The Marketplace Report: Blair in California

British Prime Minister Tony Blair made his first-ever visit to California on Monday, meeting with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to discuss global warming and how the business community could lower carbon emissions. Steve Tripoli of Marketplace talks with Madeleine Brand about the meeting.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Back now with DAY TO DAY. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has finally found an American head of state who will fight global warming his way. The state is California. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger meets with Blair today in Long Beach. Steve Tripoli from MARKETPLACE joins us now, and Steve, what's going on here?

STEVE TRIPOLI reporting:

Well, Madeleine, what's going on, according to reports, is that California and Britain will formally agree today to form a transatlantic market in carbon emissions. That means that the two agree to jointly cap their emissions, then companies in Britain and California will be able to trade the right to pollute with each other.

These carbon trading markets are nothing new. There's one covering all of Europe and several other countries, plus some U.S. regions either have some deals or are promising them. These markets are supposed to create incentives that allow the emergence of green technologies over time.

BRAND: So is California just bypassing the federal government by talking to Britain?

TRIPOLI: George Bush and Tony Blair have long since parted ways on global warming. The Bush administration doesn't like any agreement that mandates caps on emissions. The administration says a cap like that would cost five million American jobs. But this deal shows how a lot of other players have been working around the United States on global warming, and California's no small fish here. It's the 12th largest source of greenhouse gases in the world.

BRAND: Are there any Bush administration officials in on this meeting today?

TRIPOLI: Well, the administration's top environmental advisor says he can't make it because of a scheduling conflict, and critics are jumping on this as a form of obstruction. They say that this obstruction goes back to the administration's withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol, the worldwide environmental agreement, and they haven't been buying the hurts the economy argument all along, either.

BRAND: Well, Governor Schwarzenegger is a Republican like the president. What are the difference between the two on global warming?

TRIPOLI: Well, Schwarzenegger inherited a state with a history of clean air problems, but it also has one of the best records of innovation in capping carbon emissions. California's done a lot better than the rest of the country in curbing energy use per capita over the last 30 years.

And Schwarzenegger is different from most Republicans on this issue from the start. He's been very tough on emissions from cars and trucks, for instance, and his office this morning already announced what they call a Bioenergy Action Plan for the state. It's supposed to help Californians bring alternative energy into the mainstream.

BRAND: You know, a lot of people who don't want to crack down on emissions say it's bad for the economy. What has happened in California regarding the economy?

TRIPOLI: Well, according to a study by energy experts at Stanford University, it hasn't negatively affected California's economy. In fact, they say the state's aggressive energy efficiency moves actually added three percentage points of growth, or about $31 billion, to California's overall growth between 1975 and '95.

One more thing, Madeleine. Coming up later today on MARKETPLACE we'll find out why some school districts are getting into the business of leasing their buildings instead of buying them.

BRAND: Thank you, Steve. Steve Tripoli of Public Radio's daily business show MARKETPLACE. It's produced by American Public Media.

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