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Cooking The Carbon Books

Publication Date: 
October 13, 2008
William Pentland

Michael Wara is quoted in this Forbes report:

Los Angeles has either the second-smallest or second-largest carbon footprint in the United States. Which is it? Depends how you ask.

In the past six months, the Brookings Institute, a Washington D.C.-based policy organization, and a team of NASA researchers have respectively ranked Los Angeles as the nation's second-smallest and second-largest carbon footprint. And, like it or not, they were both right--at least according to their own carbon calculations.

What does it matter? For one, carbon dioxide could soon have a hefty price tag attached to it if cap and trade protocols are made law, as promised by both U.S. presidential candidates. L.A. and every other city and state could soon have an enormous interest in how carbon emissions get calculated. Second, and more important, an abundance of evidence suggests that this variance in measurement means attempts to trim carbon like the Kyoto Protocol may not be reducing global carbon emissions but merely displacing a portion of them to developing nations.

"If you look at how much carbon Europe produces, they look good," said Michael Wara, an assistant professor of Energy and Sustainable Development at Stanford Law School. "If you look at how much they consume, Europe looks bad."


"The best economic research I've seen suggests that leakage is not that big of a problem," said Wara. "Most of the industries claiming to be hurt by emissions standards are not competitive for a lot of reasons. The fundamental drivers about where to site heavy industries matter a lot more than carbon. There will be a small number of companies on the margins that this will affect, but they are the exceptions to the rule."