A recent poll of registered voters in California concerning the new State “Cap and Trade” auction program, initiated Wednesday, November 14, 2012, and aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions found strong public support for the program. As set forth in more detail in the Aviation & Airport Development Law News blog of November 13, 2012, the Cap and Trade program assigns “caps” to carbon emissions (euphemistically called “allowances”) for various industries, including utilities and refineries. It then allows those companies who have not used the full allotment of allowances to sell their unused allowances to companies that have expended their own allowances. Effectively, the program would create industry-wide caps on emissions, with flexibility within industry groups as to the way in which to utilize the allowances within the constraint of the caps. The political significance of the Cap and Trade program as one of the first of its kind in the nation goes well beyond the simplicity of its procedure.
Needless to say, some industry segments such as utilities strongly object to the program as an additional expense in an already trying economy. Only three days after the program’s launch, the public, however, appears to see it differently. In a statewide poll of registered voters conducted by the USC Dornsife School and the Los Angeles Times, 63% said that the law is needed to, among other things, compensate companies that produce energy from renewable sources and reduced dependence on foreign oil.
The political contest over the program is crystalized in the contrary interpretations of the results of the poll by Republican and Democratic pollsters. Republicans, on the one hand, see the results through the prism of the economy. They rely on the views of the 32% of the voters not favoring the program, on the ground that its expense may potentially be harmful to the economy. Democrats, on the other hand, interpret the results as a mandate in favor of clean energy as a driver of the economy. The success of the program in capping costs as well as carbon will ultimately prove which view prevails, although the controversy promises to continue as a focus of partisan political rhetoric, at least in the short term.