A promise of big money has a way of quieting nagging questions.
So it is with California’s cap and trade program. The Air Resources Board is pressing ahead with the creation of a market to begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Answering doubters, the ARB estimates the state will receive $1 billion a year in revenue.
In this cash-strapped state, many interests have their hands out. Environmentalists see ways to fund their projects, legislators hope to use it to pay for their favored programs, and Gov. Jerry Brown envisions using the money to help to build high-speed rail.
True believers see cap and trade as the key to implementing AB 32, the landmark 2006 legislation intended to combat climate change. But it also is a gamble, one that could sidetrack the state from other important though less flashy efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In concept, cap and trade is simple enough. The Air Resources Board has identified 600 sources of air pollution in the state and has determined what their emission levels ought to be. That’s the “cap.”
Say an oil refinery exceeds its emission cap. The oil company could cut emissions or, more likely, buy credits from owners of other sources of pollution who fall below their caps, or offset pollution from its refinery by, say, paying to protect forest land.