A joint press release on December 11 from the offices of Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington State and Senator Susan Collins of Maine, announcing the introduction of major legislation known as the Cantwell-Collins Carbon Limits and Energy for American Renewal (CLEAR) Act, quoted from a December 2008 policy brief by Michael A. Livermore ’06, executive director of the NYU School of Law’s Institute for Policy Integrity.

The senators’ press release quoted from “Unlocking the Green Economy: How Carbon Pricing Can Open the Floodgates of Private Investment in Clean Energy,” in which Livermore argues for carbon pricing as a spur to the development of alternative energy technology: “Carbon pricing is the only signal that can cut through the noise and direct diverse economic actors towards smart, green investments—investments that will create jobs, encourage technological development, and maximize returns.”

The CLEAR Act would establish an auction system through which fossil fuel producers would purchase carbon emission allowances. Companies would have an economic incentive to reduce their carbon footprint, and auction proceeds would be split, with 75 percent refunded to every U.S. legal resident to help offset the higher fuel costs that producers would pass on to consumers, and the remainder used to develop clean-energy alternatives. According to Cantwell and Collins, a family of four would receive an average of $1,100 a year between 2012 and 2030.

“Energy is a six-trillion dollar market opportunity, and green jobs can transform the U.S. economy,” Cantwell said. “But we need a signal on carbon so that this can happen. This bill provides a simple approach to getting off of carbon and on to clean energy alternatives.”

Collins added, “It would help reduce our dependence on foreign oil, promote alternative energy and energy conservation, and advance the goal of energy independence for our nation” while also insulating consumers and industries from higher energy costs whose rise is made predictable enough for businesses to plan accordingly. The bill also promotes greater energy efficiency and renewable energy development, she said, leading to economic stimulus and new jobs.

Posted on December 16, 2009