A Need for Cap-and-Trade

Let’s
hear it for Pittsburgh, which Tuesday made dirty
air not just California’s
problem.

The Pennsylvania city topped the American Lung
Association’s annual list
for the worst short-term air pollution from
particles and was barely second to Los
Angeles for year-round levels.

It’s the
first time in 10 years that a city outside California has headed any list in the yearly
State of the Air report, the lung association says.

Otherwise,
the news was not good for California
cities that historically have had no problem making the worst of the worse
lists.

  • Five of top 10 cities most polluted by smog – Los Angeles, Bakersfield,
    Visalia,
    Fresno and Sacramento.
  • Five of the top 10 for year-round soot – Los Angeles, Bakersfield,
    Visalia,
    Fresno and Hanford.
  • Four of the top 10 for short-term soot – Los Angeles, Fresno, Bakersfield and Sacramento.
  • A number other cities – San Diego, Modesto, Merced, San Francisco – land in the
    top 24 on one or more of the lists.
  • Thirty-six California
    counties receive failing grades for smog; 20 flunk when it comes to soot.

Seeing a
rush to Salinas and Redding?
That could be because they’re rated among the 10 least-polluted cities.

The end
result nationally, according to the lung association,
is that one in six Americans live in areas with unhealthy smog levels.

If that doesn’t give President Obama’s
cap-and-trade proposal an extra push, nothing will.

And
cap-and-trade — a program that forces companies to pay for spewing excess
pollution into the air – might be the only hope. Cleaning dirty power plants is
at the top of the lung association’s to-do list for curbing pollution, and
cap-and-trade would strike at the heart of that problem.

The
cap-and-trade program, which focuses on big industrial polluters, could
actually help smog-choked Eastern cities more than it will aid California. Electric
utilities, oil companies, large industrial plants and other such entities make
up 85 percent of the nation’s emissions, GreenTech Media reports.

In an
attempt to win support from coal-fired industries, though, draft legislation
also proposes national auto emission standards that are more closely align to
the restrictions California
has tried to implement for
almost a decade
.

The state
needs those standards. A big chunk of California’s
problem is due to “mobile sources” – vehicles.

Hearings
already have begun on cap-and-trade – the House Energy Committee chaired by
Californian Henry Waxman plans
a markup May 11
. Republicans already are girding for a fight, though Pennsylvania
Sen. Arlen Specter’s decision
to revert to the Democratic Party leaves the
GOP largely toothless in that chamber.

“This
is the largest assault on democracy and freedom in this country that I have
ever experienced,” Illinois Rep. John Shimkus
said at an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing last week. The
New York Times
reported that Shimkus
said he feared cap-and-trade proposal more than the Iraq
and Afghanistan
wars and 9-11.

Rhetoric
like that practically makes party leaders look like moderates.

“When
you look at the final touches that are being put on this cap-and-trade policy
— or, as I like to call it, cap-and-tax — this is going to raise costs for
every consumer in America
and risk millions of American jobs,” House Minority Leader John Boehner told
The Wall Street Journal recently
.

Boehner
seems to be overlooking the fact that that the proposal includes help businesses and
consumers, through aid to consumers hit by higher energy costs and assistance
affected industries, according to the Center
for American Progress
.

He also seems to be overlooking the fact that the
status quo risks the lives and health of the 186.1 million living in
areas where the air is rated F. Children, the elderly, people with chronic
respiratory and cardiovascular disease. In other words, virtually all of
us at some point in our lives.