Yesterday the California legislature reached agreement on a deal to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Here’s how the Washington Post introduced the story:
In stark contrast to the Bush administration’s consistent opposition to mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change, California’s bill requires its industrial sectors to cut the state’s carbon dioxide pollution by 25 percent in order to bring it back to 1990 levels by the year 2020. Other states may soon follow suit, which could put pressure on federal officials to create a national system capping emissions and allowing companies to trade pollution credits.
"It really does point out the country needs to solve this problem in a uniform way," said William Reilly, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency under President George H.W. Bush and now co-chairs the bipartisan National Commission on Energy Policy. "It will rebound in Washington. The country’s largest state is setting a new standard for the climate issue."
The Post also noted that part of the deal is a provision to require out-of-state energy producers to reduce emissions if they wish to send energy to California, to prevent the exporting of pollution. This is an important part of the story that has not gotten much attention; more soon, I hope, especially if I can do anything about it.
The Wall St. Journal [$] made an interesting point about the deal between the Republican governor and the Democratic legislature:
One reason Gov. Schwarzenegger ended up agreeing to the bill was that some of California’s business community supported it. He began tipping his support toward the bill after a delegation of executives from Silicon Valley last week told him many businesses wanted the bill as a way to provide them regulatory certainty and for other reasons, say lobbyists in the statehouse.
"This bill provides a new opportunity here in California," said Bob Epstein, cofounder of Sybase Inc., a software maker in Dublin, Calif., and a leader of a group that represents businesses that support environmental action.
The deal is a big step forward. Predictably, fossil fuel groups are not happy, but California has a long and honorable history of leading the nation on air pollution regulation. California now has more than twice as many vehicles registered in the state than it did in l970, but overall ozone levels are less than one-fourth of what they were back in the days before catalytic converters were required and inspections were mandated, and gee, you don’t see any tumbleweeds blowing down Wilshire Boulevard.
As Kevin Drum points out, the cap-and-trade market-based system this regulation implies hasn’t yet been codified, but still deserves support on the left.
Reaction on the right has been gloomy: Dan Walters of the Modesto Bee claims it’s "mostly symbolic" because India and China are not part of the deal. To which the logical reaction is surely: Well, duh!
When was the last time the California legislature made policy for China? And if you believe, as most Californians do, that reducing emissions is an important goal, we need to act for our own sake and to avoid hypocrisy when asking for changes from others.
But doomiest of all is the reliably whack Iain Murray of the National Review, who declares that "what California has done today…is to decide to join the Third World."
Right. The sixth-largest economy in the world, bigger than China by most estimates, even though China has about one billion residents, and California has about thirty million, is headed for economic chaos and disintegration because we are going to ask power plants and factories to provide data on their CO2 emissions and then find ways to reduce those levels.
Where is that famous conservative optimism now?