California dreaming

September 05, 2006

For better, and sometimes worse, trends tend to start in California and wash east across the nation. Unlike some regrettable fashion choices, though, if the Golden State's decision last week to put sharp curbs on carbon dioxide emissions inspires copycats, that would definitely be for the better.

In fact, the best result would be quick adoption in Washington of the California model for reducing greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming so emission rules would apply nationwide. Enacting such a program would be a splendid goal for President Bush's final two years in office.

Mr. Bush would doubtless have a rougher go of it than Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was presented with the California measure by a Democratic legislature far more environmentally sensitive than Congress. Still, it was the Republican governor who a year ago set the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Further, he negotiated with lawmakers to produce a flexible measure that would allow polluters to trade emission credits as long as the overall target is met.

More than a half-dozen other states, including Maryland, are also moving to curb carbon dioxide emissions. Business leaders as well as environmental and health advocates see advantages in cleaner air as well as money to be made from the new technologies that will have to be developed.

The best argument for national legislation comes from critics of the California bill who say polluting businesses will simply move to more friendly states, taking their jobs with them as they continue to pollute.

But if national standards aren't set soon, the movement will continue to build regionally and perhaps even internationally.

Darn hard to stop those California trends.

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