It’s that time of year again. Earth Day. The 2010 edition marks the 40th anniversary. If Congress wants to score some environmental and economic “green” for the planet, it should declare its intention to let the states address climate change.
More than half the states have climate action plans to reduce carbon that would put them on a par with nations that are implementing the Kyoto protocol. While Congress dithers over whether to create a cap-and-trade system, cap-and-dividend, or carbon tax, ten Northeastern states already participate in a cap-and-trade system that covers power plants, while twenty more are working to design an economy-wide market to do likewise.
And when the feds empower states to be living policy laboratories, good things happen for the planet and the pocketbook. The Clean Air Act, passed the same year as the first Earth Day, recognized that California was already regulating pollution and allowed states to copy those policies when they exceeded federal programs. Fifty times since then, California got ahead of the feds with things like catalytic converters on cars and measures that made industry cleaner and more efficient — reducing pollution, but in 100 percent of the cases, also saving money for business and consumers in the process. And in each case, a growing number of states followed until the rules were “federalized," the latest example being California’s carbon emissions limits on cars, which will save motorists money on fuel while meeting environmental goals simultaneously.