Clean cars, renewable energy and strict limits on heat-trapping greenhouse gas pollution.
California took a step into the future Thursday, as its Air Resources Board announced the details of its plan to cut carbon dioxide pollution by 10% by 2025.
The importance of this kind of initiative can't be understated. With every week, it seems, comes a new scientific analysis stating that global warming will have costly and deadly effects in the United States and around the world. In some cases, the worst-case scenarios are playing out, or the expected effects are occurring decades earlier than predicted. Even the Bush Administration, which has opposed binding limits on greenhouse gas pollution, recently acknowledged the serious threat global warming poses to North America in the form of extreme weather, from drought to flood to severe storms and wildfire.
While other states and regional state coalitions have announced their own plans to limit carbon dioxide pollution in an effort to reduce their contribution to global warming, California's is the most extensive plan on the books, affecting nearly every part of the economy. Ultimately, every state, and the nation as a whole, will enact rules of this kind, or something similar.
That means that California industries are likely to be the leaders in renewable and alternative energy for years to come. They are likely to make the most profits developing the most innovative solutions.
California's global warming plan amounts to placing government's big paw on the gears that run the free market. It hasn't publicly estimated the cost to business or residents. For that reason, it gives the willies to many on the right side of the political spectrum.
But the government sets the rules for the market in myriad ways. This is America: Businesses will make money. They've been doing it by burning fossil fuels, and they'll do it without burning fossil fuels. Those that come up with the best solutions for carrying on with low-carbon solutions will make the most profits.
California's industries will be leaders across the nation as the United States sets rules to limit global warming. California estimates these new rules will ultimately add about 1% to the economy and save consumers on electricity and fuel costs through increased efficiency. (According to the analysis of two nonprofit groups, NRDC and Redefining Progress, the new rules could also save lives, prevent illness and save as much as $5 billion in health care costs by reducing air pollution.)
Those businesses that take advantage will be thanking state leaders for making them more competitive by setting the rules of the low-carbon game clearly and so early on.
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