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California's Plan to Cut Greenhouse Gases

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Environmentalists are praising a bill passed this week in California: the Global Warming Solutions Act of Two Thousand Six. It would make California the first American state to restrict the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Opponents say it would damage the state's economy, one of the largest in the world.

State lawmakers sent the bill to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday. That was a day after the Republican governor reached agreement on the plan with the Democratic majority in the Legislature.

He faced opposition within his own party, but says he will sign the bill into law.

California is the nation’s most populated state and the world's twelfth largest producer of greenhouse gases. The plan calls for a reduction of about twenty-five percent by two thousand twenty -- to return to nineteen ninety levels.

The governor, in an order last year, called for the cuts, along with much greater ones by two thousand fifty.

The California Chamber of Commerce says the newly approved bill will cause severe economic harm. And the business group says the rules would do almost nothing to improve the global environment.

But supporters say other producers could follow California's lead.

The Legislature acted just before the end of its current session. Political experts say the plan will help Governor Schwarzenegger politically. He is seeking re-election this November in a heavily Democratic state known for its environmental activism.

The plan calls for controls on major industries including coal-burning producers of electric power. Others include oil and gas refineries and cement makers.

Some business leaders worry that electricity costs will increase. Critics also say that some businesses might move their operations to other states or other countries. But other businesses, including those that work with environmentally friendlier technologies, say it could create new industries and jobs.

Scientists widely believe that human activity is involved in global warming. State officials say rising temperatures could cause mountain snows in California to melt earlier in the year. That could produce floods and reduce water supplies over time.

But some Republican lawmakers noted that disagreement still exists about how much climate change could be natural.

Opponents of the bill also argued that climate change is a national and not a state issue. The Bush administration says it supports efforts to reduce greenhouse gases as long as they are done by choice and not required by law.

The bill in California also calls for a market trading system, similar to one in Europe. Companies that release less than their limit of greenhouse gases could trade surplus credits to other businesses.

And that's IN THE NEWS, in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. Our reports, and more, can be found at I’m Steve Ember.