California air quality regulators have established the nation’s first market-driven initiative to curb global warming that will affect Californians every time they pump gas, watch TV or take a shower. The “cap and trade” regulation finalized by the California Air Resources Board Thursday will set strict limits on industries that produce greenhouse gases linked to global warming, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune
The system, which will provide permits to pollute up to certain levels, rewards efficient businesses that are under the cap, allowing them to sell emission credits. Businesses that exceed their ceiling could buy those credits. The amount of allowable emissions, and accompanying pollution credits, would be gradually reduced over time.
Proponents say this will create a market-based incentive for reducing emissions, and regulators say some revenue from the state selling pollution credits will be disbursed to consumers in the form of direct dividend checks or other means.
Critics suggest the regulation amounts to a carbon tax when businesses and consumers can afford it the least. Critics also say it rewards polluters. Instead, they say the state should charge hefty fees for the permits.
Why now? The state contends that global warming threatens to disrupt climate patterns, resulting in longer dry spells, tinder-dry forests and rising sea levels.
But there is widespread acceptance that the new order will result in higher prices for fuel, electricity and water.
In San Diego there is a mix of companies that stand to either gain by more investment in energy-saving technology or lose because of bigger bills and more competition from unregulated companies elsewhere.
“It’s going to be expensive and difficult for them to implement,” Paul Webster, who tracks the regulation for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, told the Union-Tribune. “We are trying to make sure San Diego is an attractive place to do business… That’s not what we see in this forecast.”
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