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Chelsea Green Blog

Washington Post Endorses “Cap and Return”

The editorial page of the Washington Post Sunday endorsed a policy Peter Barnes has been advocating for a long time now—most notably in his books Who Owns the Sky? and Climate Solutions: A Citizen’s Guide. It’s something the Post calls “Cap and Return” and Peter calls “Cap and Dividend.”

Essentially, to reduce the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere, the carbon that polluters buy would be taxed before it enters the atmosphere—in the form of permits—and put into a non-profit trust. Then, without the need for a massive government bureaucracy, every red cent of that carbon money would be wired to every American’s bank account.(For a more detailed explanation, visit

The following is an excerpt from the Post story:

THERE ARE two powerful and opposing economic forces buffeting the American people that could undermine efforts to address global warming. Oil prices are the lowest they’ve been since June 2007. This good news at the pump may spell trouble for the environment if drivers return to the roads and reverse months of stunning reductions in gas consumption. Meanwhile, the looming recession will lessen the political will in Washington to pursue policies that would add costs to doing business or take money out of the thin wallets of consumers.

Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) have committed to putting a price on carbon-burning fuels such as oil and coal through a cap-and-trade system of declining emissions allowances that would be auctioned off to polluters. We agree with Mr. Obama’s plan to auction 100 percent of the allowances to reach the goal of an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2050. But how to accomplish this without exacerbating the recession? No problem. Return to the American people every penny of the trillions of dollars expected to be generated by these sales.

This is not a radical notion. In Canada, British Columbia already does what we are proposing. An economy-wide carbon tax was imposed in the province in July. The $1. 85 billion in Canadian dollars that it is expected to generate over the next three years will go back to the population in the form of reduced tax rates for all residents, corporations and small businesses. A climate action credit will be distributed to the poor to help with rising energy costs.

Read the whole article here.

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