Whether Republican state leaders like it or not, the Environmental Protection Agency is going to require them to cut their states’ greenhouse-gas emissions. They can choose to do it the easy way or the hard way. One Virginia Republican is proposing they choose the easy way – and the smart way.
Starting next year, the EPA will demand that every state’s power sector meet specific emissions targets, with the goal of cutting the electricity industry’s national carbon footprint by 30 percent of 2005 levels by 2030. But states have flexibility about how they comply with the EPA’s mandate. They can choose traditional, command-and-control regulation that imposes changes on power plants, promotes renewables or cuts electricity waste. Or they can take a more efficient, market-based approach that would cost less money, require less hassle and raise revenue for the state. Del. Ronald A. Villanueva, R-Virginia Beach, has a bill that would do the latter.
The bill would have Virginia join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a nine-state emissions-cutting pact that predated the EPA’s climate regulations. Participating states set an emissions cap that applies to all of them. Industries that want to emit greenhouse gases have to buy a permit to do so. Permits currently sell at around $5 for a ton of CO2. The program encourages those who can cheaply cut back on their emissions to do so while allowing others to pay for the privilege of polluting. Market forces drive change rather than the government making decisions for businesses and consumers. As with any market, the bigger the market for carbon permits is, the more efficiently it operates, making a regional scheme better than a similar state-based program.
In other words, putting an effective price on carbon dioxide across a large number of states is the conservative, market-based approach to climate change.