The Hypocrisy of Chris Christie, "New Jersey's No. 1 Clean Energy Advocate"

Photo credit: Bob Jagendorf via Flickr/CC BY

During Chris Christie's 2009 campaign for governor, he boasted that he would be the state's "number one clean energy advocate". And ever since then, he's courageously done everything in his power to ... become precisely the opposite. As the New York Times points out, he swiftly proceeded to snag $150 million in funding set aside for clean energy projects and use it to balance the budget. It seemed pretty egregious, but he justified the transaction under a 'desperate times, desperate measures' mantra. Fine.

But then he withdrew the state from a lawsuit against polluting utilities, causing more grumblings yet. And now, last week, he took the final plunge and pulled New Jersey out of a 10-state effort to reduce carbon emissions. It's now clear that this man, if anything, should be considered a flat-out clean energy opponent.The governor announced that he was withdrawing New Jersey from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative -- RGGI, or 'Reggie' -- because he had suddenly deemed it to be "a failure and an ineffective approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions," according to Reuters.

Of course, it was anything but. It had actually been a "remarkable success", as the Times notes. In fact, the Times was so appalled by Christie's withdrawal that it ran an editorial scrutinizing his flimsy motivations for doing so:

The program has been remarkably successful, a model of vision and fortitude. Lacking that, Mr. Christie has given in to the corporate and Tea Party interests that revile all forms of cap and trade, letting down the other nine states trying to fight climate change. Since it began in 2008, the system has created more than $700 million for these programs; New Jersey has spent some of its share on helping cities become more energy-efficient. Greenhouse emissions from power plants in the region went down about 12 percent from 2008 to 2010 ... Programs like the regional initiative are estimated to have produced more than 10 percent of that decline.

Mr. Christie ... claimed this week that the program was not working, a notion that was quickly refuted by five other governors. "Governor Christie is simply wrong when he claims that these efforts are a failure," said Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland. He said they had an equivalent effect of taking 3,500 cars off the road in his state.

To recap: The RGGI has been successful in generating much-needed revenue for state clean energy projects, it has rather dramatically reduced global warming-causing greenhouse gas emissions, and it has cut particulate air pollution in the process. In fact, Christie even used $65 million generated by the RGGI to help reduce the state's budget deficit -- money that RGGI supporters ask that he now pay back.

The real reason Governor Christie pulled out is simple, and the Times hits on it -- Tea Party politics. The GOP top brass was successful in translating its 'cap and tax' mantra into a relative truism held by its far-right base. Now any politician that supports cap and trade, pricing carbon, or even taking action to address climate change in any venue is apt to be tarred and feathered.

And now, Christie has ironically done more to seal the fate of renewable energy in his state than the most vehement naysayers and vocal climate deniers. Such is the hypocrisy of New Jersey's "No. 1 clean energy advocate".

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More on Statewide Clean Energy Efforts
How and Why the Northeastern US States' Cap and Trade is Working
Wal-Mart, GE, and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative ( RGGI)

Tags: Clean Energy | New Jersey | United States


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