Just before the new year, the Washington Post ran a surprisingly conflicted editorial on California’s cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions. It endorsed the use of pricing as the most efficient approach to regulate carbon, suggested that it might be ineffective anyway because California is initially acting alone, and expressed criticism because California is not doing more of it – that is, putting a price on carbon emissions in place of other regulations and policies.
California’s regulations predate the trading program and will remain effective if other elements of California’s policies are struck down by the courts or eroded by opportunistic neighbors. Regulations in California broke ground for the nation in promoting renewable energy, mandating efficiency in buildings and cars, and increasingly in land use planning. Altogether these initiatives (more so than even expanded natural gas supply) have put the U.S. pledge to reduce emissions by 17 percent by 2020 within reach.
Hopefully the next step is for other states, or preferably the federal government, to follow the lead of California and the northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative trading programs by introducing a price on carbon. In the meantime we count on regulation to make progress.
Dallas Burtraw has served on California’s Economic and Allocation Advisory Committee advising the Governor’s office and the Air Resources Board on implementation of the state’s climate law. -ed