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That’s the question I examine in the newest installment of my column for Hoover’s Defining Ideas. California has recently enacted a series of carbon regulations so sweeping that they have the practical effect of regulating behavior throughout the nation. As I note in the column, it is, in my judgment, time for this issue to be heard by the Supreme Court.
The reason this case is so important is that California’s regulations essentially usurp the powers of the federal legislative branch. As I argue:
California does not have a monopoly on the complex schemes for well-to-wheel system of taxation. Nor is it clear that it has chosen the best regime for this purpose. The California tax could distort market behavior out of state, while inviting great confusion and uncertainty under some “internal consistency” test if other states choose different but permissible variations on the same theme. Their cumulative weight could paralyze the entire system of interstate transportation. The point is especially salient here because any dangers from carbon dioxide emissions are not confined to this or that state, but are always national, indeed global, in their consequences. That simple fact makes even national regulation difficult, and it renders local state-by-state regulation that much more mischievous.
Situations like this call for some uniform national rule that only Congress can provide. But Congressional decision could allow California … to bind the world. After all, only Congress can stop the proliferation of otherwise inconsistent state schemes to control carbon emissions.
Read the argument in full and let me know what you think.