California’s economic suicide now includes cap-and-trade

One of the first opportunities facing Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., as he takes up the gavel as chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce will be to schedule hearings on the adoption last week by the California Air Resources Board of a Golden State-wide regime of cap-and-trade rules.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger departs Sacramento with approval ratings near the bottom of the barrel and clutching one so-called achievement: a cap-and-trade regime that regulates the emissions of 260 businesses operating 600 facilities. The Terminator leaves town with what is in essence a script for a very expensive comedy as his “legacy.”

The absurdity of a single state attempting to tackle climate control via the imposition of regulations on 600 facilities is wildly amusing. No one can argue that all the effort and all the costs, all the bureaucrats and all the rules will have any impact whatsoever on the climate.

Voters in the United States have come to the recognition that, even if Earth is warming, there is nothing the country can do to stop that rise in temperature as long as India and China remain committed to their development futures.

Thus no Democrat last year or in the coming year will run on the demand for a national cap-and-tax scheme. The demand for de-industrialization is a political death wish, and the departure of the Nancy Pelosi House buries cap-and-tax at the national level for as long as the GOP holds the House.

Sacramento’s political elite knows this, of course, and no reputable scientist will aver that this new single-state scheme will have any impact on global temperature at all. But the theater of California politics required that something be done.

So for the purpose of a pose, the country’s most important state economy is taking on a massive productivity-killing burden.

The new CARB regulations benefit lawyers like me who have served on a body like the South Coast Air Quality Management District Board, and consultants with friends in the pollution bureaucracies who can navigate the hallways to the right office where a friendly face can provide a permission slip of some sort for the right fee.

They also empower the business development arms of the various states now led by Republican legislative majorities and energetic, business-friendly governors.

The job-seeking professionals accompanied by their smiling, just-elected governors will be happy to set up appointments with the governor so that a side-by-side comparison of life under California’s new rules contrasts with life in, say, the Buckeye State.

Arnold’s “legacy” is thus a job-killing, metastasizing bureaucracy that accomplishes only the destruction of jobs without even a miniscule impact on the world’s climate.

Real estate agents across the Midwest, Texas and Florida will cheer Arnold as the best friend they ever had, and the once-great California economy will slip further into stories on Greece, Ireland and Spain.

Upton’s hearings might serve the high purpose of exploring how California’s economic suicide collides with the country’s best interests and the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, while also providing an opportunity to showcase his home state’s business-friendly new government. Watch that space.

Examiner Columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.

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