Focus on climate change legislation
A bipartisan bill in partisan times?
By Kristen A. Sheeran
Economics for Equity and the Environment Network
The passage of the health care bill with nary a single Republican vote, and the emerging tea party movement steeped in populist distrust of "big government", raises a strategic challenge for supporters of a national policy to address climate change: Is there a climate bill that is capable of getting through Congress with bipartisan support?
The answer is yes, at least for one bill. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have proposed theCLEAR (Carbon Limits and Energy for America's Renewal) Act, which could potentially break the U.S. climate policy impasse.
CLEAR has won a favorable reception from a broad swath of the political spectrum, including ExxonMobil, Friends of the Earth, AARP, the American Enterprise Institute, former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, Alaska's Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, MoveOn.org, as well as independent economists from universities and research centers across the country.
How did CLEAR win wide-ranging support from the public and from lawmakers from both sides of the aisle? It is based on a common-sense approach to capping carbon emissions that works, is transparent, and delivers tangible benefits to the majority.
CLEAR caps carbon emissions, but auctions 100 percent of the permits, rather than just giving those permits to the coal-burning electricity industry. Auctioning permits is the approach widely favored by economists, for it generates the revenues needed to help fund the transition from the fossil-fueled economy.
CLEAR returns 75 percent of the revenues from selling permits directly to the public, in the form of equal per-capita payments that households can literally take straight to the bank. Households will still spend more on energy because carbon emissions are capped, but for the majority of U.S. households in every state, the 'dividend' they receive will more than offset their increased energy costs. The more energy a household saves, the greater the boost to their household income.
Kristen A. Sheeran, PhD, is an economist who directs Economics for Equity and the Environment Network , a national network of economists developing new arguments for environmental protection, based out of Ecotrust in Portland.
If you are commenting using a Facebook account, your profile information may be displayed with your comment depending on your privacy settings. By leaving the 'Post to Facebook' box selected, your comment will be published to your Facebook profile in addition to the space below.