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California unveils climate reforms

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Bob Moon: California has long led the country on the issue of climate change. Today, the state unveiled its blueprint for achieving huge cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

The big reductions are required under the state’s landmark climate change legislation passed back in 2006. The plan puts California in a league of its own when it comes to taking action on climate change.

From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Sam Eaton reports.

Sam Eaton: Putting the world’s tenth largest economy on a low carbon diet is no small task. Today’s plan for cutting California’s emissions to 1990 levels in 12 years hits nearly every sector of the economy.

A cap-and-trade system with other Western states would let businesses buy and sell the right to pollute. The plan would also create tougher efficiency standards for cars, fuels, appliances and buildings. High speed rail would provide an alternative to flying and utilities would have to generate a third of their electricity from renewable sources.

UC Berkeley’s Dan Kammen says that alone will spawn huge changes in California’s economic landscape.

Dan Kammen: It’s going to put a big premium on innovation to find ways not only to reduce energy use overall but also to make the technologies that we’re likely to be using in much larger amounts — solar, biofuel, wind — to make those absolutely as large a part of the economy going forward as possible.

That has many calling the plan a boon rather than a burden to the state’s economy. California’s companies already receive about half of the nation’s total venture capital investments in clean technology, generating thousands of jobs. State officials say that number would skyrocket under a cap-and-trade system.

But Cathy Reheis-Boyd with the Western States Petroleum Association says there’s a tradeoff:

Cathy Reheis-Boyd: You may gain jobs in the green technology area but you have to weigh that against people who are currently employed in all the existing businesses that reside and have made this state what it is today.

She says if California forces the transition too quickly, many of the state’s biggest emitters will simply pick up and leave.

In Los Angeles, I’m Sam Eaton for Marketplace.

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