California’s Air Resources Board and the Carbon Combustion Complex

In our Collapse of Western Civilization, Oreskes and I defined the “Carbon Combustion Complex as “The interlinked fossil fuel extraction, refinement, and combustion industries, financiers, and government ‘regulatory’ agencies that enabled and defended destabilization of the world’s climate in the name of employment, growth, and prosperity.”

According to this article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, it appears that California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) has adopted an industry proposal that, in essence, allows our utilities to continue buying out-of-state coal power, and magically count it as “clean.” This renders the “cap” part of the state’s “cap and trade” system irrelevant, because it simply shifts emissions from California to the neighboring states it purchases power from.

This kind of “leakage” from the cap was anticipated in the original clean energy law, AB 32, and the law contains language designed to prevent it. CARB, as the article explains at length, has interpreted those restrictions out of existence.

The proper economist jargon for regulators doing the bidding of for-profit companies is “regulatory capture.” Capture is so common in the U.S. now that we felt the need to strengthen the concept as it applies to the fossil fuel industry. Thus the Carbon Combustion Complex was born.

I’m rather sad to see the California Air Resources Board joining the Complex. But I’m not at all surprised.

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