Research & Commentary: Connecticut Governor’s Climate Bills Costly and Unnecessary

Published March 23, 2018

Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy’s administration has introduced two proposals that they say will “represent a major step in Connecticut’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions … and combat the effects of climate change.”

The first proposal would require the state to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 45 percent below 2001 levels by 2030. This proposal would also require all future state coastal projects or coastal projects funded by a state grant or loan to meet the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation’s (CIRCA) estimate of sea level rise projections, which is an additional two feet by 2050. This projection must now be the norm in any statutory reference to sea level rise, and all Connecticut boundary maps would be updated to reflect movement in the boundary landward caused by this projected rise.

CIRCA’s costly sea-level rise projection is almost certainly inaccurate. A Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change  Policy Brief from October 2017 examined sea-level rise data collected from ten coastal cities around the globe with long and reliable sea-level records, and found no “dramatic” sea-level rise in the past century, and none likely to occur in the current century. The brief also found “no evidence to indicate that the rate of sea-level rise or fall in any of the areas of this study is anything but virtually flat,” and there is “no correlation” between carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere and sea-level rise. Instead, the data from these locations show sea-level rise is “a local or localized phenomenon affected mainly by sea currents, plate tectonics, and land subsidence.” A December 2017 analysis in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found the models predicting that meltwater runoff from the Greenland ice sheet could produce sea-level rise of two to six inches by 2100 may be overestimating this impact by 20 to 60 percent.

There is no need for the state to mandate the reduction of GHG emissions when these emissions are already falling around the country, thanks almost entirely to market forces and the increased use of natural gas in electricity generation because of the hydraulic fracturing (also known as “fracking”) revolution. A 2018 analysis by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found the United States met the now-defunct Clean Power Plan’s 2025 carbon emission reduction targets in 2017 and is also close to meeting the plan’s 2030 reduction targets, thanks primarily to fracked natural gas.

The second proposal would increase the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to 40 percent of electricity generated by 2030. Connecticut’s current RPS mandates 27 percent of the state’s electricity must be produced by renewable sources by 2020.

Renewable portfolio standards like Connecticut’s—often referred to as “renewable power mandates” or “renewable energy mandates”—force expensive, heavily subsidized electricity on ratepayers and taxpayers while providing few if any net environmental benefits.

The wind and solar power forced on consumers by renewable power mandates is extremely expensive. A 2014 study by the Brookings Institution found wind power is twice as expensive as the conventional power it replaces. The same study found solar power is three times as expensive as conventional power. These higher costs impose real burdens on electricity consumers. Retail electricity prices in states with renewable power mandates are rising twice as fast as the national average. A 2016 study found the total net cost of the mandates in just 12 states was $5.76 billion in 2016 and will rise to $8.80 billion in 2030.

A Yankee Institute for Public Policy study from 2015 found Connecticut’s RPS, at its current level, will cost Nutmeg State residents $1.58 billion between 2014 and 2020, or more than $1,800 for a family of four, because of the higher price of electricity. The study also estimated the RPS would cost the state 2,660 jobs and $283 million in lost real disposable income over the same period. “The increase in electricity prices will harm the competitiveness of the state’s businesses, particularly in the energy-intensive manufacturing industries,” the study concludes. “Firms with high electricity usage will likely move their production, and emissions, out of Connecticut to locations with lower electricity prices. Therefore the RPS policy will not reduce global emissions, but rather send jobs and capital investment outside the state.”

At 17.24 cents per kilowatt hour, Connecticut currently has the highest retail electricity prices in the continental United States, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. A 2017 WalletHub study also found Connecticut residents face total energy costs of $380 per month, by far the highest total energy costs in the country, and the Tax Foundation already ranks the Nutmeg State’s tax climate as the country’s seventh worst. An increase in the state’s RPS would make everything more expensive for working families in Connecticut, who are already pinched by the state’s high costs, leaving them less to spend and save, all without any guaranteed environmental benefits.

Instead of raising the RPS, Connecticut policymakers should consider repealing it. Repealing price-inflating renewable power mandates will raise living standards as lower-cost electricity frees up money for consumers to purchase additional goods and services that improve their lives. Economic growth and net jobs will increase, because the newly available money spent on additional goods and services will create jobs throughout the economy.

The following documents provide more information on renewable portfolio standards, sea-level rise, and climate change.

Restoring Power: How Lawmakers Can Lower Your Electric Bill
This Yankee Institute for Public Policy report on Connecticut’s renewable portfolio standards projects the mandate will increase electricity costs by $1.6 billion by 2020. The study’s authors also project 2,660 fewer jobs in Connecticut and $283 million in lost income due to the RPS. They conclude that repealing the mandates would be a good move for consumers and for the state’s business community.

