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The best piece of legislation proposed in 2009 was the Cantwell-Collins CLEAR Act.  It has gotten zero attention from the blog chamber newsgames.  But it has the potential to make the carbon market concept work.

It forces carbon producers or importers to buy permits (within a price range), which sets the price on carbon and brings this so-called externality into the market.

It then rebates the proceeds directly on a per-capita basis to Americans.  Presto, no downside to households.  If they want to burn it, they have the money to pay for it.  But if they want to avoid the tax by not burning it, they make a profit.  

No funky offsets.  No casino cap-and-trade schemes for Wall Street to screw up.

Big Oil and Big Coal are forced to toe-tag themselves.

Cantwell's web site is impressive, with many, many endorsements from all over the place.

We offer some of the statements in support of CLEAR, Senate Bill 2877.  This is by far the best piece of legislation we have seen in quest of a sane climate strategy.  There will be pushback.  And from the results of the health care debate, one cannot hope for more than mediocrity in a body so well controlled by corporate interests.  But this is what we could have as law were our nation a democracy, and not a corporate oligarchy or kleptocracy.

   On behalf of AARP and its 40 million members, we thank Senators Cantwell and Collins for their continued leadership on environmental and consumer issues and commend you for introducing the CLEAR Act. AARP believes that reducing harmful carbon dioxide is an important national goal, but it should not be achieved by imposing significant new burdens on American households. The CLEAR Act offers a simple, straightforward approach for reducing carbon emissions in a manner that will mitigate energy cost increases and minimize administrative costs for consumers."

   -- David P. Sloane, Senior Vice President, Government Relations and Advocacy, AARP

   "I am encouraged by Sen. Cantwell's bipartisan effort to advance a more sensible approach to greenhouse gas emission reductions. A great deal of work remains to find consensus on legislation, and ensure that both the economy and the environment are protected, but this bill is intellectually honest and moves the debate in the right direction. We need to keep all of our climate policy options on the table, and the CLEAR Act should certainly be one of the approaches we spend time considering in the coming months."

   -- U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski

   "An attractive feature of this bill is that it does not directly constrain manufacturing output like the economy-wide cap and trade legislation H.R. 2454 and S. 1733. If the resulting energy and compliance costs are not too high under this legislation, manufacturing may be able to grow its output and increase exports. US manufacturing needs to be able to grow its output to supply its markets or China, India and Brazil will."

   -- Paul N. Cicio, President, Industrial Energy Consumers of America

   "On behalf of our five million members, applauds Senators Maria Cantwell and Susan Collins' leadership for clean energy jobs. We can rebuild our struggling economy by making America the world's leader in 21st Century clean energy technologies like wind and solar. We're especially pleased that the CLEAR bill does not pull the plug on President Obama's efforts to enforce Clean Air Act limits on global warming pollution from coal plants."

   -- Justin Ruben, Executive Director,

   "Friends of the Earth thanks Senators Cantwell and Collins for bringing a much needed alternative approach to the debate over climate and energy solutions in Congress.  The framework that Senators Cantwell and Collins have crafted would minimize opportunities for Wall Street traders to gamble on our climate future.  This is a key improvement over the flawed and risky cap-and-trade system that polluters and big banks successfully lobbied for in the House bill passed in June."

   -- Erich Pica, Friends of the Earth President

   "Not only is Senator Cantwell's bill admirably brief, it avoids some of the pitfalls that critics of cap-and-trade legislation have enumerated at length, such as windfall profits for emitters and special interest groups, the potential for fraudulent foreign offsets, and the creation of new, poorly understood financial instruments."

   -- Dr. Kenneth P. Green, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute

   "This is exactly the direction we need to be going in. Our atmosphere belongs to all of us, just like a national park. Any would-be polluter should pay for despoiling it. We need a 100 percent auction. And the proceeds should be returned to Americans as "dividends" in our commons, and as public investments in our future."

