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Senate Democrats Lay Out Climate Bill Principles

A coalition of 12 Senate Democrats sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) today outlining principles for a climate and energy bill. The lawmakers call for a vague “price on carbon,” without laying out specific details for how the cap would be structured or what sectors it would cover.

“A price on carbon can be achieved in a number of different way,” the senators write, noting that a cap should achieve the following goals:

  • A target of at least a 10% reduction in greenhouse gas pollution from 2009 levels by 2020, and an 83% reduction by 2050. This 1% reduction per year through 2020 is consistent with President Obama’s goal of a 17% overall reduction in greenhouse gas pollution by 2020. [See below for an explanation of these numbers.]
  • Equal or greater investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy as for subsidies given to traditional, non-renewable fuels from revenues raised by establishing a price on carbon.
  • Protect consumers by returning a majority of the revenue generated from pricing carbon directly to American households.
  • Retain all existing authorities related to conventional pollutants. We should not weaken existing pollution laws that protect public health and the environment in exchange for establishing a price on carbon.

The letter also lays out a framework for three other sections of a comprehensive climate and energy bill: an oil spill response, a section on “clean energy jobs” and a section that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

The following senators signed the letter: Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.).

Update: Sen. Whitehouse’s office clarifies the seeming discrepancy between the president’s goal of a 17% reduction by 2020 and the letter’s 10% target: “The president called for a 17% reduction from 2005 levels by 2020. Our letter calls for a 10% reduction from 2009 levels by 2020. Given the actual reduction in GHG emission levels between the president’s benchmark of 2005 and our benchmark of 2009, both targets end up at a similar level in 2020.”

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