Cantwell Introduces "Cap and Dividend"

Jeff Alworth

If you want to pin a group of green wonks down for a few hours, casually ask the question, "which do you favor, carbon tax or cap-and-trade?"  They've been having that debate in earnest for the past few years, always hoping to one day apply the solution to law.  But if reforming health insurance by insuring 30 million people and reducing the cost of health care is a political loser, addressing carbon emissions has become a punchline.  ("A snowball's chance in Alaska!" har har.) 

Maybe Maria Cantwell has cracked the nut.  She is offering door number three:

She is pushing a simpler, more voter-friendly version of cap-and-trade, called “cap-and-dividend”. Under her bill, the government would impose a ceiling on carbon emissions each year. Producers and importers of fossil fuels will have to buy permits. The permits would be auctioned, raising vast sums of money. Most of that money would be divided evenly among all Americans. The bill would raise energy prices, of course, and therefore the price of everything that requires energy to make or distribute. But a family of four would receive perhaps $1000 a year, which would more than make up for it, reckons Ms Cantwell. Cap-and-dividend would set a price on carbon, thus giving Americans a powerful incentive to burn less dirty fuel. It would also raise the rewards for investing in clean energy. And it would leave all but the richest 20% of Americans—who use the most energy—materially better off, she says.

Politically, it has far greater prospects.  Maine's Susan Collins is a co-sponsor, and other Republicans have also apparently expressed interest.  There's nothing like offering the folks back home a nice check to grease the wheels.  As policy, it's getting cautious thumbs up from the environmental folks (with caveats about the sausage-factory process).  At this point, anything that keeps the issue of substantial carbon reform on the table gets my thumbs up, too.

Bill Provisions (all pdfs): full bill, short description, side-by-side comparison with Waxman-Markey (a cap-and-trade bill that passed the House but is still working its way through the Senate)

Note: since we've had many, many battles over the science of global warming, I'll be watching the comments to make sure we don't have that debate again.  This post is about Cantwell's bill.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    A climate kicker! I love it.

  • (Show?)

    In addition to whatever effects it might have in terms of reducing the impact on lower-income Americans, it brings into sharp relief the tradeoffs we each make on a daily basis.

    Use energy wastefully? It'll cost you money. Save energy? You can actually profit.

    It's always been true that you can save money by saving energy, but adding a $1000 check to the deal makes the effect even more pronounced.

  • CommieBlaster (unverified)
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    Off-topic comment deleted.

  • Allan (unverified)
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    I've head this idea before and I'm ready for it to become law. Its the best suggestion I've heard so far. It rewards those who don't consume and punishes those who do. This is exactly what we should be doing

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    But a family of four would receive perhaps $1000 a year, which would more than make up for it, reckons Ms Cantwell.

    Would love to see some hard data on that first. Ms. Cantwell's reckoning doesn't do it for me.

  • (Show?)

    As an advocate for a phased-in, revenue neutral gas or carbon tax, I prefer this bill to the pending cap-and-trade bills. I do note, however, that it is not revenue neutral. That is it does not rebate 100 percent of the money raised from the permit auctions to taxpayers. It rebates only 75 percent. This aspect is neither good policy nor good politics. It could be improved by going to 100 percent.

  • Dave O'Dell (unverified)
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    I like it and I'm happy with 75%. Why not use a quarter to reduce the deficit?

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    MP, you could look at the links and see what you think.

    Dave(s), here's what the other 25% would go to: "25% of auction revenues go into the Clean Energy Reinvestment Trust Fund to pay for additional greenhouse gas emissions reductions, low‐carbon energy investment, climate change adaptation, and related regional economic adjustment projects."

    Details, details, I know, but that sounds pretty good.

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    I agree, it sounds good. But as they say, the devil is in the details. We need to follow this.

  • zull (unverified)
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    We Americans do enjoy finding the most complex ways possible to implement a policy so that corporations can dig in and find all the loopholes they need to avoid taking the hit.

