Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Red, blue and green

Different schemes by states to reduce greenhouse gases appear to break along political lines.

September 24, 2008

The future starts this week for Americans worried about pollution and climate change, with several Eastern and Western states launching key initiatives aimed at reducing greenhouse gases. Yet an odd dynamic is arising on this issue. In the absence of action from the federal government, states are teaming up for regional carbon-fighting schemes. And the map of the states involved looks a bit like the electoral map of the U.S., with the blue or bluish states leading the way as many red ones pretend the problem doesn't exist.

On Tuesday, the Western Climate Initiative released its design recommendations for a regional cap-and-trade program. This dull-sounding initiative actually promises to affect the lives of everyone in California and the other six Western states involved -- Oregon, Washington, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Montana, not to mention four Canadian provinces. Starting in 2012, these states will cap greenhouse gas emissions from a wide variety of sources (including transportation, industry and energy production) and set up a system for big polluters to buy and trade carbon credits, or allowances to pollute.

On Thursday, meanwhile, the further along but less ambitious Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative will conduct the first-ever U.S. auction of carbon credits. Ten Northeastern states are involved in this cap-and-trade scheme, which, unlike the broader Western project, involves only electricity plants. Participants are Democratic bastions or swing states such as New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey.

The Republican Party has for decades been hostile to environmental causes because of the costs they usually entail, but it could prove more expensive to ignore global warming than to respond to it. The California Air Resources Board recently released a study concluding that the state's economy will grow faster as a result of its mandate to dramatically reduce greenhouse gases, increasing our gross state product by $4 billion by the time the program is completed in 2020. The states that don't act now will be more susceptible to higher energy prices because they won't have become more energy efficient; they'll have higher health expenditures because of their dirtier air; and they'll have to buy technological innovations from states such as California, where they're being developed.

Fortunately for Republicans, party orthodoxy is starting to shift. GOP presidential candidate John McCain favors a national cap-and-trade program, and California's efforts to clean up are being led by our Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Meanwhile, six Midwestern states are also considering a regional carbon-cutting scheme called the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord. If the plan moves forward, the South would be the last major climate-change holdout. Luckily, as Neil Young might say, it's got the rest of the union to help it along.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|