For decades, California has been the engine of growth behind America's sputtering clean energy economy - adopting groundbreaking clean air and climate policies as federal efforts lagged behind.
The hope was that California's initiatives would become the template for a national law to slow global warming.
That hasn't happened yet -- and it isn't likely to over the next four years. In his second term, President Barack Obama faces the same divided Congress that rejected carbon-reduction targets and a price on carbon dioxide emissions, two cornerstones of California climate policy.
But an Obama White House provides California a key federal partner that wants to regulate global warming emissions from power plants and cars and won't interfere. Steady support from the top might encourage other states to copy or join California's pioneering initiatives, according to policy experts and advocates, which only helps the Golden State.
"I can imagine a set of states deciding to take on something like California's program several years into an Obama administration, having warmed up to the idea of greenhouse gas regulation and having seen it work in practice," said Cara Horowitz, executive director of UCLA Law School's Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment.
California's clean economy is driven by at least four sweeping policies: an economywide cap-and-trade program that puts a price on carbon pollution; a low-carbon fuel standard that limits the sale of carbon-intensive fuels; a 33 percent renewable electricity standard; and rigorous clean-car mandates for automakers.
Some of those are brand-new, and many state and federal officials will be watching closely to see if the policies reduce heat-trapping gases while creating new business opportunities, rather than causing electricity price spikes and job losses, as critics contend.
Here's a rundown of the policies, and a look at how the second Obama administration could help them along.
Cap and Trade
After six years in the making, California is set to launch the first auction of its cap-and-trade program on Nov. 14.
The program is the hallmark of California's global warming law, AB 32, which requires the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.
Regulators will set a ceiling on CO2 emissions from utilities, oil extractors and fossil fuel-burning factories and require them to pay for their pollution by buying carbon allowances in quarterly auctions.
In year one alone, the program is expected to generate between $660 million and $3 billion in auction proceeds. By 2020, cap and trade could send $8 billion into state coffers annually.
California's program is the nation's second cap-and-trade system and the first to target carbon polluters across the economy. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative limits emissions from power plants in nine participating Eastern states. In both cases the states established the program without federal involvement and approval.
Obama supported federal cap-and-trade legislation in his first term, and rumors are swirling that he might push for a national carbon tax to help cut the deficit. Far more certain is that his Environmental Protection Agency will finalize greenhouse gas limits for existing power plants and oil refineries.
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