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Next10 challenges you to cut California's carbon, balance the cost of policies

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A compressed natural gas (CNG) hose dispenses gas to a Honda Civic at a clean energy fuel station January 18, 2007 in San Francisco, California. Rebates for clean fuel cars are among policy choices on Next10's California Carbon Challenge website.

Frustrated by a lack of federal climate policy? Ever considered back seat driving California’s efforts to cut tailpipe emissions? A hypnotic new website could be just the ticket for the secret policy wonks among us.

A group called Next10 has launched the “California Carbon Challenge,” where you can “decide how to reach the state’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal” by selecting different programs and balancing their cost with their effectiveness.

Policy choices are broken out into various categories like vehicle technology, green buildings, and government operations. Each one features pro and con arguments, and assesses whether the initial cost falls most directly on people, businesses or government.

The authors of the website note that if you choose the same options that state officials have already started implementing, you’ll meet the goal of AB 32, the landmark California greenhouse gas law passed back in 2006.

But they offer other options as well, some of which are popular with visitors. 

For example, pay-as-you-go car insurance, which hasn’t gained a lot of traction in the real world, has the support of about 75 percent of the site’s visitors right now. Those who drive more would pay higher rates of insurance.

The added cost would be an incentive for people to drive less and could cut more than 9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. And, according to the site’s methodology, would save money, presumably by acting as a price signal to would-be drivers.

People also seem to like more bike lanes, renewable energy, and increased energy efficiency for government buildings. Fully implementing California’s Title 24 standards is one of the least sexy policy choices, but it’s another one that gets a good bang for the buck: a reduction of more than 4 million metric tons of carbon, for its cost – which, as with pay-as-you-go insurance, is expressed in negatives because it’s anticipated to save money.

If you do everything the site offers as a policy choice, you’d cut carbon emissions by more than 92 million metric tons – almost twice as much as the state’s minimum requirement – at a cost of $60 a ton.

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