The following op-ed by BP America Chairman and President Susan Dio was first published at PennLive.com on February 27, 2020. Learn more about the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and PEC’s decarbonization work here.
PA can transform America’s energy landscape – again
By Susan Dio
When oil was first discovered in the western Pennsylvanian town of Titusville in 1859, it transformed the world energy industry practically overnight. Today, the Keystone State has a chance to transform the industry again – this time by joining an innovative collaborative of neighboring states working together to lower carbon emissions.
Known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, the non-profit cooperative consists of 10 states across the Northeast and mid-Atlantic working to cap and reduce CO2 emissions in their power sectors.
As the region’s leading energy producer and exporter, Pennsylvania is a natural fit – and greatly needed in the region’s fight against greenhouse gas emissions.
How does RGGI work? It uses the power of competitive markets to change behaviors and encourage innovation, first by placing a regional cap on emissions and then requiring companies to buy or trade allowances to emit up to the limit of the cap. Because the cap reduces annually, the allowance price will rise every year. This gives the certainty companies need to invest and develop new technologies faster and at the scale required for real progress.
The results speak for themselves. Since 2008, power sector emissions have plummeted in the states belonging to RGGI at a rate almost double the rest of the US. Critically, GDP in these states outpaced growth elsewhere by 31% over the same decade, proving states don’t have to choose between the economy or the environment.
That’s why Pennsylvania businesses and policymakers should feel confident that joining RGGI would help them lower emissions and still allow for economic growth. They’d also continue Pennsylvania’s dynamic leadership role in America’s energy landscape.
Pennsylvania is the northeast’s leading energy producer and exporter. Pennsylvania natural gas helps reduce carbon emissions across the region, and the state’s growing renewables sources will only further solidify Pennsylvania’s status. It makes sense for the commonwealth to lead in regional energy decisions, and especially on making certain the infrastructure is developed to get Pennsylvania-produced energy – from all sources – to regional markets.
BP is a significant marketer of Pennsylvania natural gas and power from all sources. Our investments have helped support construction of over 1,000 megawatts of new gas-fired, wind and solar generation in Pennsylvania in the last seven years. Our 9,000-acre Mehoopany wind farm in Wyoming County is about equidistant from Philadelphia, Newark and New York City. And LightsourceBP, our solar energy partnership with east coast headquarters in Philadelphia, is collaborating with Penn State on a 70-megawatt solar project in Franklin County that will provide 25% of the university’s state-wide electricity requirements while reducing CO2 emissions by 57,000 metric tons annually.
Globally, BP’s new CEO Bernard Looney recently announced our ambition to become a net zero company by 2050 or sooner. BP’s support for carbon pricing is part of this bold vision. We believe in it so much, we’re stopping corporate reputation advertising and re-directing that money to promote net zero policies, ideas and collaborations instead. But while companies can – and must – play a leading role in bringing about a low carbon future, strong and effective government policy is essential.
RGGI’s track record proves carbon pricing is the most efficient, comprehensive way to reduce carbon emissions, and so we urge policymakers to seriously consider the merits of joining the collaborative and making Pennsylvania’s voice heard in regional power decisions.
Gov. Tom Wolf should be applauded for his leadership on behalf of Pennsylvania energy exports, and BP will work with him to urge the business community and legislators to support RGGI.
In the years since the discovery at Titusville, Pennsylvania energy has helped make America a global leader. Today, Pennsylvania can help America become a global leader in reducing carbon emissions.
And although RGGI is a newer chapter in the world’s energy story, joining it would return Pennsylvania to its roots. The commonwealth earned its moniker the “Keystone State” during America’s founding because it linked the states in the northeast to the rest of our young country.
That’s still true today in the region’s work on carbon emissions, and we hope Pennsylvania’s law makers and business leaders take up their old mantle again.
Susan Dio is chairman and president of BP America.