Sen. Corker agrees with Climate Progress on rip-offsets

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) has circulated a letter critical of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (see here):

It appears their blueprint promotes many of the same problematic provisions that have plagued cap-and-trade bills in the past.

Duh! (see NRDC and EDF endorse the weak, rip-offset-heavy USCAP climate plan). He writes:

I believe that we should auction a vast majority — if not all — of the allowances and send 100% of those revenues back to consumers

Well, I’d probably send 60% to 80% back, at least at first, rising eventually to 80% to 90%. No need to give money back to the Warren Buffets, whereas you do need some money, at least in the first decade, for heavily impacted industries, worker transition, cleantech R&D, and the like.

Corker is no fan of rip-offsets:

I am also opposed to the inclusion of international and domestic offsets as proposed by various cap-and-trade proponents and last year’s legislation. Such provisions compromise the strength of the market system and call into question the integrity of emission reductions. Offsets are created when projects or activities reduce emissions from a source not regulated under a cap-and-trade program (e.g. capturing methane from a landfill). The use of offset projects is another big problem with the EU system that we should avoid. There are serious questions about the integrity of many of these projects, and it is difficult to determine whether these projects would have occurred anyway, regardless of the project developers’ incentive to make money off their reductions. A workable cap-and-trade system must be simple and direct. International and domestic offsets with complicated diminish the effectiveness of such a program.

Can’t argue with that! Nor is this new stuff from him (see “Sen. Corker is offended by fraudulent international offsets“) — so I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he isn’t saying this as a way to set up the bill for failure or at least for him to vote against the final bill, which will inevitably have some rip-offsets.

Greenwire printed that letter in its article on “Pelosi sees cap-and-trade floor debate this year” (subs. req’d, reprinted below). I think it would be a mistake to have the House floor debate prematurely since we can almost certainly get a stronger bill next year — but only if the Administration does the necessary foundation-building this year (see “Should Obama push a climate bill in 2009 or 2010? Part I, Does a serious bill need action from China?” — Parts 2 and 3 will elaborate on this next week).

Pelosi does leave open the possibility of a floor vote at the end of the year, before Copenhagen, which may be the best compromise, since the House can probably pass a stronger bill than the Senate:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that she wants to move major global warming legislation before December, a shift in tone from earlier comments in which the California Democrat said she was uncertain about action on a cap-and-trade bill during President Barack Obama’s first year in office.

Speaking to Bay Area reporters, Pelosi insisted she plans to hold a floor vote on a cap-and-trade bill before diplomats gather Dec. 7-18 at a U.N. conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, to work toward a new international climate change agreement.

“I believe we have to because we see that as a source of revenue,” Pelosi said, according to remarks published today in the San Francisco Chronicle. “Cap and trade is there for a reason. You cap and you trade so you can pay for some of these investments in energy independence and renewables.”

The House speaker’s remarks come less than three weeks after she angered environmentalists for saying she may not be ready to bring cap-and-trade legislation to the floor in 2009. “I’m not sure this year, because I don’t know if we’ll be ready,” Pelosi told Greenwire. “We won’t go before we’re ready.”

Pelosi aides did not elaborate further on her new tone about a climate debate later this year. But there are reasons for Pelosi’s newfound optimism, including Obama’s inaugural address pledge Tuesday to “roll back the specter of a warming planet.”

The most likely vehicle for House floor action is a comprehensive bill that House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) promised last week to mark up before the Memorial Day recess.

Across Capitol Hill, Senate Democratic leaders have not said when they plan to push for a global warming floor debate. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, has said she will release “a set of principles” for climate legislation in the coming weeks, but she has said little about her committee agenda on the issue.

“The writing is on the wall that legislation to combat global warming is coming soon,” Boxer said last week, citing Waxman’s schedule and an announcement from the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of businesses and environmental groups supportive of a cap-and-trade bill.

‘The whites of their eyes’

Democratic leaders and Obama will have a heavy lift if they want to move a climate bill in 2009, given the current focus on the U.S. economy.

“Obviously, it’s their timing to choose,” Sen. Bob Corker said in an interview yesterday. “Whenever the timing is, we’ll be very, very involved.”

Corker yesterday circulated a Dear Colleague letter to other senators outlining his concerns with more complicated forms of cap-and-trade legislation, including the U.S. CAP approach and a bill debated on the Senate floor last year from Boxer, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and former Sen. John Warner (R-Va.).

