California’s environmental bureaucracy took a series of huge, grinding steps forward last week, approving several measures that make the state an unquestioned world leader on climate policy. Exactly where that path is leading, however, remains unclear.
The state Air Resources Board and the Public Utilities Commission voted last Thursday and Friday to adopt a cap-and-trade system, approve a subsidy program for energy efficiency by major utilities and finalize regulations against diesel soot from trucks. In all these steps, what was left to do later is almost as revealing – and important – as what was done.
As politicians around the nation become increasingly hesitant about taking action against global warming, California is pushing ahead this week with two much-awaited steps that will have broad implications for climate policies at home and elsewhere.
The decisions by state regulators in separate meetings Thursday amount to the grand unveiling of California's climate strategy after years of debate and exhaustive policy-crunching.
The is scheduled to answer the central question of the state's previously announced cap-and-trade emissions program – whether the largest polluting industries are to be given emissions credits for free, whether they must buy them at auction, or some combination of the two.
The will decide whether to grant large subsidies to the state’s utility companies for cutting their customers’ energy use even though those savings appear to have been far less than projected.