Only a local government could have given this idea wings, he added. "Nobody else spends their days in the mundane world of land-secured financing districts."
New England offers another example of a regional program shaping national policy.
In 2009 ten states agreed to cap their emissions and created the nation's first greenhouse-gas-emissions trading program. It auctioned allowances, created a carbon market and to date has sent $582 million into the coffers of participating states.
But before this started, the only example of a carbon cap-and-trade program was Europe's, which had seen wild price swings and windfall profits for utilities. The stability of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, as New England's cap-and-trade program is known, silenced those critics and placed it in the foreground of the national discussion on how to run these policies," said Tom Tietenberg, emeritus professor of economics at Colby College in Maine.
"It's been one of the primary reasons auctions are now prominently part of the (climate) bill." Politicians, he added, have no problem spotting RGGI's revenue. "It reduces the negative impact of a carbon bill."
Of course, there are tensions: RGGI has strong regional support in part because it funnels cash back to state coffers. While some states have siphoned that revenue to patch deficits, others – such as Maine – have used it to make significant gains in energy efficiency, far outpacing federal efforts.
But the Senate climate bill as drafted voids regional emissions schemes like RGGI and state efforts like California's. That has raised hackles from local leaders who want to retain control over their own programs and revenue.