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California Moves to Be First State to Limit Greenhouse Gases

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic lawmakers reached a landmark agreement on a bill requiring companies to cut output of greenhouse gases by 25 percent by 2020. Experts discuss the national implications of California's move to curb emissions.

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    California's action puts the state at the forefront of government efforts to cut down on greenhouse gases. This is the first broad, statewide cap on emissions in the country.

    The bill mandates that industries, such as electric power plants, oil refineries, cement factories, reduce emissions by 25 percent over the next 14 years. The California Air Resources Board, the state agency that oversees clean air rules, will come up with the details of the plan and enforce it.

    Will California's new policy push the rest of the country? We get two perspectives. David Montgomery is vice president of CRA International, an economic consulting firm. His work focuses on energy and environmental issues.

    And Dan Lashof, science director for the Natural Resources Defense Council's climate center.

    And, Dan Lashof, here we have California moving in a big way. When a state regulates the environment inside its own borders, how does that affect other states and what decisions they make?

  • DAN LASHOF, Natural Resources Defense Council:

    Well, Ray, this is a historic development. California is the 12th largest source of global warming pollution in the world, and they've established the first statewide enforceable limits on global warming pollution. That's going to drive investment in new technology in California that will have an effect, not just in California, but nationwide and, indeed, globally.

    And there's no question that other states look to California as a model, are likely to adopt similar programs. We know already that Oregon and Washington have an agreement in the West Coast Governor's Agreement to work together with California. We can expect them to adopt something similar.

    Other states have a similar processes under way to develop programs to combat global warming. So Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, states along the northeast, will all look to this legislation as it's implemented and are likely to adopt similar measures. And the federal government, as well, will very likely end up adopting a program very similar to this.


    David Montgomery, do you share Dan Lashof's assessment that this is a big deal? And what do you think the impact will be on other states?

  • DAVID MONTGOMERY, CRA International:

    I share Dan's assessment that it's a big deal; there's no question that it is. California is a large and important part of the economy. But I think it's a big deal for California because this is likely to impose some severe costs on the California economy and may not actually accomplish very much, in terms of dealing with the real problems of global warming and greenhouse gas emissions.

    Those are global problems. A ton of carbon dioxide coming out of China has exactly the same effect on global warming and the state of California as a ton that comes out of California. That means approaching global warming and managing those risks really is a problem that requires international action and action by all countries.

    The countries that matter most are really the developing countries, because they're going to be responsible for most of the greenhouse gas emissions that we see over the next century. And California's emission reductions that would come out of this program are just a drop in the bucket compared to what would be needed from those countries in order to put the world on a course toward really managing greenhouse gas risks.

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