Tuesday, December 4, 2007

California has the law, but what can they do with it?

California has a landmark law to reverse global warming; Governor Schwarzenegger hailed the law as an example for the rest of the country. But is the world, or even California, now safe from the inevitable climate changes that the planet has experienced throughout its history and existence?

The governor has promoted the state as a world leader in reducing greenhouse gases, praising the law as a template for the nation and other countries to follow as they seek ways to reverse global warming. Even now Hawaii and New Jersey are ready to follow California and Congress, led by Democrats, is considering basing a federal law on California’s version.

Everything is hunky dory for the environmentalists; the law is in place, the only problem is “what do we do now”?

"We're trying to figure out how in the world we're going to make this work," said Catherine Reheis-Boyd, chief operating officer at the Western States Petroleum Association. "There's too much at stake here to do it wrong."

What is “at stake”; well only the entire economy of a state with a population of 37 million and whose economy is larger than most countries of Europe.

California is the world's 12th largest producer of greenhouse gases and the new law is expected to affect about 800 manufacturing facilities. Major industries including utilities, oil and gas refineries, large manufacturers, timber companies and cement plants are required to collectively cut emissions over the next 13 years so the state can return to 1990 emission levels.

Air regulator experts (if there is such a thing) estimate greenhouse gas emissions will have to be reduced by 174 million metric tons but basic questions must be answered in order to implement the law; for example, are there tracking systems that can measure greenhouse gas emissions, can businesses determine what their emissions were in 1990, and how can the state verify emission cuts as they occur.

It is also nuclear whether companies will be given credit for programs to reduce emissions that were, or would be, started before the emission caps take effect in 2012, leaving the state just eight years to reduce emissions to 1990 levels.

"What's a company to do today? Should they go ahead and do emission reductions?" said Dorothy Rothrock, vice president of the California Manufacturers and Technology Association. What about companies that are unable to reduce emissions; will they have to shut down and what will happen to the people they employ?

California's utilities and factories are among the country's most efficient electricity producers and users, largely due to the state's high cost of energy. California's utilities use more cleaner-burning natural gas, hydroelectricity and renewable sources than power plants in most other states which rely chiefly on coal. But California utilities still will be required to invest millions more to meet California's ambitious greenhouse gas emission targets.

Manufacturers have warned the law could put factories out of business and that the global warming law will only add to the price of doing business in a state already known for its high cost of doing business because of a strict regulatory environment.

California faces the prospects of lengthy and expensive litigation as businesses struggle to stay in business. And what does the State Air Resources Board chairwoman Mary Nichols say - "It's more complicated than anything we've had to do before, the state will be working through the challenges for years to come.”

One thing we can be sure about, ‘do gooder’ Democrats and environmentalists have no shortage of ideas to mess up the country, and unfortunately Governor Schwarzenegger has bought into their schemes.

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