There is one thing that is not up for discussion as Gov. Jerry Brown battles to win support for the extension of California’s cap-and-trade program: the flow of cap-and-trade funds to the bullet train.
“If that’s a killer for you, then you have a dead body,” Brown told this newspaper’s editorial board.
The governor is urgently pressing the Legislature to pass Assembly Bills 398 and 617, two bills that are the product of months of private negotiations to reauthorize the cap-and-trade program for an additional 10 years. It’s currently set to expire in 2020.
What’s the rush? Brown says the world is hurtling toward catastrophic climate change that will lead to 47 percent of the planet having temperatures of 130 or even 140 degrees, with suffering and migration that will destabilize the world. “It’s damn real,” he said.
For the sake of argument, let’s agree that climate change is happening, catastrophic and entirely our fault.
California accounts for only 1 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. We could shut down the entire state, turn off all the generators and shoot all the cows, and it would have absolutely no effect whatsoever on the global climate.
But the governor says California’s cap-and-trade program serves as a model for the world, inspiring other governments to adopt similar policies to reduce greenhouse gases.
The idea of cap and trade is that regulators place a statewide cap on greenhouse gas emissions and require permits for each ton of emissions that a facility produces. Some permits are given out at no charge, and the state holds back a large share of them to sell at quarterly auctions in order to raise revenue.
The revenue goes into the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, and the legislature spends the money on politically favored projects connected to the climate. The connection is sometimes thin.
As of January, according to the governor’s budget summary, $3.37 billion had been spent this way. Those billions of dollars were pulled from the pockets of people who were paying higher prices for everything manufactured or transported in California.
In 2016, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office said cap and trade had added 11 cents to the price of a gallon of gasoline, 13 cents to the price of diesel. Earlier this year, the LAO estimated that if the cap-and-trade program is extended for 10 years, it will add 63 cents to the cost of a gallon of gas in 2021, rising to 73 cents in 2031.
With its higher cost of…