Changing the World

CHANGING THE WORLD….Ron Brownstein suggests today that “President Bush could discover something important if he puts down his talking points long enough during his trip to California this weekend.” That’s obviously not likely to happen, but the rest of Brownstein’s column shows what Bush could learn if he had the political courage to buck the corporate interests that bankroll the Republican Party and propose real change:

Across each critical choice in the energy debate, California represents the path not taken in Washington.

….[Arnold] Schwarzenegger recently implemented a requirement that California utilities generate at least 20% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2010; he wants to raise the mandate to 33% by 2020.

California…has passed legislation requiring automakers to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their vehicles. That would require the companies to achieve engineering efficiencies that could also improve fuel economy and encourage more use of alternative fuels….Two Democrats, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez of Los Angeles and Assemblywoman Fran Pavley of Agoura Hills, have introduced legislation that would meet Schwarzenegger’s goals by limiting greenhouse gas emissions through a “cap and trade” system beginning in 2012.

….Two economic assumptions guide the California Idea. One is that the energy mandates will create a mass market that lowers the price for clean technologies like solar electricity or ultra-low-emission cars. The mandates “say everybody is going to have to do this, and that spurs the mass production that brings the price down,” says Terry Tamminen, Schwarzenegger’s special advisor for energy and the environment.

The second assumption is that the mandates will help California capture a leading share of the jobs and investment created by the transition to a clean-energy economy. The requirements on renewable energy, tailpipe emissions and potentially on greenhouse gases will create enormous demand in the state for new products and processes ? from solar energy to biofuels to the retrofitting of manufacturing plants. And that should encourage many of the companies meeting that demand to locate in California.

We could do this and much, much more on a national level if we had leaders with real courage. It would be good for the economy, good for the country, and good for the world. It’s striking that that just isn’t enough to get things done these days.