Testifying to the House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology, Dr. Phil Duffy of the Woods Hole Research Center claimed that state efforts to lower CO2 emissions through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, has been a good thing for the economy of those states that have adopted it. Duffy, however, did not mention research from 2018 that provides data showing the exact opposite.

At the hearing titled “Using Technology to Address Climate Change”, Duffy stated: “A number of studies have shown positive economic impacts in the nearly ten years that RGGI has been in place…I think the latest study documented $5.7 billion in savings because of improved health outcomes.”

Earlier this year, by contrast, David T. Stevenson, Director of the Center for Energy Competitiveness at the Caesar Rodney Institute, published a study finding the exact opposite — namely that RGGI has hurt the economies of those regions that have adopted it, and that the program has shown minimal impact on health or emissions reductions.

“RGGI allowance costs added to already high regional electric bills. The combined pricing impact resulted in a 12 percent drop in goods production and a 34 percent drop in the production of energy-intensive goods.”

RGGI is a mandatory program put in place by state governments to cap CO₂ emissions and sell CO₂ allowances. The proceeds from these sales are supposed to be invested in renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and sustainability projects.

Duffy’s testimony was vague and did not specify as to what studies he was referencing. In contrast, Stevenson directly addresses specific studies, like one put out by the Acadia Center, that make claims similar to Duffy’s.

“The Acadia Center claims that compared to other states RGGI states increased electric prices by half as much, had 3.6 percent more economic growth, and reduced emissions 16 percent more leading to greater health benefits from pollution reduction. In reality, from 2007 to 2015, net weighted average nominal electricity prices rose 4.6 percent in RGGI states compared to 2.8 percent in [states that did not adopt RGGI].

Stevenson’s research found, however “there were no added reductions in CO₂ emissions, or associated health benefits, from the RGGI program.” In fact, any benefits in health or emissions are consistent with a “national trend,” Stevenson says, and can’t be attributed to having an RGGI program in place.

Also according to Stevenson’s work, even the development of wind and solar, which is one of the main intentions of RGGI, is faring less well in RGGI states than others.

“Wind and solar energy installation was slower in RGGI states, increasing by only 2.3 percentage points, while comparison states grew by 5.5 percentage points, more than twice as fast.”

You can read about Stevenson’s study here.


  • Adam Houser

    Adam Houser coordinates student leaders as National Director of CFACT's collegians program and writes on issues of climate and energy.