Carbon limits necessarily force greater reliance on natural gas for electric power, applying further pressure to boost prices. The per million BTU price soared to an astronomical $14.80 in Dec. 14 trading, though the price since then has dropped to $11.10 on Dec. 30.
Everybody agrees that carbon limits will force up electricity prices steadily far into the future. The disagreement is over how much the costs will go up. A study done for RGGI shows the cost per consumer rising $34 a year every year for 20 years, but business groups call that number laughable in view of how much CO2 caps really will cost. That is unnerving for Massachusetts, which now has the nation's highest electric power bills. However, the bigger impact could be on the cost to industries that threatens the loss of jobs.
Romney's concern over carbon caps is shared by other Northeastern governors. Republican Donald Carcieri of Rhode Island, Republican Robert Ehrlich of Maryland and Democrat Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania also took their states out of RGGI conformity. But the governors of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Vermont are still in the compact, ready to impose a heavy economic burden on their citizens. Outside the Northeast, the states of California, Oregon and Washington also are moving toward carbon caps.
Green pressure can lead politicians to make promises that they would regret. It happened to George W. Bush at Saginaw, Mich., in September 2000 when he took a position hardly noticed at the time. "We will require all power plants to meet clean air standards in order to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide," he said. That never really was Bush's position, but it led to a misunderstanding between the president and his first Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Christine Whitman, that haunts him to this day. It appears Mitt Romney will avoid that pitfall on his long uphill climb to the White House.