It was announced last week that California’s UC and CSU systems will be hit with up to $28 million in new energy taxes if CARB’s cap and trade program moves forward as planned.

This should have come as no surprise because citizen ratepayers and small business owners have been warning for years that the cap and trade auction will be a massive hidden tax with billions of dollars in higher energy costs impacting all Californians, including schools.  However, what was surprising was the reaction of university officials.  Their response was that they continue to support the cap and trade program, but simply do not wish to pay the $28 million because they have other more important priorities.

The colleges’ position is as if I said I would support a law requiring everybody to volunteer on social betterment programs, except for me because I have better things to do.  The academic powers that be apparently do not believe that “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

However, even if the colleges succeed in exempting themselves from participating in the auction, a process that will be run by global financial firms and open to market manipulation, they still will find themselves with higher costs for their utilities, gasoline and new construction – costs that nobody will be able to avoid except by leaving the state.

University officials’ assertion that they have better ways to spend the $28 million is understandable given that everybody is suffering in these bad economic times.  Near-record unemployment and an exodus of businesses leaving the state for locations friendlier to job creation has also produced a decline in tax revenue to fund the services we all care about.

Fortunately, we do not have to put California at a further competitive disadvantage with our neighbors.  The carbon reduction goals of AB 32 can be achieved without an auction.  In fact, innovative new energy technology has already brought the nation as a whole to its lowest CO2 emissions in the last twenty years.

If allowed to proceed, the cap and trade auction will only give CARB billions of dollars to spend with no accountability and will enrich out of state Wall Street traders and speculators on the backs of the rest of us.

University officials seem to only have their own interests in mind right now, but their newfound opposition highlights why the auction is a mistake for California.