Republican Sen. Mike Crapo told the Idaho Statesman editorial board Monday that the so-called cap and trade proposal for reducing greenhouse gases is dead.
I hear the same thing from a few voices on the environmental side though national environmental groups are so invested in its approach I doubt they or their supporters in Congress are going to give it up any time soon. Cap and trade supporters also are not excited about the obvious alternative, a carbon tax, because it won’t include a cap, only depending on the market to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
That leaves a stalemate of sorts since the Obama administration is pushing forward on its plan for the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, an idea that Crapo and most Republicans loathe.
Two senators, Washington Democrat Maria Cantwell and Maine Republican Susan Collins have come up with an alternative that Idahoans should love. Wall Street will hate it, big business won’t embrace it and national environmental groups still don’t know what to think.
But the “cap and dividend” bill, called the Clear Act is pretty simple, only 39 pages, a welcome alternative to the huge book-sized legislation that have created so much hyperbole out of Washington as late.
The bill would impose a carbon cap on the producers and importers of coal, natural gas, and oil and auction all carbon pollution permits. The revenues generated by the auction would be returned to all U.S. households on a per capita basis.
The bill would give 75 percent of all auction revenues back to consumers each month to offset energy cost increases. The vast majority of middle and low income families would be better off financially because the dividends would exceed the higher cost of energy.
Unlike the current cap and trade proposals the permit auctions would be transparent and open and no Wall Street traders or speculators would be allowed in to manipulate the market. The market would sort out who the most efficient technologies and shift investment away from fossil fuels and into conservation and alternative energy. The proposal would use $25 percent of the auction proceeds to fund agriculture, forestry and energy efficiency projects.
The Idaho Conservation League’s Rick Johnson is an early supporter of cap and dividend because he says it will benefit Idaho more than any other state. That’s because Idaho has a relatively low carbon footprint compared with the rest of the country due to our hydroelectric power.
That means Idahoans will get to keep more of the checks they get from the auctions than residents in other states. Cap and dividend policies not only can help Idaho become more energy independent but also give its economy a boost at a time when we can use it.
And here’s the kicker, Johnson says as he tries to convince Idaho’s Republican delegation to consider the approach:Cap and dividend does not grow the federal government.
The vast majority of businesses would not see any increased regulation. Revenue that comes from the auctions would be paid by coal mining companies, not power companies.
Cantwell’s and Collins’ bill only was introduced in December so most people don’t know about it yet. But unlike other legislation it’s fairly easy to understand. That’s why they call it the Clear Act.