LOS BANOS, Calif. — The Morning Star Company’s three plants in California emit roughly 200,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year — about the same amount as the Pacific Island nation of Palau — as they turn tomatoes into ketchup, spaghetti sauce and juice used by millions of consumers around the world.
Beginning Jan. 1, under the terms of a groundbreaking California environmental law known as AB 32, Morning Star and 350 other companies statewide will begin paying for those emissions, which trap heat and contribute to global warming.
Companies are trying to figure out how this will affect their bottom lines and have lobbied state regulators to minimize the costs. In the meantime they are weighing their options. Should they stay and adapt or move operations elsewhere? Should they retrofit and innovate to reduce emissions? Should they swallow the regulatory costs or pass them on to customers?
Each company’s calculus depends on its particular circumstance. Morning Star, a top producer in a $926 million industry, has to be near the tomato fields of California’s Central Valley, so relocating was never an option. Its biggest question is how to handle the extra costs.
About 600 facilities with hefty emissions are covered by the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. Oil refiners, electric utilities and cement makers, whose greenhouse-gas output totals in the millions of metric tons annually, are the biggest. But over all, dozens of industries are affected.
In recent months, as the start date of the new cap-and-trade program neared, California regulators have fine-tuned the rules, industry by industry, to avoid imposing severe economic hardship while trying to keep the rules stringent. It is a delicate balance. Regulators do not want California companies to lose their competitive edge, because that could make other state governments reluctant to adopt this approach.
[Continued at the New York Times]