    Carbon tax levied at entities (since the Supreme Court is in the business now of making property into people, we're probably all now just "entities") that emit over a standard limit is pretty much the only straightforward idea that makes any sense. Cap and Trade, Dividend, whatever...they're really just all schemes that allow highly polluting entities a means to avoid their civic responsibility to clean up their act or pay everyone else who gets sick as a result of exposure to their pollution. If I don't need or want or profit at all from an industry, then why should I have to be exposed to their pollution while they sell their "credits" elsewhere?

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    Well, duh me, I agree with ALL the above. Better stop while I'm ahead.

    Posted by: CommieBlaster | Feb 9, 2010 11:22:52 AM

    Off-topic comment deleted.

    And thank you.

  • Stephen Amy (unverified)
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    I know Dr. James Hansen's been pushing this idea (cap & dividend), which in my mind is the most respected opinion on how to reduce GHG.

    Oh, God, I hope this has some prayer of becoming law.

    (excuse me, but I'm a bit jaded at this point).

  • ptown (unverified)
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    "But a family of four would receive perhaps $1000 a year, which would more than make up for it, reckons Ms Cantwell. "

    What if the family of 4 makes $125K/year...? What if they don't recycle, are hetero's and drive an SUV?

    I don't think we want to be giving $1K out to every family - that's not very progressive.

  • ptown (unverified)
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    I am glad we're done debating the whole Global Warming theory - Let's just create some new taxes and move on...

  • Jim H (unverified)
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    I'm with zull on this one. The last thing we need is yet another market that anyone can walk into and manipulate.

  • Doug Allen (unverified)
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    There needs to be a companion bill that imposes a carbon tariff on the greenhouse gas emissions related to imported products. Otherwise, we will start importing Chinese cement to avoid the permit fee.

    This is more complicated than Cantwell's proposal, because it is difficult to honestly evaluate the carbon emissions impact of many products, and it is difficult to account for any similar caps or carbon taxes in the country of origin.

    But it is necessary to avoid off-shoring pollution as a consequence of a domestic cap.

  • ClimateTF (unverified)
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    I'm with the others who favor a straightforward and transparent carbon tax. It just doesn't make sense for Washington to simultaneously attempt to reform existing financial markets AND create a new, complex market for emissions trade.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    It just doesn't make sense for Washington to simultaneously attempt to reform existing financial markets AND create a new, complex market for emissions trade.

    What bothers me about that approach, is that it seems a lot of other countries will approach it that way. Since the planet and, more and more, corporations don't recognize the lines drawn on the map, I'm afraid that the idea isn't practical. I would have been 100% for it 10 years ago, but that was when I would have thought it unthinkable, that a decade later, after Kyoto, after Copenhagen, there is still not one legally binding international treaty dealing with the issue.

    No doubt the system would be gamed. Strong international regulation would be required. Even if it isn't our main approach, we still need to be in on the way that plays out. Like I said before, I could go for all of the above. This time the devil may be in the details, but the assembled gods of Olympus Mons are in the process, the sea change in human relations required to get off the ground. If that happens, all things are possible. If it doesn't then you're right. Another primate reflexive self-aggrandizing ineffectual and inadequate, inertia bound response, this time in the face of what may be our most critical moment in evolution.

    Posted by: ptown | Feb 9, 2010 4:01:24 PM

    I am glad we're done debating the whole Global Warming theory

    I hardly call scientists stumbling on as ever, nearly making a pig's ear of established climatology, or tje self interested and their delusional followers, vainly trying to extend creationism illogic throughout the empire, "debate". In straight English your snark translates to, "Hey, why are you ignoring me; I'm still throwing my tantrum". "Have some more". - Let's just create some new taxes and move on...

    "Move on". Those ARE the two most fearful words you have ever heard, are they not?

    "The TEA Party of America. We vow to NEVER move on!"

    Constipation is a terrible thing. Could I suggest, as "Ptown" is a bit double entendre, "I. M. Mossbacker"?

