If China Can Cap-and-Trade Auto Fuel, Why Can’t We?

Bloomberg reported earlier this week that:

China will soon unveil a mandatory cap-and-trade credit program for electric cars, starting the countdown for carmakers to be in compliance with stricter rules on emissions and fuel economy.

It’s pretty well known that China is not the world’s most transparent government.  Thus, I won’t fully believe until I see it.  On the other hand, it does seem pretty clear that China is intent on cracking down on motor vehicle pollution.  The article notes that China will be setting a deadline for a prohibition on sales of fossil-fueled powered cars.

All of which makes me ask:  If China can do it, why not us?

The Northeast already has RGGI.  Massachusetts just further tightened emissions on power plants.  All this notwithstanding that transportation now generates approximately twice the CO2 emissions as electric power generation.  When my clients in the generation biz ask me why they keep being targeted, notwithstanding that transportation and, to a lesser extent, buildings, have thus far largely been spared, I have a simple answer.

Electric generation may no longer be low-hanging fruit, but it’s still the lowest hanging fruit.  Transportation is hard and regulators will almost always take the easy way out.  Is that a legitimate excuse?  No.  If California can do it – and China can do it! – then we can do it.  More to the point, if we don’t do it, we’ll fail.  We might be able to reach 2020 GHG reduction targets solely on the back of electric generation, but we’re never going to make the 2050 target, or interim targets after 2020, if we don’t tackle the higher-hanging fruit.

To end on an optimistic note, the Statehouse News Service (subscription required) reported today that the Baker administration:

plans to tackle the thorny issue of extracting additional emission reductions from the transportation sector.

Let’s hope so.

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