The Tennessee Republican said he would support a cap-and-trade measure or carbon tax under which all of the funds raised get returned directly to the public.

Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh offered a similar read on the prospects for a climate bill, adding that he supports using the revenue for reductions in payroll taxes. “I think in this area we need to be simple, straightforward, so the public can understand,” he said.

But Bayh also said his approach may not be the one that can win a Senate majority. “Other members have other ideas, and that’s why the thing grows and grows,” Bayh said.

Asked about the timing for the climate debate, Bayh yesterday predicted that much will depend on Obama. “I think a lot of us will be interested in the agenda of the president,” he said. “The president cares about this. But we don’t know where it falls in terms of his timeline, so I think there will be a fair amount of deference given to that.”

Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich said he would welcome action in the House, which has never had a full floor debate on a cap-and-trade plan while the Senate has had a half-dozen floor votes. “It might be good for the House if they want to do something,” he said. “You get a chance to see the whites of their eyes — to see what they have and then figure out how does that fit in with some of the stuff we’re thinking about.”

Voinovich also said he has shifted course and would support a cap-and-trade approach for climate change, though he ruled out any bill that follows the same logic as the Boxer-Lieberman-Warner bill.

“As vast as it is in terms of dollars raised, you have got to realize that with the economy we have today, the likelihood of anything that’s going to raise rates 50 or 60 percent is not going to pass,” Voinovich said. “It’s just not going to pass because people are just against it.”

5 Responses to Sen. Corker agrees with Climate Progress on rip-offsets

  1. danl says:

    Everyone can blame the EU-ETS, at least its early phases. The real question, which you hint at, is: Does Corker want to make cap and trade work? Or is he opposing offsets as a way of opposing cap and trade in general? I’m not familiar enough with Corker to know. And there is a big difference between the two.

  2. Rick C says:


    Dan Corker was the Senator who torpedoed the The Detroit Auto low interest loan (bailout) of December.*

    *Corker’s state of Tennessee is home to two Nissan auto plants and a VW plant soon to be built in his native town of Chattanooga.

  3. Rick C says:


    Sorry that was Bob Corker and not Dan Corker.

  4. Climate policy advocates who have talked to Senator Corker affirm that he is sincere that he’s ready to vote for a good climate bill.

    He does not like permit giveaways because the permits have value and why should wealth be transfered to the polluters; he does not like offsets because they undermine the integrity of the carbon market; and he doesn’t like cap and spend because he does not believe that government should grow as a part of climate legislation.

    This makes sense, so Senator Corker’s position is increasingly in harmony with many advocates who believe that the politically smart way to get a strong declining cap that matches the science is with cap and dividend.

    See to learn more.

  5. Justin Felt says:

    The continued insistence on calling carbon offsets “rip-offsets” I believe is doing a disservice to the continued debate on what is the best option for regulating carbon emissions in the United States.

    Carbon offsets, if implemented correctly, are a vehicle way of reducing emissions in sectors that can’t be easily capped (agriculture, etc) as well as in areas (developing countries) where profit motive more often than not trumps weakly enforced government regulations.

    Also, to call Kyoto’s Clean Development Mechanism a failure is frankly not true. This is a three year old market. It was created from scratch from a concept barely conceived before 10 years ago, and there are certainly key learnings that continue to instruct the UN executive board. The program has been a driver of emissions reductions, clean technology transfer, and cost reduction for developing countries in Kyoto Protocol. In 2008, the market volumes for CDM was 1.6 billion tonnes—not an inconsequential amount.

    Finally, whatever legislation passes congress, it will need to be a consensus document that has support from some Republicans, utilities, energy consumers, and, yes, even perhaps economists. What USCAP is looking to create such a document. Carbon offsets are a key cost reduction mechanism. Looking at the latest Pew research, it’s clear the economy is foremost on voter’s minds.

    In the end, debate about carbon offsets is a great thing, and I agree that much needs to be reformed domestically and with CDM. However, to put the carbon offset debate into “black and white” is not the best approach.

    I love this blog, and obviously I read it, but I would challenge you to provide a better, more innovative cost-containment provision, which has the powerful ability to reduce emissions and put food on peoples’ plates.

    Blogs often provide a strong incentive to take extreme positions, and to try to coin phrases and terms, so that they can gain national currency and notoriety for the author. I would put it to you to resist that urge.