Arnold Schwarzenegger says as California goes with a ruinous cap-and-trade scheme, so the nation should follow. Fresh from crushing “greedy Texas oil companies” and seeing his political enemies driven before him, the exiting governor’s plan for an encore is to export his worst policy idea to the rest of the country.
Here are a few reasons why that’s unlikely to happen, but would be a bad idea if it did.
Just over 60 percent of Golden State voters said “no” to Prop. 23 on Election Day. The ballot measure would have suspended California’s “Global Warming Solutions Act,” a.k.a. AB 32, which requires Californians to slash greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and another 80 percent by 2050. Those are wildly ambitious goals. And almost nothing—not a sluggish economy, a 12.4 percent state unemployment rate, a multibillion-dollar price tag, or mounting evidence the “green jobs” the law promises to create are illusory—seems capable of dissuading state officials (or voters, alas) from moving “full-speed ahead” toward implementing the law.
AB 32 doesn’t take full effect until 2012, but the state’s Air Resources Board is phasing in many of the law’s regulations this year and next. Although Schwarzenegger and other green jobs boosters talk loudly and often about the wonderful long-term effects of the law, the state’s Air Resources Board (CARB) has quietly admitted from time to time that AB 32 will be painful and costly in the here and now. Matter of fact, CARB will likely delay a new regulation requiring truckers to retrofit their exhaust pipes or buy new trucks because—surprise!—the rule is prohibitively expensive for most small- and mid-size companies to comply with in a down economy.
Yet as businesses founder, Schwarzenegger promotes his sweeping plans to impose unconscionable taxes and regulations from which other countries are wisely backing away. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Schwarzenegger remains wed to cap-and-trade.
“We’re going back to Washington to get this jump-started again,” Schwarzenegger told reporters last week. “The Democrats can’t do it without the Republicans. We’ve got to get together to find the sweet spot.”
Oh, please. Cap-and-trade couldn’t get traction with a Congress controlled by Democrats. A Republican House and a slightly less Democratic Senate are no more likely to advance so foolhardy an agenda.
Lest anyone think Arnold is doing this for the good of the planet, he candidly admits his crusade is really about burnishing one of the few accomplishments of his administration. “I hate being beaten in anything. For my ego, it was also very important,” Schwarzenegger said. Defeating Prop. 23, he said, “protects one of my legacies I’m very proud of.”
AB 32 was and remains Arnold’s worst idea, one that Californians will have to live with long after Schwarzenegger has gone back to Hollywood. Exporting California’s greenhouse gas law to the rest of the country, however, would be even worse. America could endure Hercules in New York, Raw Deal, and even the horrors of Terminator 3: Judgment Day. But not this. No, not this.