Gov. Ned Lamont has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to signal Connecticut’s intention to join the Transportation Climate Initiative. However, a MOU has no force of law, and the Connecticut legislature should follow the lead of other states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Delaware) who have signaled their skepticism of TCI through their decision not to sign the TCI MOU.
The name Transportation and Climate Initiative sounds nice, but ultimately it is nothing more than an increase in costs to consumers, which will not have any impact on climate change. TCI proponents can refer to it as a “cap and invest” system, but the public needs to know what this really means. The government is taking money from a private sector entity (fuel wholesalers) through the imposition of an “emissions cap” and forced purchasing of “allowances.” This is a tax, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition which defines a tax as “a charge usually of money imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes.”
These TCI imposed costs would be passed on to consumers, as is every other cost that a business incurs. The TCI costs would essentially function like a third fuel tax in Connecticut, on top of the existing per-gallon fuel taxes, and the Petroleum Gross Receipts Tax (PGRT) that Connecticut already imposes, which are already factored into the price of a gallon of fuel.
TCI materials have said to expect a 17 cents per gallon increase in the cost of fuel in the first year the program is implemented. It should also be noted that TCI costs would increase over a 10 year period, according to TCI materials. While TCI has not explicitly said how much costs could increase by the tenth year, my estimate based on materials TCI has published regarding the potential emissions cap and allowance costs suggest it could be as high as 45 cents per gallon toward the end of the ten year period. Other TCI opponents point to a Tufts University Study which suggests TCI could increase the cost of fuel by 61 cents per gallon.
In my opinion, TCI ignores science, including their own data, and it will negatively impact the very people it claims to care about, which are people in “underserved and overburdened communities,” to use their words.
A study conducted by a Ph.D. author based in Texas determined that even if TCI were implemented, it would reduce global temperatures by 0.000 degrees by the year 2100. A major goal of TCI is to push everyone to drive electric vehicles. Yet TCI’s own modeling admits that the push to electrify our transportation system “increases electricity emissions,” and that “most increases occur far outside of TCI and RGGI, in states without robust clean energy programs.”
If the Connecticut government is willing to simply disregard this point, that would be quite an abrupt about face from Connecticut’s long-standing contention that out-of-state emissions blowing into Connecticut are the cause of our air quality problems. To top this all off, TCI modeling also admits that even if TCI is NOT implemented, total fuel consumption and CO2 emissions will decrease by 19% during the ten year period.
TCI credits increased fuel economy in light and heavy duty vehicles as a main reason that emissions will decrease even without implementation of the TCI program. It is true that the commercial trucking industry has improved fuel efficiency through compliance with federal mandates. The industry has also reduced emissions of greenhouse gases through compliance with other truck and engine-specific emissions reduction mandates.
Over the last 20 years, the industry has reduced NOx emissions by more than 90%, sulfur content in diesel has been reduced by 97%, particulate matter emissions have been reduced by 90%, and CO2 emissions reductions are the focus of the latest federal mandates. According to the Diesel Technology Forum, it would take more than 60 of today’s generation of diesel-powered heavy-duty commercial trucks to equal the emissions of a single U.S. model made in the pre-2000 era. This progress does come with a hefty price tag, of literally tens of billions of dollars in increased costs to the industry, according the U.S. EPA figures. But at least these federal standards have (and will continue to) resulted in tangibly cleaner air. This is the way to achieve emissions reductions, rather than by trying to force high fuel prices so that it makes it unaffordable for people to drive a car.
People are waking up to the reality of the TCI. Some groups and individuals which TCI claims will benefit from the plan have come out in opposition to it. The New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance urged Gov. Phil Murphy not to participate in TCI because of “higher fuel prices that would result represent a regressive tax on low- and moderate-income households.” A Climate Justice Alliance steering committee member told TCI representatives that “TCI is just taxing poor people so we can subsidize rich people’s electric cars.”
As the former Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates points out, TCI will actually result in less transportation revenue for states. Since the program is designed to force people to drive electric vehicles, they won’t be buying fuel and paying fuel taxes. “This new carbon tax on fuel actually will cost people more but reduce revenue for roads and bridges, which even electric vehicles need, so expect yet more taxes for those,” he says.
Federal emissions standards for cars and trucks have clearly worked, and they will continue to work. Efforts to have a state or group of states set their own policies will only put those states (and their residents and businesses) at a competitive disadvantage by increasing costs while not having any impact on global climate change.
Joseph R. Sculley is President of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut.