California continues its streak as a hulking guinea pig. This time, we'll get to see how cap and trade plays out, if it's a model all of America should copy.

The California Air Resources Board held the state's first cap and trade auction this morning. The ambitious cap and trade goal is to reset current carbon emission levels to those of the 1990s by 2020. On January 1, 2013, the cap starts at 162.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and will shrink.

While nine northeastern states already subscribe to a cap and trade program for power plants, California's new law caps carbon emissions across industries. The state requires refineries, Big Agriculture, cement, and power plants that emit over 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year to pay for the right to pollute our air.

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are already down 7.7% from 2006 even after Congress abandoned cap and trade in 2010. But at least California's law legislatively acknowledges climate change, a potential step toward resurrecting the national discussion to reduce carbon emissions.