How Do We Stop California from Throwing Its Weight Around?

California is the American Left's biggest asset and its biggest liability. It is a liability because it clearly demonstrates to the world what unfettered "progressive" governance looks like: out-of-control crime, through-the-roof taxation, an inhumane regulatory regime, insane gas prices, the constant threat of blackouts, and a government so divorced from reality that it is unable to actually accomplish anything.

If you need proof on the last point, check out the New York Times' recent deep-dive into the state's "multi-billion-dollar nightmare" of a high-speed rail system, which has seen its cost projections rise from $33 billion to $113 billion, is currently costing $1.8 million a day, and which will almost certainly never be completed. And for all the Left's bellyaching about "income inequality," the Golden State is the poster child for that concept. As Victor Davis Hanson once wrote,

By many criteria, 21st-century California is both the poorest and the richest state in the union. Almost a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line. Another fifth is categorized as near the poverty level — facts not true during the latter 20th century. A third of the nation’s welfare recipients now live in California. The state has the highest homeless population in the nation (135,000). About 22 percent of the nation’s total homeless population reside in the state — whose economy is the largest in the U.S., fueling the greatest numbers of American billionaires and high-income zip codes.

Unsurprisingly, Californians of all political persuasions have been fleeing in droves, which has led to the state's losing a congressional seat (and therefore a vote in the electoral college) in the wake of the 2020 census. But even with that population shift, California is still the largest state in the union, the 400-poound gorilla of the U.S.A., which is why it remains an asset. It has the ability to throw a lot of weight around.

Sacramento's acting out again.

Case in point: this past August, the California Air Resources Board approved Governor Gavin Newsom's directive banning the sale of carbon-emitting (that is, gasoline- and diesel-driven) vehicles in the Golden State by the year 2035. This will have major repercussions for the automobile industry nationwide. Manufacturers, unwilling to be locked out of the California market and its 39 million perspective customers, will shift their development priorities towards EVs. So if this rule remains in effect, it will be increasingly difficult to purchase a non-E.V. as 2035 draws near.

There's another reason that California's environmental regulations is putting pressure on auto-manufacturers: in 2009 the state was granted a waiver by the Obama administration regarding the Clean Air Act which allows it to set harsher emissions limits than the national standard, an authority the Trump administration attempted to revoke and the Biden White House reestablished. Seventeen states have tied their emissions standards to California's, with New York State recently taking the plunge. New York governor Kathy Hochul said that, in light of government subsidies for charging stations and vehicles themselves, “you will have no more excuses” not to buy an E.V. The Wall Street Journal's editorial board correctly translates this sentiment: "You will have no more choice."

One state, at least, is trying to abstract itself from this scheme. Virginia signed onto Sacramento's emissions standards in 2021, under former governor Ralph Northam. That same year saw the election of Governor Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, whose tenure in office has seen him declare war on the destructive policies of his predecessor. He has signed executive orders banning Critical Race Theory, rescinding the state's school mask mandate, and beginning the process of withdrawing Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (another plot to remove environmental regulation from the realm of democratic oversight). And now he's turned his attention towards bringing emissions standards back home to Richmond.

Youngkin's 2022 state energy plan, released earlier this month, called on state legislators to reverse the alignment with California, and Republicans in the GOP-controlled House of Delegates of delegates are answering the call. Any repeal, however, will have to make it through the state senate, where the Democrats are in the majority.

Still, we wish Governor Youngkin well in his efforts, along with the attorneys general of the seventeen Republican-led states which are currently suing the Environmental Protection Agency in the hopes of getting the Golden State's Clean Air Act waiver revoked. After all, if Leftists are successful in turning the whole country into California, there will be nowhere left to flee to.

'Reggie,' We Hardly Knew Ye

Virginia’s incoming Republican governor is promising a big lump of coal for global warming alarmists this new year season as he plans to set fire to some of the financial infrastructure that is helping to keep irrational fear of the earth’s natural weather patterns alive. Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has said he will extract Virginia from the jaws of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an 11-state regional carbon emissions-trading scheme.

The RGGI is a “carbon tax” paid by energy consumers, Youngkin said in promising an executive order pulling the state out of the interstate compact that created it. “RGGI will cost ratepayers over the next four years an estimated $1 billion to $1.2 billion,” he said. “RGGI describes itself as a regional market for carbon, but it is really a carbon tax that is fully passed on to ratepayers. It’s a bad deal for Virginians. It’s a bad deal for Virginia businesses. And as governor I will withdraw us from RGGI by executive action.” His inauguration is January 15.

The RGGI –or “Reggie” to its friends— describes itself as “the first cap-and-invest regional initiative implemented in the United States,” and is based on the assumption that human beings are imbued with godlike powers to change the weather. Since we ourselves caused whatever perceived changes are taking place, we can undo them, these true believers say.

Or maybe it can.

In previous centuries some tried changing the weather using cheaper, equally effective means of climate control, such as rain dances and sacrificing animals to pagan gods. But heathen oblations don’t pay, so people involved in carbon-trading schemes steer clear of eminently more reasonable explanations for perceived changes in the world around us – such as that climate by its nature is always changing and that the sun is more culpable than human activity.

Youngkin’s remarks may have helped to torpedo –or at least slow down— leftist Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s efforts to get his energy-rich state to join RGGI. The state’s Republican-controlled House voted December 15 to block the state’s entry into RGGI. Party leadership correctly called the scheme an “ill-advised energy tax on Pennsylvanians.”

Those who don’t worship in the climate change cult say such a cap-and-trade system amounts to an energy tax in disguise, needlessly pushing up energy costs for American families and businesses alike. Such systems purport to reduce the quantity of carbon dioxide -- the gas we expel from our lungs every time we exhale and that in turn is released into the atmosphere and absorbed by trees -- and are premised on unscientific conjectures their adherents say prove that CO2 contributes to global warming.

The system caps CO2 emissions in each state, and when industry actors exceed the caps, they buy a license for a fee to produce that excess gas. These emission coupons, or credits, have a dollar value and can be traded; companies pass on the extra costs to their customers. In RGGI’s setup, utilities in the member states purchase credits to "offset" emissions that go beyond prescribed limits. Those revenues fund energy assistance handouts for poor people.

Republican state lawmakers in Richmond, who regained control of the House of Delegates from Democrats in the November election, promise to nix expensive green legislation passed by  Democrats. Let's see if Youngkin and the GOP come through for Virginia.