California Passes Cap and Trade. Now What?


When the eighth largest economy in the world, and one that happens to occupy a large portion of the western U.S. coastline, adopts a groundbreaking set of rules, you would think that would get a lot of attention. Yet, after the California Air Resources Board's landmark decision on October 20 to adopt the first of its kind in the U.S. economy-wide cap and trade rules for the state, the occasion seemed to prompt little notice.

It wasn't until nearly five days after CARB's action that a San Francisco Chronicle editorial cautiously praised the move: "There is nothing simple about the cap-and-trade approach. There will be a need to tinker and adjust a complex answer to the world's worst environmental problem. But at a time when other governments are hiding from reality, California has shown a willingness to lead." Anne Carlson in the Legal Planet: Environmental Law and Policy blog was more effusive, calling CARB's leadership on the issue "extraordinary," and concluding: "It’s common place to attack government as inefficient, bloated and even corrupt and California itself has borne more than its share of attacks as a place where government has gone awry. CARB defies those characterizations. Corny as it sounds, I’m proud today to be a Californian." But the Climate Progress blog only included the adoption in its daily news summary, while devoting a lengthy column to an analysis of media coverage about Solyndra and several posts about the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

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