Last month, Matt asked me if I would write a regular column for his website about energy and the environment. I was flattered to be asked and hope I can live up to his standards.
Before getting to the column, here’s a little about me. I’m an economist who has worked in the energy industry for almost 40 years. (Time flies when you’re having fun.) I’ve worked for electric utilities, state governments, and as a regulator. I’ve been a consultant for over 20 years and have testified before state regulators, at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and even before Congress. I’ve even testified on behalf of the NJ Board of Public Utilities staff a few times. I am also an Adjunct Fellow with the Manhattan Institute, for which I have written reports on various energy-related topics. Oddly enough, critics of those reports rarely point out errors, which I make, but instead accuse me of being: (i) on the payroll of the Koch Brothers, Exxon, and other “evil” fossil fuel companies (I wish!); and (ii) a climate “denier” (whatever that means). You can make up your mind. By all means, if you are bored or suffer from insomnia, you can download all of my Manhattan Institute reports. If you spot any errors I have made, please let me know.
Enough about me. Let’s discuss energy and the environment in New Jersey.
Back in December 2019, Governor Murphy released its Energy Master Plan (EMP), which promised to make Jersey a green, emissions-free, economic paradise, with environmental justice for all. The EMP calls for electrifying, well, just about everything you can think of – cars, trucks, furnaces, water heaters, and, yes, gas stoves. It calls for supplying the needed electricity with offshore wind, rooftop solar, and a smattering of generators powered by diesel fuel made from animal fat and the oil restaurants use to cook French fries. It also assumed the state’s two remaining nuclear plants will be kept alive well beyond the time when their licenses expire, which is odd considering that, in September 2018, the state had forced the Oyster Creek Nuclear Plant to shut down early. And, it assumed the state would just import lots of emissions-free electricity, even though every other state in the Northeast assumes the same thing.
One “minor” item the EMP did not discuss is what it would cost to achieve these pie-in-the-electric-sky goals. What would consumers and businesses be forced to spend on new electric equipment? What would happen to electric rates? What would happen to income and property taxes?
Not one word.
So, finally responding to criticism about the lack of that basic information, last summer, the NJ Board of Public Utilities released a report it had commissioned by a Massachusetts consulting firm that estimated the impacts on electric and gas rates, but only for one year: 2030. The report also ignored all of the money consumers and businesses would have to spend on electrification – buying an expensive electric vehicle, buying a home charger for that EV, buying a heat pump and a heat pump water heater, buying an electric stove, upgrading the service panel to handle all of the additional electricity, and, well, you get the idea.
That consultant’s report was widely panned, including by me, for its many errors.
Oddly enough, the report found that, for many natural gas consumers, it would be cheaper for them to not switch to electricity. That probably didn’t go over well with the BPU.
Recently, I helped Affordable Energy for New Jersey (AENJ) estimate the cost of meeting the EMP’s goals. My latest estimate is $1.4 trillion between now and 2050. That’s over $5,000 each year for every single New Jerseyan.
And what would New Jerseyan’s get for all that money? Will it stop climate change? Halt the rising seas? Ensure environmental justice? Make new Jersey an environmental paradise? The local whales that have been washing up on the coast recently as construction activity on Ocean Wind has ramped up may have an opinion on that.
The short answer is “no.” Nothing New Jersey does will affect the global climate. Not one bit. Don’t take my word for it. Ask John Kerry, President Biden’s climate “czar.” (Assuming you can catch him when he’s not private-jetting around the world to discuss the horrors of carbon emissions and climate change.)
The EMP will have one important economic impact. It will make politically well-connected individuals and companies who are pushing green nonsense very wealthy.
As for the rest of you? You get to eat bugs.
Jonathan A. Lesser, PhD is an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute and president of Continental Economics; he boasts 30+ years of experience working for regulated utilities and 20+ years in the energy industry as a consultant, and Dr. Lesser has testified in front of numerous regulatory and legislative bodies including the U.S. Congress.