California Raises $233 Million to Not Cut Pollution

Cap and trade auction serves goal of giving state more money, not any environmental purpose


In the private sector, success is often likened to "selling lemonade at a track meet." But in the upside-down public sector, the California Air Resources Board auctioned $233 million of pollution permits on Nov. 14 — and got nothing for it. Such a deal.

Pollution will not be reduced in California. Yet that was labeled a "success" by CARB Chair Mary Nichols.

Industries and public utilities bought 23.1 million pollution permits rather than reduce so-called toxic emissions.  Most people would call that a failure — unless the unstated goal is "tax farming" (private tax collection) rather than reducing air pollution.

The Nov. 14 auction was the first ever under CARB's Cap and Trade program, which was authorized under Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. AB 32 requires excessive air polluters to buy emission permits in an auction from those industries and utilities that pollute less than their pollution quota. The rules of Cap and Trade apply first to large industries; and by 2015 to utilities, including local municipal water and power departments. Eventually, 360 industries and utilities will be subject to Cap and Trade rules.