New plan to fight greenhouse gas emissions


California's plan to fight global warming depends on forcing oil and gas refineries to produce less-polluting fuels, utility companies to generate a third of their electricity from renewable sources and auto companies to make cleaner-burning cars.

The ambitious plan is spelled out in the California Air Resources Board's draft of how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by the year 2020.

The plan also relies on a cap-and-trade program where the state's major polluters would be allowed to buy emissions credits from cleaner companies.

"The reality of our situation is that there is no single, simple answer. We need everyone to be part of the solution. We're going to need to use every policy tool in our toolbox," said Mark Nichols from California Air Resources Board.

The plan sets forth the goals outlined in the landmark global warming law Governor Schwarzenegger signed in 2006.

Since transportation accounts for 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, some of the ideas encourage people to drive their cars less by:

  • Having them move closer to public transportation or work.
  • Implementing congestion pricing, where it's more expensive to use a bridge or toll road during peak hours.
  • Offering Pay-As-You-Drive car insurance, where premiums are broken down into per-mile charges.

    Overall, energy companies are predicting their prices will go up because they'll pass on their extra costs to meet the state's tougher standards.

    "Anything that we do on transportation fuels, on electricity, or natural gas that tries to reduce emissions, there's always a cost associated with any regulatory program," said Cathy Reheis-Boyd from Western State Petroleum Association.

    This is just a draft plan. It launches what'll likely be many months of haggling between interest groups. The Air Resources Board has until the end of 2010 to finalize the details.

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