Pennsylvanians currently enjoy energy prices that are below the national average, but that is about to change if Gov. Tom Wolf successfully overrides the state legislature and pushes Pennsylvania into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The public has until January 14 to submit comments on Wolf’s plan to join RGGI.

RGGI, which was formed in 2009, includes 10 states in the U.S. Northeast. Those states are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Under RGGI, participating states are required to cap their carbon dioxide emissions – at an ever-tightening amount – while taxing the conventional sources that remain.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, RGGI states pay approximately 50-percent higher electricity prices than the rest of the nation. And that is not a coincidence. Since RGGI formed in 2009, electricity prices in RGGI states have increased, while electricity prices in the rest of the nation have decreased.

New Jersey provides a good illustration of RGGI’s impact on energy prices. New Jersey joined RGGI in 2009, then left RGGI in 2011 under former Gov. Chris Christie, before rejoining RGGI this year. After leaving RGGI, New Jersey electricity prices declined by 10 percent between 2011 and 2019, even as electricity prices in RGGI states kept rising.

The reason for the discrepancy between RGGI states and the rest of the nation is simple: if you restrict and impose increasingly stringent taxes on your most abundant and most affordable energy sources, energy prices will necessarily rise. There is simply no way around that.

Pennsylvania may end up joining RGGI, but if it does so, Keystone State electricity consumers will be feeling the pain.

The public comment period expires January 14.

James Taylor is the President of the Heartland Institute. Taylor is also director of Heartland's Arthur B. Robinson Center for Climate and Environmental Policy. Taylor is the former managing editor (2001-2014) of Environment & Climate News, a national monthly publication devoted to sound science and free-market environmentalism.

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