California’s Solar Babies

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There are many things not to like about California, and top of my list, right after the state’s self-satisfaction, is its political dysfunction—recalls, referendums, propositions, and the perennial standoff between the governor and the state legislature.

However, as this great NYT story (with a lot of multimedia bells and whistles) demonstrates, California’s politicians have put their differences aside to create a bold new carrot-and-stick approach to cut carbon dioxide emissions and energy usage.

That’s the kind of leadership we wish could come from Congress or the Bush Administration. But if Arnold, democratic assemblywomen, greens, and even anti-regulatory entrepreneur T. J. Rodgers can get together to save the planet (and turn a profit in the process), maybe there’s hope.

Points of interest:

California’s per-person electricity usage has remained flat since the 1970s, while the national average has risen by 50%.

A quarter of new hybrids are registered in California, where car dealers report that SUVs are no longer selling well.

Car makers and even dealerships have sued the state, saying that its new law requiring them to reduce the average CO2 emissions in cars sold in California by 30 percent by 2009 (light trucks and SUVs have until 2016) amounts to a backdoor way to legislate fuel efficiency—which is, alas, a federal domain.

The Supreme Court will soon hear a case brought by Massachusetts and a dozen other states arguing that the EPA should declare CO2 a pollutant and regulate it, which, but of course, the Bush Administration claims it has no authority to do. (But you’re The Decider!)

And Rudy Giuliani’s firm is in the business of defending utilities from all this evil regulation:

Scott Segal, a lawyer for Bracewell & Giuliani who represents electric utilities, summarized California’s policy as: “All electrons are not created equal. We’re going to discriminate against some of them, and create artificial barriers in the marketplace for electricity.” California consumers could end up paying more for their energy and struggling to find enough, Mr. Segal said.

Discriminating against electrons! Start the meme watch.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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