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Clean energy in California: On its own sunny path

Happily soaking up solar

JERRY BROWN started talking about solar power in the 1970s, when he was California’s governor for the first time. He was lampooned for it, but the vision gradually became attractive in a state that is naturally sunny and, especially along the coastline, cares about the environment. So in 2006, under a Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, California set a goal to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. This year Mr Brown, governor once again, signed the last bits of that goal into law. And this month the state’s air-quality regulators unanimously voted to adopt its most controversial but crucial component: a cap-and-trade system.More complex and less elegant (but politically easier) than a simple carbon tax, a cap-and-trade system limits the emissions of dirty industries and puts a price on their remaining pollution so that market forces, in theory, provide an incentive for reductions. In California’s case, starting in 2013 the government will “cap” the amount of gases (such as carbon dioxide) that industry may emit, and gradually…

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