This Policy Brief summarises the emerging regulations at the national level in the US, and offers an assessment of potential emissions reductions under the Clean Air Act. It also describes the efforts at the subnational level, and the interaction of these policies with the Clean Air Act under the particular structure of so-called ‘environmental federalism’. This structure places central responsibility for implementation of regulations at the state level, making the architecture of existing state-level policies increasingly relevant and influential. Finally, it compares the Act with comprehensive cap and trade legislation that was proposed in the previous Congress, and argues that comparable emissions mitigation may be achieved in the domestic economy by 2020. The author finds that the big difference likely to emerge in the short run is the ability of the US to meet its financing obligations under the Copenhagen agreement. And, in the long run, he finds that mitigation with a regulatory approach is likely to become increasingly expensive.
Dallas Burtraw is Senior Fellow and Darius Gaskins Chair at Resources for the Future in Washington, D.C.