California is about to implement a new climate tax via a cap and trade system, where revenues from the tax are supposed to be dedicated to carbon reduction projects. Forget for a moment all my concerns with climate dangers being overhyped, or the practical problems (read cronyism) inherent in a cap-and-trade system vs. a straight carbon tax. There is one improvement California can and should make to this system.
Anyone who can remember the history of the tobacco settlement will know that the theory of that settlement was that the funds were needed to pay for additional medical expenses driven by smoking. Well, about zero of these funds actually went to health care or even to smoking reduction programs (smoking reduction programs turn out to be fiscally irresponsible for states, since they lead to reduced tax revenues from tobacco taxes). These funds just became a general slush fund for legislators. Some states (New York among them, if I remember correctly), spent the entire 20 year windfall in one year to close budget gaps.
If California is serious that these new taxes on energy should go to carbon reduction programs, then these programs need to be scored by a neutral body as to their cost per ton of CO2 reduction. I may think the program misguided, but given that it exists, it might as well be run in a scientific manner, right? I would really prefer that there be a legislated hurdle rate, e.g. all programs must have a cost per ton reduction of $45 of less -- or whatever. But even publishing scores in a transparent way would help.
This would, for example, likely highlight what a terrible investment this would be in reducing CO2.