Archive for January, 2008

The Toll Plan is a Dinosaur

January 18th, 2008 5 comments

Governor Corzine and Economic Czar Gary Rose – being Wall Street guys and not government/policy guys – have put the finance cart before the policy horse.

That is ass backwards – the finance should follow the policy, not determine the policy.

Reliance on a toll revenue based financial plan would lock the State into a whole set of bad policies that promote more traffic and undermine critically important policies.

Why would we want to restructure our debt by relying on a revenue stream to pay debt service (i.e. tolls from traffic) for activity that we are legally obligated and seeking to reduce?

Under the federal Clean Air Act, New Jersey is legally obligated to reduce air pollution from mobile sources – i.e. cars and trucks. One means to do that is to reduce truck and car traffic and vehicle miles traveled.

Under State law, New Jersey is legally obligated to reduce green house gas emissions by 20% by 2020. Transportation accounts for 50% of NJ’s global warming emissions. One means to reduce emissions is to reduce truck and car traffic and vehicle miles driven.

Virtually all energy plans project sharply rising oil and gas prices, and encourage across the board reductions in gas consumption and truck/car travel.

Clean air, global warming, and energy policies all are seeking to reduce traffic, including traffic on toll roads.

Yet the toll plan is reliant on maintaining or even increasing traffic to generate toll revenue.
Clean Air, global warming, and energy policies directly contradict a traffic reliant toll plan.

Something’s gotta give.

There are additional reasons that a toll based revenue plan is a bad plan.

“Smart Growth” policies under NJ’s State Plan call for land use policies that promote trip reduction, mass transit, bicycling, and walking.

The State Plan seeks investments in urban redevelopment – more traffic and more cars divert investment and take activity away from the urban core.

Sound transporation planning seeks a shift from cars to mass transit, and from trucks to rail.

A toll based plan flies in the face of all these policies.

Do we really want to perpetuate car dependency for the next 30 years? (assume a 30 year bond repayment schedule)

Thought about all that Governor?

Long run, the plan is un-economic, bad policy, and bad for the environment – but great for

Wall Street bond counsel..

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Truth Seeker and Patriot

January 16th, 2008 4 comments
Radical propagandist and voice of the common man, Thomas Paine. Statue in Bordentown, NJ.

“These are the times that try men’s souls.” This simple quotation from Founding FatherThomas Paine’s The Crisis not only describes the beginnings of the American Revolution, but also the life of Paine himself. Throughout most of his life, his writings inspired passion, but also brought him great criticism.

He communicated the ideas of the Revolution to common farmers as easily as to intellectuals, creating prose that stirred the hearts of the fledgling United States. He had a grand vision for society: he was staunchly anti-slavery, and he was one of the first to advocate a world peace organization and social security for the poor and elderly. But his radical views on religion would destroy his success, and by the end of his life, only a handful of people attended his funeral.

“The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.’

“Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.

“My mind is my own church.”

“The strength and power of despotism consists wholly in the fear of resistance.”

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”

“It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime.”

Thomas Paine

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Governor, You’re No Jack Kennedy

January 15th, 2008 No comments

Today, sadly, I am reminded of one of the most famous quips in American political history.

During the 1988 campaign, Democratic vice-presidential candidate Senator Lloyd Bentsen humiliated Republican vice-presidential candidate Senator Dan Quayle during the vice-presidential debate.

Quayle had implied that he was as qualified as President Kennedy.

Bentsen immediately took strong offense to that comparison and brought down the roof in applause with this line:

Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy: I knew Jack Kennedy; Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”,_you_are_no_Jack_Kennedy

I am reminded of this episode because Governor Corzine just signed the Regional Green House Gas Initiative (RGGI) bill into law.

In contrast to the Governor’s recent ascension to a world stage at a global warming summit in Portugal, there was no big press release on this one – I had to scroll through a list of dozens of bills the Governor signed over the weekend to find it listed at the bottom of this press release: Jan-14-08 Governor Corzine Signs Legislation

The RGGI bill was the first real test of Corzine’s commitment to implementing the aggressive “Global Warming Response Act” (GWRA) emissions reduction goals the Governor signed into law last July. The GWRA set emissions reduction goals of 20% by the year 2020, and much steeper 80% reductions by 2050.

With much fanfare, last July, Corzine signed the GWRA in the Meadowlands with former Vice President Al Gore, environmentalists, and the national media in tow. Just days later, Corzine issued an Op-Ed touting his global warming leadership, including an explicit Quayle like allusion to President Kennedy. Corzine wrote:

“More than 40 years ago, President John F. Kennedy rallied the nation to put a man on the moon. The challenge seemed overwhelming at the time, but…America proved up to the task…

Today, the reality of a changing climate should serve as a clarion call to a new generation. Much like the space race of the 1960’s, global warming represents a unique economic opportunity…I’m proud to say that New Jersey has met the challenge.

On Friday, I signed a bill adopting ambitious goals for the reduction of green house gas emissions in New Jersey….

We must act now to seize this day…America is uniquely suited to these challenges. We have the people,, the technology, and all of the economic advantages.

What those of us in public life must supply now is leadership and the will to act.”

Read full text of Corzine Op-Ed:

No Governor, it is clear now that New Jersey has not yet met the challenge.

And by signing an extremely flawed RGGI bill, the Governor and the Legislature have failed their first real test of leadership on global warming.

In theory, the RGGI initiative was supposed to set up a pollution “cap and trade” system, auction pollution credits, and establish economic incentives to reduce emissions and promote renewable energy alternatives. Money collected from the auction of pollution credits was to fund energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.

However, Corzine bowed to political pressure by polluters to reduce the cost of the program.