  • Brian C. (unverified)
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    Sounds like a step in the right direction though some of us already reap certain dividends by consuming less of everything. My lifestyle is primarily driven by frugality but few progressives can question my overall footprint. I'd suggest taking it a step further and rewarding non obese individuals who use smaller quantities of food stuffs and generally require less health care. How about some perks for those who do not wantonly engage in human procreation with total disregard to the associated costs? Wouldnt sneeze at a break for not building a criminal record either. But, these are probably all topics for another day.

  • riverat (unverified)
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    "What if the family of 4 makes $125K/year...? What if they don't recycle, are hetero's and drive an SUV?"

    Then presumably the additional costs the cap system imposes will be greater for them than the dividend they receive.

    Personally I favor a carbon tax imposed at the wellhead, the mine entrance or the import point as a much simpler method, still with the dividend. But I guess it has the dreaded T word so we can't have that.

  • Steve Marx (unverified)
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    "But a family of four would receive perhaps $1000 a year, which would more than make up for it"

    More faulty accounting. The energy companies will raise their price to the consumer, then biz custoemrs will raise their prices to consumers, then of course, govt will have to skim off a 25% handling fee to pay for all the $100K/yr people to maange this program.

    Meanwhile, companies will spew out the same carbon as before. Remind me again what this solved?

  • ptown (unverified)
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    carbon trading goes personal - Z

    They invest $58K and got a check for $17?

    Brilliant! This sounds like the rate of return I'll get from Social Security if it's still solvent by the time I retire.

  • Howard (unverified)
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    Given the warning to stay on topic, I'll preface my comment by saying search the Guardian and Times of London (for example) for more detail on the background.

    How about determining first whether or not a carbon tax is even necessary.

    Given the recent and multiple revelations and confessions of error, subterfuge and bad science, discussing the exact layout or mechanism of such a tax is premature, to say the least.

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    "Given the recent and multiple revelations and confessions of error, subterfuge and bad science"

    troll alert! This reeks of CEI-gate.

  • stevenovick (unverified)
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    I think Jimmy Carter proposed a variant of this around 1978.

  • Howard (unverified)
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    Torridjoe, where am I trolling? I gave a statement of fact. For example, the UN's IPCC apologized for using poor procedures and thereby making false claims (again, no more on that lest I drift from the issue at hand).

    Proposing this new "cap and dividend" tax and discussing its implementation is premature. It's disingenuous if the tax is predicated on known inaccuracy and falsehood - and smacks of ulterior motive.

  • alcatross (unverified)
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    Howard commented: Proposing this new "cap and dividend" tax and discussing its implementation is premature. It's disingenuous if the tax is predicated on known inaccuracy and falsehood - and smacks of ulterior motive.

    Well, the majority of people don't support the particular brand of health care/insurance reform Democrats and the Obama Administration have been trying to ram through - but that doesn't stop them from trying. The aim seems to be to just get SOMETHING done - and it has to be a wholesale BIG thing rather than a plan for incremental improvements... regardless whether the BIG thing results in improved and truly lower-cost health care/insurance for the majority. And if it doesn't, well... we can always fix it later. The important thing is to just get more under government control on the first step to single-payer.

  • Richard (unverified)
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    I reckon you're nuts. For many reasons including AGW but suppose this turned out like the BETC and it costs far more than expected?

    That the $1000 doesn't come close to covering the higher energy prices the price of everything that requires energy to make or distribute?

    And suppose it doesn't do anything at all to either reduce CO2 emissions, effect climate or reduce dependency on foreign oil?

    Do we then get a big opps from the fools who recklessly insisted it was vital?

    Along with the usual demand we give it more time and billions and more time and more billions?

    You don't want to debate the collapse of AGW for obvious reasons.

    Your push forward with reckless redistribtution efforts under the excuse of AGW is your march to defeat. Please hurry up.

    And make sure and highlight how this is a big D, Democrat, push so voters have a clear understanding of who is doing them such a favor.

