Over the last decade, northeastern states have built a track record of successful action to reduce global warming pollution. By working together across state lines and partisan divides—and developing innovative new policies to hasten the transition to a clean energy economy—the Northeast has succeeded in cutting emissions while safeguarding the region’s economic health.
Between 2000 and 2009, the 10 northeastern states1 that participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) cut per capita carbon dioxide emissions 20 percent faster than the rest of the nation—even as the region’s gross product per capita grew 87 percent faster than the rest of the United States. The region is on pace to achieve the ambitious emission reduction goals set over the last decade. Much more remains to be done to protect the region from the impacts of global warming, but the experience of the past decade provides hope that smart policies and an ethic of cooperation can result in a rapid reduction in global warming pollution even as the region’s economy continues to grow. Northeastern states have been pioneers in the effort to reduce fossil fuel pollution, leading the way in demonstrating effective policies to promote a clean energy economy and reduce emissions.
Global warming is happening now and its effects are being felt in the United States and around the world. Among the expected consequences of global warming is an increase in the heaviest rain and snow storms, fueled by increased evaporation and the ability of a warmer atmosphere to hold more moisture.
In Maine, storms with heavy rain or snow are happening 74 percent more frequently in Maine now than they were 65 years ago. In other words, an extreme rainstorm that used to hit Maine once every 12 months on average now occurs every 6.9 months on average. Scientists tell us that the trend toward heavier rainstorms is clearly linked to global warming.
America’s reliance on gasoline-powered vehicles has long contributed to air pollution, including global warming emissions, and our nation’s dependence on oil. In the past decade, however, the automobile market has begun to change, integrating new technologies that are dramatically less dependent on gasoline. Hybrid electric vehicles, powered in part by energy stored in a battery, have become increasingly popular.
Now, fully electric vehicles, with zero direct emissions, are emerging as a market-viable alternative to gasoline-powered vehicles. For the first time in the history of the modern automobile industry, vehicles that do not run on oil have started to appear on American roads, signaling the beginning of the end for the monopoly of the internal combustion engine.
Electric vehicles have arrived and will provide extensive environmental benefits. Increasing the number of electric vehicles on the road will yield even greater cuts in pollution and oil use.
Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Inc. appears to be reviving a previous pipeline plan that would take tar sands oil to central Canada and New England. In 2011, Enbridge took a step toward implementing this plan by filing a permit application with Canada’s National Energy Board to reverse the flow of a portion of one of its pipelines. Less than a year later, they took another step forward in May 2012 announcing their plan to fully reverse its pipeline through Ontario and Quebec. The long-term plan would reverse the direction of oil flowing through two major pipelines—Line 9 and the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line—along an approximately 750-mile route, running through central Canada and down to the New England seacoast for export. Under the plan, the pipeline would carry Canadian tar sands oil, the dirtiest oil on the planet.
As Mainers get ready for summer road trips, an Environment Maine Research & Policy Center report finds that cleaner, more fuel efficient cars would significantly slash oil consumption and global warming pollution across the state. The report, Summer on the Road: Going Farther on a Gallon of Gas, was released as the Obama administration is on the verge of finalizing fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards for cars and light trucks that achieve a 54.5 mpg standard by 2025.
Environment Maine Research and Policy Center is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.