   --Robert Reich, University of California, Berkeley (former U.S. Secretary of Labor)

   "We applaud Senator Cantwell's work on climate change and to express our support for the CLEAR Act. The combination of auctions, revenue recycling, investments in green jobs, and the lack of international offsets in the CLEAR Act are all highly commendable. SACE supports these aspects of the CLEAR Act and looks forward to working with you to see these proposals adopted by Congress in the near future."

   -- Stephen A. Smith, Executive Director, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

   "We applaud Senators Cantwell and Collins for their legislation. The Cantwell-Collins bill contains significant protection for consumers and an effective and efficient design for achieving emissions reductions. They have included provisions for real cost containment by including a price collar and established provisions to return auction revenues directly to consumers. Their legislation can be the basis for a broad-based, bipartisan effort to find a solution for cap-and-trade legislation that can garner the necessary support in the Senate and ultimately in a conference with the House."

   --Rafe Pomerance, senior fellow and former president of Clean Air-Cool Planet and former chairman of the League of Conservation

   "We feel that Congress should explore other solutions that avoid picking "winners and losers" and that treat all consumers and businesses equitably. It is for this reason that we are looking at Senators Cantwell and Collins' climate legislation with great interest. Congress should not put Wall Street in charge of American climate and energy policy."

   -- Jim Collura, Vice President for Gov't Affairs, The New England Fuel Institute

   "The CLEAR Act is the best way to reduce carbon emissions. It's simple, honest and effective. There are no giveaways or shell games. And middle class families are protected no matter how high carbon prices rise."

   -- Peter Barnes, Tomales Bay Institute

   "The cap-and-dividend approach ensures that hardworking American families benefit from our transition to secure and clean energy. It would help wean us off of fossil fuels, spur a wave of investment and job creation, and put cash in the pockets of the Americans that need it the most."

   -- Michael A. Livermore, Executive Director, Institute for Policy Integrity, New York University School of Law

Originally posted to DemandSide on Sat Jan 02, 2010 at 09:13 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Read David Roberts on Grist (3+ / 0-)

    Here: Grist on CLEAR ACT

       * The cap is aspirational, not mandatory, and weak regardless. Cantwell and Collins say they want 20 percent reduction by 2020, but the carbon price will only secure 5 percent. The rest is attributed to the 25 percent of revenue not rebated to consumers, which the authors say will be spent on a grab bag of clean energy investments. But that 25 percent, in order to avoid the CBO haircut, runs through the conventional appropriations process. That means the authors can’t say with any certainty how the money will be spent. That’s a rather glaring flaw, since they’re freighting those investments with some 75 percent of their emissions reductions. The fact is, there just won’t be enough money in that 25 percent to accomplish their goals; the result will be far less investment than Kerry’s bill offers and far, far less than what’s needed. And incidentally: if Cantwell/Collins are allowed to count reductions from their complimentary policies, why isn’t Kerry’s bill afforded the same consideration? Analysis from the World Resources Institute shows that those policies will get Kerry’s bill up to about 28 percent reductions by 2020. (For an interesting take on how counting these complementary reductions could affect the Copenhagen process, see Andrew Light.)
       * Despite the hype, markets help reduce costs. Restricting trading to regulated entities (the limited set of fossil fuel companies that will buy allowances at auction) will actually encourage rather than discourage price manipulation. And with brokers excluded from the market, power companies (et al) will have more trouble, not less, hedging against long term swings in carbon prices. People seem to forget this in the recent anti-market climate, but there’s a reason greens preferred cap-and-trade in the first place, and it has to do with the flexibility markets provide. There’s no way to legislate this extremely contentious issue here, but for a balanced take see Brad Plumer’s great article in the latest issue of TNR.
       * There’s no money for protecting manufacturers or aid to developing countries. These provisions are central to domestic negotiations on climate policy and climate talks in Copenhagen, respectively. Their absence from the CLEAR Act is a political liability.

    •  I agree a bit. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bear83, ontheleftcoast

      Both bills have their strengths and weaknesses.  The dividend part of the CLEAR act is a winner politically, which matters because it helps get the bill through congress in a timely fashion and with less sausage making.

      Ideally we'd go for a 100% carbon tax-and-dividend scheme like Hansen advocates.