    On a side note, I am intrigued by your collective and uniform adherence to the whole AGW movement regardless of it's evolution. How is it that such group think is possible with you progressives?

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    Posted by: Zarathustra | Feb 9, 2010 8:35:26 PM

    carbon trading goes personal It was just a link. If I meant something by it, can you believe I wouldn't have kept my mouth shut?

    Posted by: Richard | Feb 10, 2010 7:14:24 AM

    I reckon you're nuts.

    So how crazy do you have to be to go around arguing with crazy people?

    And make sure and highlight how this is a big D, Democrat, push so voters have a clear understanding of who is doing them such a favor.

    I rather like the new verbiage!

    On the whole "sanity check" front, the stakes will soon be upped. You're either going to have to regard the social phenomenon like the witch trials or accept that it's the best hypothesis to account for the variance in the data. I say that because we are getting very close to the first, successful civil suit holding big oil and the like responsible. THAT is what deniers should fear most. Those slimy weasels will realize that actively promoting denial is going to blow their liability through the ceiling. Even if they don't accept the hypotheses, big energy will cave simply to reduce their liability. Remember, with tobacco, the mega settlements weren't for selling a dangerous product, so much as they were for obfuscating and spinning research that they knew indicated otherwise.

  • ptown (unverified)
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    "You're either going to have to regard the social phenomenon like the witch trials or accept that it's the best hypothesis to account for the variance in the data. I say that because we are getting very close to the first, successful civil suit holding big oil and the...." - Z

    Z, I love how you go from witch trials to big oil. That is the creativity this website needs. You should submit some articles. The regular fem-bot crew that author here are so predictable and mundane. Think about it.

  • Richard (unverified)
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    You can go off the deep end like so many of your icons have.

    [Opinion from Dec. 2009] RFK, Jr. 15 months ago: Global warming means no snow or cold in DC

    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/blogs/beltway-confidential/RFK-79834057.html

    RFK, Jr. 15 months ago: Global warming means no snow or cold in DC

  • Jake Leander (unverified)
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    This seems to be less gameable than cap and trade.

    Doug Allen makes an important point about imports. Goods take energy to produce. If imported carbon releasing fuels are taxed, it would create a perverse incentive to import goods that require lots of energy to produce. One solution would be to tax all imports on their total carbon releasing energy input.

    This would not be easy without knowledge of every step in the production process, but then, nothing is easy about controlling global warming emissions.

  • riverat (unverified)
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    RFK, Jr. 15 months ago: Global warming means no snow or cold in DC.

    Stop putting words in RFK Jr's mouth. He never said such a thing. Actually I guess it was the editorial writer Robert Freddeso who wrote those words and you just copied them but he didn't say "no snow or cold in DC". He just described the winters in DC as anemic compared to what he knew growing up which is an accurate statement.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    You totally missed it, pbrain. I was saying that we're close enough to it being set and settled that either that's the case, or, if you're right, the phenomenon of climate change being accepted would have little parallel in history, except for the witch trials. Get what "witch trials" refers to, now? Tepid Dems and trolls like to think that you're so different from one another, but from where I sit neither can parse ANYTHING with "let the chips fall where they may" intellectual integrity. Publish here? I've been rejected for not playing ball. My friends get rejected because they are supposedly my sock puppets. Yeah, they're a lot nicer to you. Tell you something?

    Richard, I thought your type hates the dynastic nature of the Kennedy family. Is RFK, Jr. particularly knowledgeable on the issue? Why are you elevating him by quoting him? You betray your base primate social filter by assuming he would be a progressive icon because of his genes. Progressives don't care squat for personality, let alone pedigree. Main reason we have 5% of the vote.

    Come on y'all. Raise your game!

  • alcatross (unverified)
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    riverat commented: He (RFK Jr) just described the winters in DC as anemic compared to what he knew growing up which is an accurate statement.

