Suppose we get a pro-climate-action unified government. What then?
Someday, the stars will surely come into alignment and Congress will be able to pass climate legislation. A national cap-and-trade scheme or a carbon tax would be definite possibilities. But let’s suppose they aren’t politically feasible, maybe because of opposition from progressive on equity grounds, or maybe because for some reason the public rejects them. What are the other options? Here are some thoughts:
- Existing ideas. Two ideas that are already on the table are an increase in the gas tax and a national renewable portfolio standard, requiring a minimum percentage of electricity come from renewables in every state. Both good ideas, though the gas tax might be difficult politically.
- Codify Obama’s Initiatives. Follow the lead of the Obama Administration, providing explicit statutory mandates to support the Clean Power, reductions in methane emissions, bans on mountaintop coal mining, CCS with all new and so forth.
- Strengthen federalism. Authorize states to require imported goods (including electricity and fuels)) comply with the state’s carbon regulations based their full lifecycle from production to use or disposal. Also provide that FERC preemption will not apply to any state climate change policy.
- Promote electrification. Expand the approach of the Clean Power Plan, so that in regulating any industry’s emissions of any kind, EPA could consider mandating changes in fuel sources or electrification combined with carbon-free sourcing of power. Also, create a mandate for electrical vehicles.
- Deal with Vehicle Pollution. Create a permanent preemption waiver for all California restrictions on carbon emissions from vehicles (subject to wide limits to prevent abuse). Impose an emissions mandates or vehicles in 2030. And require emissions testing of diesel trucks at weigh stations. Permanently end federal funding of new or expanded limited access highways – we have enough freeways.
This list doesn’t include spending measures. There’s a lot Congress could do there – just look at the stimulus funding after the crash. And ramping up funding for innovative energy technologies (ARPA-E) may even have bipartisan support.