Here’s another semi-old story that I’m just now getting around to (and yes, I’ve forgotten how I found it). It’s deceptively significant.

Using California’s tough environmental regs, state Attorney General Jerry Brown is throwing some elbows, trying to force a range of projects from housing developments to oil refineries to show how they’ll reduce emissions. He’s trying to change extremely ingrained behavior at a fairly micro level, and he’s getting a whole mess of blowback.

Brown is trying to remain flexible enough to allow for a range of solutions, but the state’s big money players are getting peeved, and Schwarzenegger’s starting to get nervous. Republican legislators are putting forward laws and budget constraints trying to derail Brown’s mission, in some cases explicitly shielding developers from pressure on emissions.

The San Diego Tribune does Brown’s opponents the favor of framing things exactly as they’d like them to be framed:

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A critical issue is whether Californians will support efforts to reduce greenhouse gases when many of those measures conflict with building affordable housing, reducing traffic congestion and keeping cars filled with gas.

Note the hidden assumptions: that affordable housing cannot be low-carbon; that more roads ease traffic congestion; that keeping gas in cars, and cars on the road, is a good in and of itself, as opposed to one of many ways of providing transportation services.

This is an inflection point. If enough cities and developers figure out that they can benefit by addressing emissions, Brown’s aggressiveness will no longer be necessary. But they’ll have to be pushed to do it. We’ll see if Brown can weather the pressure and provide a model for other states.

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