California air regulators today announced a bold plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions that would alter the way utilities generate electricity, automakers build cars and developers construct buildings, and launch the nation's broadest market in carbon-credit trading [Los Angeles Times].
The 99-page document really marks the beginning of negotiations over the finer policy details; that debate will continue until the end of 2010. One point of contention is the state's proposal to force automakers
to curb emissions of greenhouse gases from new California vehicles more quickly than required under federal mileage standards – a proposal currently blocked by the Bush administration [Sacramento Bee].
A broader issue is how the plan will affect consumers if electric utilities and oil refineries pass along the increased cost of doing business in the state. California's regulators optimistically say that
by inducing energy efficiency and the development of alternatives to oil and coal, the savings from the program "will, on the whole, outweigh the costs." They estimate the plan would expand the California economy about 1% beyond the level it otherwise would be in 2020. Beyond that, they expect the emission-cutting plan would spur further growth in California in businesses that develop cleaner technologies [The Wall Street Journal, subscription required].
The plan calls for a 28 percent cut in emissions by 2020 to bring emission levels down to what they were in 1990. More ambitiously, it calls for reducing emissions by 80 percent by 2050, a goal that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has endorsed; climate scientists say an 80 percent cut in global emissions by that date is necessary to avoid the worst effects of global warming.