Jumping Ahead of Carbon Regulation.

The arguments against environmental regulation always include the pro-business folks who fear a huge economic hit. That underestimates business. It assumes every company, when faced with new regulations, would roll over, say, "Well, I guess we can't make profits any more," and die. It completely leaves out the other response regulation can inspire: innovation and competition.

In an effort to get ahead of the curve, Calpine Corporation, a company that builds power plants, has voluntary asked for a permit limiting the amount of carbon it can emit, according to the New York Times' Green, Inc., blog.

The permit, issued by a California state agency under rules set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, sets those limits by using the output of the 'best available control technology,' said Donald R. Neal Jr., the company’s vice president for environmental health and safety.

But in anticipation of federal rules on carbon dioxide emissions, Calpine asked that the permit include a figure for carbon dioxide, derived the same way.

“The understanding by everyone is that by the end of March, the E.P.A. will issue the first rule to regulate greenhouse gases,’’ Mr. Neal said. That will be in light-duty vehicles, but at the same time, it will issue a rule specifying which stationary emitters will be covered by greenhouse gas rules in the future, he said.

Never mind that, for many of the regulations environmentalists call for on vehicle and power plant emissions, technology already exists to make it better. But a little anticipated government pressure is all it takes to get companies to use them.

-- Monica Potts

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