California's Solar Babies

| Fri Sep. 15, 2006 10:59 AM EDT

There are many things not to like about California, and top of my list, right after the state's self-satisfaction, is its political dysfunction—recalls, referendums, propositions, and the perennial standoff between the governor and the state legislature.

However, as this great NYT story (with a lot of multimedia bells and whistles) demonstrates, California's politicians have put their differences aside to create a bold new carrot-and-stick approach to cut carbon dioxide emissions and energy usage.

That's the kind of leadership we wish could come from Congress or the Bush Administration. But if Arnold, democratic assemblywomen, greens, and even anti-regulatory entrepreneur T. J. Rodgers can get together to save the planet (and turn a profit in the process), maybe there's hope.

Points of interest:

California's per-person electricity usage has remained flat since the 1970s, while the national average has risen by 50%.

A quarter of new hybrids are registered in California, where car dealers report that SUVs are no longer selling well.

Car makers and even dealerships have sued the state, saying that its new law requiring them to reduce the average CO2 emissions in cars sold in California by 30 percent by 2009 (light trucks and SUVs have until 2016) amounts to a backdoor way to legislate fuel efficiency—which is, alas, a federal domain.

The Supreme Court will soon hear a case brought by Massachusetts and a dozen other states arguing that the EPA should declare CO2 a pollutant and regulate it, which, but of course, the Bush Administration claims it has no authority to do. (But you're The Decider!)

And Rudy Giuliani's firm is in the business of defending utilities from all this evil regulation:

Scott Segal, a lawyer for Bracewell & Giuliani who represents electric utilities, summarized California's policy as: "All electrons are not created equal. We're going to discriminate against some of them, and create artificial barriers in the marketplace for electricity." California consumers could end up paying more for their energy and struggling to find enough, Mr. Segal said.
Discriminating against electrons! Start the meme watch.