    Perhaps, but is the change in DC winters primarily due to AGW - or urbanization?

    Between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland, landscapes that were largely rural and agricultural 30 years ago are filling with residential and commercial development.

    "When urban and suburban areas grow, some of the impacts on surrounding natural and agricultural ecosystems are obvious: green space simply disappears, along with the wildlife that lived there. The vegetation that remains in parks, along roads, or at the fringes of cities and towns is changed by the development as well. Spring comes sooner because urbanized areas are often warmer than the surrounding landscape; pavement, vehicles, and heat created by energy use can raise the temperature up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit compared to surrounding rural areas."

    I doubt Ballantrae Hill in McLean, VA, the area surrounding Hickory Hill, and all the other bucolic scenes of RFK Jr's youth in Washington DC today appear anything like they did 45 to 55 years ago.

    Anyway, just heard today on the radio news that it's official... the snowiest winter now since the late 1880s in Washington DC.

  • ptown (unverified)
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    "Publish here? I've been rejected for not playing ball. My friends get rejected because they are supposedly my sock puppets." - Z

    Wow! Sounds like it sucks to be you. I bet "Scott in Damascus" would be willing to be one of your sock puppet friends.

  • Richard (unverified)
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    Zar,

    Your ignorance is very blue.

    I happen to have listened to RFK jr many times on his Ring of Fire show and he does present himself as very "particularly knowledgeable on the issue"?

    Similar to that other lefty icon Hartmen who says far crazier things.

    I'm hardly "elevating him by quoting him", I ridiculing you all.

    As for your notion that their are no progressive icons? Now that's funny.

    And I never suggested squat about the Kennedy pedigree.

    But who cares what they are called? Icon or any other label. That's typical of you to clam onto that.

    The fact is all of your progrsssive voices, iconic or otherwise, echo all the most absurd AGW claims to be found.

  • riverat (unverified)
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    Richard, you did not quote RFK jr. You quoted the headline on an opinion piece the misinterpreted what he said.

    Albatross, if I responded to you in full I would break Jeff's request (which I'm doing a bit so maybe he'll zap me anyway) but the decline in winter weather applies to the whole states of Virgina, and Maryland. Plenty of non-urban land there.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
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    Posted by: Richard | Feb 10, 2010 4:06:32 PM

    Zar,

    Your ignorance is very blue.

    Now I know how "coloureds" felt under Apartheid!

    As for your notion that their are no progressive icons? Now that's funny.

    Stop listening to pseudo-progressives and you'll see no contradiction.

  • alcatross (unverified)
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    riverbat commented: ...but the decline in winter weather applies to the whole states of Virgina, and Maryland.

    Well, you've got your opinion, the NOAA and the VA Dept of Emergency Mgmt have historic data...

  • riverat (unverified)
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    Those are the same document. It says nothing about how climate has changed in Maryland, just how winter storms commonly develop in the region.

  • Zarathustra is my real pseudonym (unverified)
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    Like water off a Eugene sportsman's back. He's repeating the same fucking crap on the Uncle Earl thread. Please, alcie, don't give into the tepid Dems and their "intellectual integrity is hopelessly naive" meme!

  • alcatross (unverified)
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    eh... well, if the climate has changed, wouldn't we expect to see some sort of trend and/or differences in the type and how winter storms commonly develop in the region.

    Where are your references demonstrating the supposed decline of winter weather in the whole states of Virginia and Maryland? Or are we to just take your word for it?

    zarie, I made one passing comment about RFK Jr's column in my first comment in the Blumenauer post - and it wasn't even the primary point of my comment. It's you who are going off the deep end here. If you can't grasp the primary point of my comments here at BO, perhaps you should pass them up and save yourself the apparent angst.

  • riverat (unverified)
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    al, responding fully to you would violate Jeff's request to not argue science here so I'm stifling myself.

  • Zarathustra is my real pseudonym (unverified)
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    <h2>When you rebut corrections to it 5 times, it IS your major point.</h2>

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