      I think ultimately we should aim to merge the dividend aspect of the CLEAR act with the Boxer-Kerry bill.

      •  I don't want a repeat of HCR with this (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LaughingPlanet, DrFitz, calchala

        CLEAR is weaker than CEJAPA (Kerry-Boxer) and you know we're going to have to give up about 80% of it to get it past the Rethugs and Blue Smogs (my new knickname for the polluter friendly Blue Dogs). If we start with a weak bill it will be useless by the time it gets thru. If we learned anything with HCR it is that anything will get gutted, so do start with something you think will be reasonable, start high and settle for what you can get. Make the SOBs prove they hate the planet and green jobs, don't give them an millimeter.

        I stand by the truth, that way I don't have to be near any Republicans.

        by ontheleftcoast on Sat Jan 02, 2010 at 09:41:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Awesome! I voted for her! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Politicians in Washington state are usually strong environmentalists, or they don't get elected.

    Good for you, Senator Cantwell!

    This is the only issue that really matters in the long term.

    In a democracy, everyone is a politician. ~ Ehren Watada

    by Lefty Mama on Sat Jan 02, 2010 at 09:23:52 PM PST

  •  So how is the Senate process going to work (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    with two different proposals(The one Kerry, Graham and Lieberman are working on, and the one Cantwell and Collins are proposing)?

  •  Cap-and-dividend is the way to go (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bear83, Calamity Jean

    If you design a system with: - 100% auction on all fossil fuel sales - No offsets - Pay dividend back to consumers so that they on average are no worse off economically

    then you will a strong foundation for tackling climate change in a way that gets the American people on our side.  The only loser is the fossil fuel industry (unless they pivot quickly to get into renewables).

    We need to get the word out and the excitement up about the cap-and-dividend concept.  

  •  Oh, please... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean

    Instead of parsing this diary, or the CLEAR bill itself, I'm merely going to briefly unravel that bullcrap endorsement by  Murkowski:

       "I am encouraged by Sen. Cantwell's bipartisan effort to advance a more sensible approach to greenhouse gas emission reductions.

    Bipartisanship is the main thing we need today because the GOP is moving so quickly to the extreme right, that any effort to attain it means nothing meaningful will ever occur. Also, the "more sensible" bill is more sensible than the less sensible one. I figured that out myself.

    A great deal of work remains to find consensus on legislation, and ensure that both the economy and the environment are protected, but this bill is intellectually honest and moves the debate in the right direction.

    Protecting the economy and protecting the environment must be made to appear mutually exclusive at every turn. In addition, inserting terms like "intellectually honest" or perhaps "not dubious" casts the needed air of skepticism whenever climate chage is the topic.

    We need to keep all of our climate policy options on the table, and the CLEAR Act should certainly be one of the approaches we spend time considering in the coming months."

    "All of our climate policy options" includes the option favored by the G.O.P. and its growing denialist base: Doing nothing. We will "spend time considering CLEAR in the coming months", but we will ultimately virtually unanimously vote against it.

    The best way to save the planet is to keep laughing!

    by LaughingPlanet on Sat Jan 02, 2010 at 10:04:33 PM PST

    •  sorry, I disagree (0+ / 0-)

      There's a core of Republicans that care so deeply about environmantal issues that they are willing to break with their party. Dave Richert is one (also WA politician who would lose elections if he didn't support the environment.) This issue is less partisan - even John McCain understands and feels very deeply about it. McCain's pride may prevent him from doing the right thing (because dems are in charge) but he will certainly be conflicted and unable to cause harm. Blue dogs/corporate dogs - I can't trust 'em. But some GOP members will break ranks and stand with us on the coming fight for climate legislation.

      In a democracy, everyone is a politician. ~ Ehren Watada

      by Lefty Mama on Sun Jan 03, 2010 at 02:06:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I wrote a diary about CLEAR (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I suggested merging cap and dividend with the clean job investments in ACES or Kerry/Boxer.

  •  To be honest (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I don't know if either of them will come up.  Conservadems are already balking.  When things get hard, those dems go home.

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