The Washington Post on California’s Cap and Trade Program

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

About Dallas Burtraw

Dallas Burtraw is one of the nation’s foremost experts on environmental regulation in the electricity sector. For two decades, he has worked on creating a more efficient and politically rational method for controlling air pollution. He also studies electricity restructuring, competition, and economic deregulation. He is particularly interested in incentive-based approaches for environmental regulation, the most notable of which is a tradable permit system, and recently has studied ways to introduce greater cost-effectiveness into regulation under the Clean Air Act.

Views expressed above are those of the author. Resources for the Future does not take institutional positions on legislative or policy questions. All information contained on Common Resources is intended for informational and educational purposes and may only be used for these purposes. Please see RFF's Terms of Use for further information.

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