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California’s Energy and Climate Agenda: Visionary Leader or Cautionary Tale? California’s Energy and Climate Agenda: Visionary Leader or Cautiona...

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California’s Energy and Climate Agenda: Visionary Leader or Cautionary Tale?


The Ivanpah solar plant in California's Mojave Desert is slated to start generating electricity for 140,000 homes next year.(Amy Harder)

LOS ANGELES—Should the United States adopt the ambitious renewable-energy and climate-change policies that California is pursuing?

On one front, the federal government is already following in California's footsteps. In 2009, President Obama enacted ambitious fuel-economy standards that were modeled largely off what the Golden State had done in its transportation sector.


But California is doing much more than that, establishing policies the federal government could in theory adopt on the national level. The state has an economy-wide cap-and-trade system, a low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) for its transportation sector, and a 33 percent renewable-portfolio standard (RPS) for its electricity sector.

The Obama administration has tried but failed to pass national policies through Congress that mirror two of these policies, a cap-and-trade system and RPS. Congress doesn't seem poised to entertain a cap-and-trade system or RPS anytime soon, but some lawyers say the administration could do even more than it's doing on its own. A legal challenge is pending before the Environmental Protection Agency to urge it to adopt a national low-carbon fuel standard.

To what extent, if at all, should the United States adopt policies that California—the eighth-largest economy in the entire world—is pursuing? What lessons being learned on the West Coast right now could help the federal government in its pursuit of a lower-carbon energy policy?


What other Golden State policies apart from its cap-and-trade, LCFS, and RPS initiatives should the federal government consider adopting on a national level?

Or, should California's ambitious energy and climate agenda serve as an example of why the country should not adopt such policies? Why?

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