In anticipation of a Thursday legislative vote that could push New Jersey back into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Americans for Prosperity, a citizen advocacy group largely funded by oil magnates the Koch brothers, is challenging a report that touts the program's economic benefits.
According to a study released last year by the Analysis Group, RGGI has resulted in $1.6 billion in tax revenue from the sale of carbon allowances, thousands of jobs and more than a billion dollars in economic benefits, including lower energy bills to consumers.
However, Americans for Prosperity disputes the report, attributing it to "liberal politicians and environmentalists, desperate to keep the failing cap-and-trade program alive." It cites the Institute for Energy Research, which claims that the numbers produced by the Analysis Group are hypothetical extrapolations based on "modeling" and long-term projections.
The Institute for Energy Research has received funding from a trust organized by Koch Industries, of which Charles and David Koch are chairman and executive vice president, respectively. IER has also received funding from Exxon Mobile, according to Media Matters.
RGGI - pronounced "Reggie" - is a 10-state cooperative designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The program was launched in 2005 and requires energy producers to pay a surcharge on greenhouse gas emissions. The revenue collected from the surcharge payments is passed on to the ratepayers in a variety of ways, including investment in alternative energy and energy efficient projects.
Opponents of the initiative say it places a financial burden on energy producers who then pass the expense along to the consumer.
“The RGGI Cap-and-Trade scheme has always been about one thing and one thing only: bilking taxpayers through their electricity bills in order to provide liberal politicians and radical environmentalists a slush fund to subsidize their failed ‘green energy’ schemes," Steve Lonegan, state director for Americans for Prosperity said in a statement.
Gov. Chris Christie vetoed New Jersey's participation in the program less than a year ago. Now, a recommendation from the state's Senate Environment and Energy Committee has the matter coming back for a vote. Late last week, volunteers from Environment New Jersey delivered thousands of letters in support of RGGI to office's of local officials, including State Sen. Jennifer Beck's, R-11, office on Monmouth Street in Red Bank.
Beck has voted against RGGI in the past.
According to Environment New Jersey, a citizen-funded environmental advocacy group, RGGI has brought in $181 million in revenue and created 1,772 jobs in New Jersey alone.
Charles and David Koch, noted conservatives and two of the world's richest men, made much of their fortune in oil, though they do have many other business pursuits. Noted for their philanthropy and dedication to libertarian pursuits, the pair also fund advocacy groups like Americans for Prosperity. Critics have charged that there exists inherent conflict in the goals of Americans for Prosperity, which often fall in line with those of their financial backers.
The RGGI bill is expected to be voted on this Thursday in both the State Senate and Assembly.