As a result, the law sets the caps far too high – above actual emissions – and the pollution price far too low. Therefore, it does virtually nothing to reduce current green house gas emissions. In fact, contrary to Corzine’s 20% reduction goal, the RGGI law allows approximately a 10% INCREASE in current emissions.

The bill sets pollution emissions allowance prices so low that they will assure that renewable energy sources like wind and solar will not be price competitive. Worse, at least 60% of the paltry $40 million in auction revenues will go to major polluters, like oil refineries and other industrial polluters.

Moreover, the law sets up a completely unrelated new process which will allow the big utilities like PSEG, JCP&L, and Atlantic electric to profit at the expense of consumers. Residential electric bills will include a new component to subsidize the power companies.

These flawed provisions led the Star Ledger, the Bergen Record and the Courier-Post to editorialize in opposition to the bill and urge the Governor NOT to sign it. For editorials, see:

In a November 27, 2007 post, I laid out 7 objective criteria and standards to measure whether the introduced version of the RGGI legislation would advance the Governor’s legislative emissions reduction goals. See: Global Warming showdown in Trenton?

The RGGI version of the bill was gutted by a Senate substitute. See: Profiles in courage on Global Warming?

Instead of exercising leadership in legislative negotiations, the Corzine Administration caved in to political pressure from business and energy industry lobbyists..

Of course, this retreat flies in the face of multiple press releases that tout the Governor’s leadership on global warming – all now amounting to sound and fury, signifying nothing. For examples, see:

Corzine Portugal iCap Statement:

Corzine Global Warming page:

N.J. Joins Suit Against EPA Seeking Right to Combat Global Warming
14 Other States File Against EPA Over Denial of California Emissions Standards (1/2/08)

AG Announces Suits Against EPA over Failure to Act on Global Warming (11/8/07)

Corzine Administration on Global Warming (7/11/07)

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Time for US to Act – A Photo Essay

January 13th, 2008 7 comments
The US is the world’s largest green house gas polluter.


Most organic chemicals start with oil and are green house gases.
Poor insulation and high polluting bio-fuels (wood).
src=””>Behind every good man – powertools and a truck.
A chicken in every pot – an SUV and truck in every driveway.
Iraq war is for oil – how many more dead for 20 mpg’s?.
Ole Man river – he just keeps rollin’ along.
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Scientists Warn: Global Warming Impacts Already Here – Worse to Come

January 11th, 2008 7 comments

For those still sleeping, yesterday we received another scientific wake up call on global warming threats.

But this was no abstract global plea – this warning hit hard. It was graphic and particularly close to home – describing effects on daily life right here in our backyard.

Scientists presented a July 2007 report titled: “Confronting Climate Change in the U.S. Northeast: Science, Impacts, and Solutions.” I strongly urge folks to read the full Report, which can be found here:

But it’s unfortunate that the wake up call was presented to a small group of professionals already aware of and working on the issue. This warning needs to be delivered widely to the public, particularly to those who have the economic resources and political power to influence the energy policy choices we make, including the NJ Legislature, local officials, the media, and the leadership of corporate New Jersey.

Bottom line of the Report: Global warming is already here and impacts are already being felt. Data show that spring is coming sooner, with earlier spring snowmelt and earlier peak river flows.

Winters are shorter with less snow, less lake ice, and more rain. There are more days when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees. The growing season is longer, but warmer temperatures also stimulate growth of weeds and invasive plants that reduce agricultural productivity.

These changes in temperature and precipitation already are having ecological and economic impacts.

Projections show it could get far worse if current emissions are not dramatically reduced.

NJ will be particularly hard hit.

Dramatic changes in climate could make Newark feel more like Savannah Georgia in July, causing a public health emergency for many who simply can not cope with extreme 100+ degree heat. For example, 35,000 mostly elderly died in France during a heat wave. Newark already has the highest childhood asthma rates in the country – 100 degree days would make bad air days and respiratory problems for those kids far worse.

Increases in temperature will alter precipitation, causing more frequent and severe droughts, punctuated by floods. NJ is already experiencing more frequent and severe cycles of flood and drought – and it will only get much worse.

Sea level rise and increasingly severe coastal storms will put billions of dollars of Atlantic City and coastal real estate investments underwater far more frequently (hundred year flooding could occur annually). NJ’s farmers will suffer reduced productivity.

These impacts will cost NJ billions of dollars to cope with.

Data show that real adverse impacts of global warming are already here and will get worse as a result of energy choices we have already made. We are stuck with those choices – but they were made by the last generation, who knew nothing of devastating global warming risks.

In contrast, we are now faced with choices with the full knowledge of the economic costs, ecological destruction, and human suffering that will occur. In light of this knowledge, we must dramatically reduce emissions and begin to adapt to changes already underway. The energy choices we make today will shape the climate and quality of life our children and grandchildren inherit.

Concrete action is required now – not more hot air from public officials.

The Report was issued by The Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment, a collaborative effort between the Union of Concerned Scientists and a team of more than 50 independent experts using state-of-the-art tools to assess how global warming will affect the northeastern United States.

The scientists who spoke were Nancy S. Cole, director of climate outreach for the Union of Concerned Scientists; Dr. Susanne Moser; a scientist with the Institute for the Study of Society and Environment (ISSE) at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado; and
Dr. Lewis H. Ziska is a Plant Physiologist with the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.

I urge folks to download, read, and distribute the Report widely. You can contact the Union of Concerned Scientists for copies of the Report and additional information.

The USDA scientist also presented compelling data on agricultural impacts – for example, temperature increases would reduce dairy productivity by 20% –

How would NJ’s already struggling dairy farmers adapt to that change?

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