News Release

“Breaking the Gordian Knot on Climate Legislation”


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday effectively killed the Kerry-Lieberman climate bill for this legislative session, saying: “We know we don’t have the votes.”

Co-author of “Climate Solutions: A Citizen’s Guide,” Barnes said today: “Now that the ‘pragmatic’ approach of buying off special interests hasn’t worked, it’s time to try the alternative — protecting families not corporations.”

He recently wrote the piece “Breaking the Gordian Knot on Climate Legislation,” which states: “The Senate is tied in knots on climate. In President Obama’s view, putting an economy-wide price on carbon is the most effective way to stimulate clean energy investment and jobs. Most Democrats — though not enough — agree. Roughly half a dozen Republicans, given some political cover, might go along, but the party’s leadership opposes a ‘national energy tax.’ Sixty filibuster-proof votes are therefore not in sight. And after November, when Democrats are expected to lose seats, the prospects look even grimmer. What is to be done?

“The conventional wisdom is to court Senatorial votes by giving handouts and exemptions to polluting industries. This has been the strategy pursued by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), and ‘pragmatic’ greens until now. It hasn’t worked and isn’t likely to. The complexities are too great, and throwing people’s money at giant energy companies isn’t a popular idea these days.

“There is, however, another way forward. It starts with the cap-and-cash-back approach, a.k.a. cap-and-dividend, embodied in the bipartisan CLEAR Act co-sponsored by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). Their 39-page bill caps and prices all carbon emissions, but instead of rewarding polluters — most of whom will pass their cost of polluting to their customers — it protects the people who will ultimately pay the bills — namely, us.

“The CLEAR Act requires all first sellers of carbon — fuel companies like Exxon-Mobil and Peabody Coal — to buy per­mits from the federal government. These permits are auc­tion­ed, not given away free (after all, polluters should pay), and three-quarters of the proceeds are returned as equal payments to all legal U.S. residents. This is accomplished electronic­ally every month, like Social Security. U.S. manufacturers and workers are protect­ed by carbon fees at the border.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020