Maria CantwellLast week, the Tacoma News Tribune reported that Senator Maria Cantwell has come out in favor of Cap and Dividend—a system to auction off a limited supply of “permits” for emitting climate-warming gases, and return the auction proceeds back to US residents in equal, per capita shares.  We like the Cap and Dividend idea, since it seems like an effective system for reducing greenhouse emissions, and also for protecting people’s pocketbooks.

But as we mentioned last week, the News Tribune article had one statement that simply seemed wrong:  it described Cap and Dividend as “a relatively new approach that would eliminate the trading of emissions credits.”  That’s not right:  the essence of the Cap & Dividend idea is 1) auctioning permits, and 2) returning the revenue to people. The tradeability of permits is a separate issue; Cap & Dividend could work either with tradeable or non-tradeable permits.

And based on a conversation with a helpful Cantwell staffer, it seems that she’s well aware of this distinction.  Her proposal is still on the drawing board, of course.  But her staff is quite aware that a Cap and Dividend system could allow firms to trade permits with one another; the confusion wasn’t on Cantwell’s end. 

It’s understandable that a reporter could get tripped up on this issue—there are so many variations in cap and trade, it’s easy to get the details mixed up.  Yet the success (or failure) of climate policy is in the details.  So here’s hoping that reporters covering the issues are able to find enough time to master them.