GregoireHere’s what Washington Governor Chris Gregoire had to say about the executive order she signed Thursday to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions: “I wanted cap and trade. I didn’t get it. This is the next best thing.”

After the Legislature punted on several of her climate change initiatives—including participation in a regional cap-and-trade program —  Gregoire took matters into her own hands. Using her executive authority, she directed state agencies to take steps to curb emissions that are warming the planet.

That’s good news, given this withering critique from The Economist of the political sausage-making that’s gone into crafting a federal cap-and-trade bill that the magazine argues is currently weaker than it ought to be.

In Washington State, Gregoire’s order requires the Ecology Department to enter an agreement with the state’s largest emitter—TransAlta’s coal-fired plant in Centralia—to cut emissions by half no later than 2025.

The Seattle Times explains what else Gregoire will do:

* require the Department of Ecology to make emission-reductions plans for all of the state’s top industrial greenhouse-gas polluters by next year

* require the departments of Commerce and Transportation to come up with a way to set standards on the amount of carbon emitted during production, distribution and use of certain vehicle fuels

* require the Transportation department to negotiate new plans with the state’s largest counties and regional councils to reduce driving.

On the federal level, a cap-and-trade bill that The New York Times calls “the most ambitious energy and global warming legislation ever debated in Congress” passed a key committee but still faces more political hurdles.

For a more pointed perspective, The Economist details the bill’s handouts and loopholes, and explains why giving away 85 percent of the permits that would allow polluters to release carbon—rather than auctioning them for sale —  would be a huge mistake.

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Photo courtesy of flickr user edgeplot via the Creative Commons license.