"CLEAR": the Senate Cap-and-Dividend Bill to prevent climate disaster

Dear friends,

Below this note you'll find the simplest , clearest description of the CLEAR bill now before the Senate for the “cap and dividend” approach to the climate crisis.
It’s written by the bill’s two authors — a Democratic and a Republican Senator.

Its publication in the Washington Post is a major step forward in getting this bill into the public eye. Till now, the much more complex and give-away-prone Kerry-Lieberman bill has been much more the darling of the media and many lobbyists, on the theory that since it gives so many lollipops to Big Coal, Big Oil, Wall Street, & Nukes, it has a better chance to pass.

But this is beginning to change. I very much hope that the broader Jewish and progressive communities can focus on this CLEAR cap-and-dividend approach in their lobbying and information-sharing.

At the same time, the CLEAR bill should be improved by specifying a set-aside of money to assist US regions that will be disadvantaged by the switch-over to non-fossil fuels; to help poverty0stricken nations already damaged by the effects of global scorching; and to assist poor countries to undertake economic development through a non-fossil pathway.

As Senators Maria Cantwell and Susan Collins hint, the present debate/ scrimmage in the Senate over a climate/energy bill means that probably several different versions will be melded. To the extent the CLEAR “cap-and-dividend” bill is central in what comes out -- if anything does -- we will be much better off.

See also the Take Action note on our Home page for a way to write your Senators about the CLEAR bill.

This "scrimmage" of various bills is now being carried out in the Senate Democratic caucus.

After the Washington Post article, you will find a press release from Senator Cantwell about the caucus discussions of the bill.

Shalom, Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Washington Post: A cap-and-dividend way to a cleaner nation and more jobs

By Maria Cantwell and Susan Collins
Friday, June 18, 2010

There has been much talk recently about whether Republicans and Democrats in Washington can produce a bipartisan clean-energy and jobs bill. The answer is: We already have.

We are leading a bipartisan effort to put a lid on carbon pollution and in so doing unleash a massive investment in clean-energy technology. If we can tackle this issue in a predictable, transparent and free-market way, we can create millions of high-paying jobs while limiting the worst effects of climate change and reducing both our dependence on foreign oil and the risk of another oil spill.

We have authored a bill that takes on this challenge, empowering America's private sector to take the lead in the $6 trillion global energy market while shutting out Wall Street speculators and protecting low- and middle-income families from associated price increases for energy.

Those are the guiding principles behind the Carbon Limits and Energy for America's Renewal Act , or CLEAR Act, which we introduced in December. We believe that when coupled with other new energy policies and tax incentives, this can be the basis for a clean-energy and job-creation package that can pass the Senate. The act takes a fresh approach to the persistent problem of how to end this country's dangerous addiction to fossil fuels without harming our economy.

At only 39 pages, it contrasts starkly with other thousand-plus-page energy and climate proposals, which are full of often confusing and bureaucratic provisions, windfalls for special interests and higher energy costs for the American people.

Our concept is simple: Instead of cap-and-trade, our approach is "cap-and-dividend," with the dividends going where they belong: into the pockets of hardworking Americans.

The legislation would set up a mechanism for selling "carbon shares" to the few thousand fossil fuel producers and importers through monthly auctions. Seventy-five percent of the auction revenue would be returned to every citizen and legal resident of the United States through equally divided rebate checks -- averaging $1,100 for a family of four each year.

The remaining 25 percent would finance clean-energy research and development; help reduce emissions in agriculture, forestry and manufacturing; and provide transition assistance for workers and communities in carbon-intensive regions. The legislation aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050.

Researchers at the New York University School of Law (see here) found that the legislation would generate good, "green jobs" in areas such as construction, solar power and mass transit because a predictable carbon price spurs investment in efficiency and cleaner-energy solutions.

Our Senate colleagues understand that the energy status quo threatens our economy, environment and national security. But consensus can quickly break down when disputes among various regions take over, leading to hyperpartisanship, an overload of legislative giveaways and, ultimately, stalemate.

The framework we propose all but eliminates regional disparities, ensuring that consumers are treated fairly even if they currently get most of their electricity from coal.

Allocating pollution credits entirely by an auction with minimum and maximum prices -- as opposed to giving some of them away to selected emitters, as other legislation proposes -- means that our legislation avoids picking winners and losers. We create a level playing field instead of providing pollution credits to whichever entities have the best lobbyists.

The act cuts out Wall Street speculators and price manipulators. It minimizes destructive price volatility.

Our legislation can generate bipartisan support because it addresses our nation's dangerous overreliance on fossil fuels while opening the door to vibrant economic growth. Instead of a behemoth bill designed to conceal backroom deals and giveaways, our framework is a straight path that all Americans can follow.

Maria Cantwell is a Democratic senator from Washington. Susan Collins is a Republican senator from Maine.

Cantwell Briefs Democratic Colleagues on CLEAR Act
Reid asks Cantwell to brief colleagues on bipartisan climate legislation alternative

Thursday, June 17,2010

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) briefed her Democratic colleagues on her bipartisan climate bill, which relies on the free market to find the least-costly ways to reduce greenhouse gases and build America’s clean energy economy.

Part of her presentation included screening a two-minute video on the CLEAR Act (Click here.).

In the wake of the largest oil spill in U.S. history, President Obama and Senate leaders are focusing attention on the urgent need for legislation that sets out a path to a clean energy future.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) invited Cantwell – whose climate proposal is the only one introduced in the Senate with Republican support – to describe her proposal during today’s Democratic caucus meeting. Introduced last December with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the Carbon Limits and Energy for America’s Renewal (CLEAR) Act (S.2877), is a cap-and-dividend proposal that would reduce global warming pollution, spur job growth in clean energy technology, and return money directly to consumers.

Majority Leader Reid has identified the CLEAR Act as one of three proposals that should receive serious consideration as the Senate moves forward with climate legislation. Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) were also invited to present.

“Clean energy is a six-trillion dollar market opportunity and within five years China, Japan and Korea will be outspending the United States by three to one,” Senator Cantwell said. “Our goal is to pass legislation that helps us create jobs and puts the United States in a leadership position in clean energy technology.”

Noting the Republican co-sponsorship of the CLEAR Act and the importance of reaching a 60-vote majority in the Senate,Cantwell said, “The fact that there is bipartisan support is a good indication that we can get there, but we have a lot more work to do.”

Majority Leader Reid said: “I’m always focused on what is possible – that’s why I’m going to work with these ladies and gentlemen behind me.”

The Cantwell-Collins 39-page bill is a simple, transparent solution to our nation’s energy needs. It:
• Establishes a predictable price on the carbon associated with fossil fuels, providing the business incentive needed to develop and deploy clean energy technology
• Requires fossil fuel producers and importers to bid at auction for “carbon shares”, or permits, for every ton of fossil carbon sold into the U.S. economy
• Regulates where it is most manageable – ‘upstream’ where it is produced by a few thousand entities, as opposed to downstream where it is emitted by tens of thousands
• Achieves a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 20 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050, and
• Provides fairness to consumers through monthly dividends which makes all low and middle income families whole.

CLEAR would set up a mechanism for selling “carbon shares” to fuel producers and would return 75 percent of the resulting revenue in checks to every American. This dividend would more than compensate for the increase in carbon-based fuel that producers would pass on to consumers.

A typical family of four would receive tax-free monthly checks from the government averaging $1,100 per year, or $21,000 between 2012 and 2030.

The remaining 25 percent would be invested in clean energy research and development.

For more background information on the CLEAR Act, click here.

See also the Take Action note on our Home page for a way to write your Senators about the CLEAR bill.