development.

Doubts About the Science
In addition to rejecting more stringent proposals, Romney made a special effort to convey that he personally had doubts about alarmist global warming theory, going so far as to attach a letter to the plan's final version suggesting he remains unconvinced that man-made greenhouse gases are an environmental problem.

"Romney said he was unsure whether climate change is occurring and whether human activity is causing it," reported the May 7 Environment & Energy Daily.

Romney characterized his support of the plan as an "insurance policy" focusing on voluntary initiatives in the private sector and mandatory reductions primarily directed at state agencies themselves.

"If climate change is happening, the actions we take will help," Romney wrote. "If climate change is largely caused by human action, this will really help. If we learn decades from now that climate change isn't happening, these actions will still help our economy, our quality of life, and the quality of our environment."

Plan Still Costly
Though mostly voluntary, some provisions of the plan are mandatory and will impose economic hardship on Massachusetts citizens.

For example, the plan includes implementation of the California low- emission vehicle mandate, requiring automakers to sell a minimum number of gas-electric hybrids and low-emission vehicles even if consumers show little interest in buying them. Mandating the use of expensive new technology imposes costs on all new car buyers, as car dealers are forced to subsidize the sale of some vehicles by raising prices for others.

The plan also requires the state's large businesses to inventory and report their carbon dioxide emissions. Once carbon dioxide reporting is required by law, global warming alarmists often push for carbon dioxide cap-and-trade programs, which have economic effects similar to energy taxes.

Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, says, "All such schemes are Trojan horses for Kyoto-type policies. Credits awarded for 'early' reductions are assets that mature and attain full market value only under a mandatory emissions reduction target or 'cap.' Consequently, every credit holder acquires an incentive to lobby for emission caps."

According to Sandy Liddy Bourne, director of the Energy, Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Task Force at the American Legislative Exchange Council, "The Massachusetts Climate Protection Plan can be compared to a slick advertisement with no price tag. It is packaged with the same doom and gloom rhetoric of the environmental activists and commits the state government to long-term contracts for renewable energy without the benefits of a free market check-and-balance system.

"Alas," she noted, "the citizens of the commonwealth have been sold a bundle of goods wrapped up in a new energy tax and bound with red tape."


James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News. His email address is taylor@heartland.org.

James M. Taylor

James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute, and... (read full bio)