Will California’s cap-and-trade experiment catch on?

As the old Louis Brandeis quip goes, states can serve as laboratories of democracy if they so choose. And California has just volunteered itself as a guinea pig for a particularly high-stakes experiment. The California Air Resources Board is putting the finishing touches on a statewide cap-and-trade system for greenhouse-gas emissions. You can bone up on the details in the Los Angeles Times. But here’s a broader question: Will California’s adventure have any effect on climate policy in the rest of the country?

But what about Congress? UCLA’s Matthew Kahn has done a study finding that House members who voted for the 2009 Waxman-Markey climate bill were more likely to come from liberal, wealthier, low-carbon districts. It’s hard to see how even a California success with cap-and-trade could alter this dynamic and win over lawmakers in coal-heavy states like Indiana or West Virginia. But Kahn remains optimistic, arguing that California’s experiment could help foster new clean-energy companies and interest groups who will act as a counterweight to fossil-fuel interests in the broader political debate. New lobbyists to fight the old lobbyists. It’s a little seedy, sure, but as theories of political change go, it’s not totally unrealistic.

To read the full article by Brad Plumer click here.