A pair of Senators may have stirred the waters around cap-and-trade when they unveiled an alternative climate change measure on Friday. The measure is intended as an alternative to cap-and-trade legislation. Senators Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, are among a group of moderate lawmakers who like the idea of capping carbon emissions but are opposed to creating a new financial market for trading emissions permits.
Cantwell and Collins fear a cap-and-trade system would create a new commodity market ripe for speculation that could cause volatile price spikes that would harm consumers and the economy. Their alternative would instead create what has been called a cap and dividend structure. The government would still cap emissions and sell carbon permits, but the polluters could trade the credits only among themselves. There would be no outside market for trading the emissions credits.
The plan could prove healthy for consumer pocketbooks with 75% of the revenue raised by selling emissions permits going straight back to U.S. taxpayers in the form of monthly electronic payments made directly to their bank accounts. A report is expected to be released Friday finding that under the plan, a typical family of four would receive tax-free monthly checks from the government averaging $1100 per year, or $21,000 between 2012 and 2030. The remaining 25% would be spent on projects such as clean energy technology research and development.