Evaluating the Costs and Benefits of Renewable Portfolio Standards
This paper by Timothy J. Considine, a distinguished professor of energy economics at the School of Energy Resources and the Department of Economics and Finance at the University of Wyoming, examines the renewable portfolio standards (RPS) of 12 different states and concludes while RPS investments stimulate economic activity, the negative economic impacts associated with higher electricity prices offset the claimed economic advantages of these RPS investments.

What Happens to an Economy When Forced to Use Renewable Energy?
The Manhattan Institute conducted an economic analysis of the effects renewable portfolio standards (RPS) had on the average price of electricity in states with mandates compared to those without mandates. The study found residential and commercial electricity rates were significantly higher in states with RPS mandates than in states without them. 

Ten State Solutions to Emerging Issues
This Heartland Institute booklet explores solutions to the top public policy issues facing the states in 2018 and beyond in the areas of budget and taxes, education, energy and environment, health care, and constitutional reform. The solutions identified are proven reform ideas that have garnered significant support among the states and with legislators.

Data versus Hype: How Ten Cities Show Sea Level Rise Is a False Crisis
Dennis E. Hedke, a geophysicist and past president of the Geophysical Society of Kansas and the Kansas Geological Society, reports and analyzes real data collected from 10 coastal cities with long and reliable sea-level records in this NIPCC Policy Brief. Those cities are Ceuta, Spain; Honolulu, Hawaii; Atlantic City, New Jersey; Sitka, Alaska; Port Isabel, Texas; St. Petersburg, Florida; Fernandina Beach, Florida; Mumbai/Bombay, India; Sydney, Australia; and Slipshavn, Denmark. He concludes the fear of rising sea levels is not a justification for reducing carbon-dioxide emissions or adopting policies that would have that effect.

Overheated: How Flawed Analyses Overestimate the Costs of Climate Change
Oren Cass of the Manhattan Institute examines a set of studies the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Government Accountability Office have used to estimate the costs of human-caused climate change for the United States by the end of the 21st century. The costs include deaths from extreme heat, lost hours of work from extreme heat, and deaths from heat-caused air pollution. Cass finds temperature studies do not offer useful projections of deaths and lost hours of work for extreme heat or of deaths due to heat-caused air pollution in the United States. The projection of lower global economic output due to projected human-caused climate change is also flawed. Cass concludes temperature studies do not offer useful predictions of the future costs of projected human-caused climate change.

10,000 To 5,000 Years Ago, Global Sea Levels Were 3 Meters Higher, Temperatures 4–6° C Warmer
Climate alarmists persistently claim human-caused climate change is causing sea levels to rise to an unnatural degree. In response, No Tricks Zone has compiled a list of studies examining sea levels from around the world. Those studies show sea levels have varied radically since the end of the most recent ice age, often being several feet higher than at present. Studies show historic sea levels at locations around the globe have been much higher in recent history than now.

Will Global Warming Overflow the Chesapeake Bay?
This NIPCC Policy Brief finds flooding problems in the Chesapeake Bay region – Maryland and Virginia, in particular – are due not to sea-level rise, but to land subsidence. Author Roger H. Bezdek explains land subsidence and relative sea-level rise; discusses the causes of land subsidence in the Chesapeake Bay region; and points out the links between groundwater withdrawals and land subsidence.

Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming
In this book published by The Heartland Institute, authors Craig Idso, Robert M. Carter, and S. Fred Singer say the most important fact about climate science, which they say is often overlooked, is scientists disagree about the environmental impacts of the combustion of fossil fuels on the global climate. There is no survey or study showing “consensus” on the most important scientific issues, despite frequent claims by advocates to the contrary. Scientists disagree about the causes and consequences of climate for several reasons. The authors say the only “consensus” among climate scientists is human activities can have an effect on local climate and the sum of such local effects could hypothetically rise to the level of an observable global signal. The key questions to be answered, they say, are whether the human global signal is large enough to be measured, and if it is, does it represent or is likely to become a dangerous change outside the range of natural variability? On these questions, an energetic scientific debate is taking place on the pages of peer-reviewed science journals, say the authors.

Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science
Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science is an independent, comprehensive, and authoritative report on the current state of climate science, published in October 2013. It is the fourth in a series of scholarly reports produced by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, an international network of climate scientists sponsored by three nonprofit organizations: the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, the Science and Environmental Policy Project, and The Heartland Institute. (Also see the executive summary of Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science

Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts
Released on April 9, 2014, Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts is an independent, comprehensive, and authoritative report on the impacts of climate change on plants, terrestrial animals, aquatic life, and human well-being. (Also see the Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts “Summary for Policymakers”:


Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this subject, visit Environment & Climate News, The Heartland Institute’s website, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database.

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