How the Senate climate bill missed an opportunity

The newly introduced climate bill establishes a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gasses. This setup leaves many allocation distribution questions unanswered.

Harry Hamburg/AP
Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) at a news conference announcing their climate change bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 12.

Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) introduced a climate bill yesterday that, among other things, establishes a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases. The virtue of a cap-and-trade program is that it establishes a market price for a pollutant and allows flexibility within and across regulated entities in how to reduce emissions. But any cap-and-trade program must decide whether to allocate the pollution allowances for free or through a government auction, as well as how to distribute both the allowances and any auction revenue.

As I wrote previously for TPC’s “Desperately Seeking Revenue” event, a full auction of allowances, which in turn uses the revenues to reduce high marginal tax rates or reduce deficits, lowers the overall cost of any cap-and-trade program. In this link, I show how the Senate bill distributes the allowances. Unfortunately, the measure gives away most for free and devotes very little revenue to reducing either high marginal tax rates or deficits.

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