- The Washington Times - Monday, August 26, 2002

President Bush rejected the Kyoto Global Warming Protocols, but California now has a law whose stated goal is to make California the front-runner in complying with them, anyway. It sets up a "voluntary" carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reporting system and registry, and provides for the granting of emission-reduction credits, a la Kyoto.
The Kyoto Protocols gave the Executive Board of the United Nation's Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) the authority to enforce greenhouse gas emission reductions. California-Kyoto gives quasi-enforcement authority to the State Air Resources Board.
Congress has already established with the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act a similar system for enforcing the reduction of sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was given the authority to allocate emission "rights" to operators of carbon-fuel plants.
Furthermore, Congress directed that EPA set up an emissions "cap-and-trade" system. If power plant operator Alpha needed to emit more sulfur dioxide than EPA allowed, he could with EPA's blessing buy the rights to emit more from operator Beta.
After being assigned his cap, Beta may have switched from coal to natural gas, which produces almost no sulfur dioxide when burned. After the switch, Beta has emission rights he no longer needs. So, with EPA's blessing, Beta can sell them to Alpha or to the highest bidder on the open market.
California-Kyoto focuses on operators of passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks who are allegedly responsible for approximately 40 percent of California's total annual greenhouse gas emissions. It turns out that, if Californians can cut their use of mobility carbon-fuels gasoline, diesel, methane, propane, methanol, ethanol by about two-thirds, Californians will be in compliance with California-Kyoto.
California-Kyoto requires the State Air Resources Board (SARB) to develop and adopt, by Jan. 1, 2005, regulations that will achieve "the maximum feasible reduction of greenhouse gases emitted by passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks."
Those mandated regulations are to apply only to those vehicles manufactured in the 2009 model year, and any model year thereafter. The purpose of California-Kyoto is apparently to force automakers to manufacture by 2009 vehicles that get three times the gas mileage that present models do. That is, if their present SUV gets 10 mpg, California-Kyoto wants the 2009 model SUV to get 30 mpg. Then, if driven the same distance, the new SUV will have only produced about a third as much CO2.
To encourage automakers to comply with California-Kyoto, a voluntary Kyoto-like CO2 emission-reduction credits cap-and-trade program will be established. Here's how it would work. Suppose automakers were able to turn pumpkins into fairy-tale SUVs that run on moonbeams. And suppose you replaced your 10 mpg SUV with one of these fairy-tale SUVs and drove it 10,000 miles a year. You would then have burned 1,000 fewer gallons of gasoline than if you had continued driving your old 10-mpg SUV. Under California-Kyoto, you came in under your "cap" and would receive "emission-reduction credits," which you could sell to some poor slob who bought a new SUV that didn't run on moonbeams.
Why would the poor slob buy your emission-reduction credits? Because the SARB regulators are considering among other things slapping a huge annual licensing tax on post-2008 vehicles, based upon the amount of carbon-fuel burned that year. But the tax could be offset with emission-reduction credits purchased from vehicle owners who came in under their cap.
Now, administering such a cap-and-trade system, involving millions of vehicle owners, would be almost impossible. So, the way the California-Kyoto cap-and-trade system is apparently going to work is that the automaker will get both the "cap" on its fleet of 2009 vehicles plus the "emission-reduction credits" for every fairy-tale SUV it sells. California-Kyoto will then allow the automaker to sell one 10 mpg SUV for every two fairy-tale SUVs. The "fleet average" for those three SUVs will be 30 mpg, three times what it is today.
But there are two problems.
First, not even your fairy godmother can turn pumpkins into SUVs that run on moonbeams. Automakers can't even double much less triple the mpg for a SUV. If automakers want to comply with California-Kyoto, they'll have to make mopeds rather than SUVs.
But the second is that the California-Kyoto system is at present "voluntary." Now, what automaker would voluntarily subject itself to such a system? Of course, if Gov. Gray Davis is re-elected, California-Kyoto's CO2 cap-and-trade program may not be voluntary for long.

Gordon Prather is a former national security adviser with several federal agencies, and he worked as a nuclear weapons specialist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory.

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