Clean Energy: The Next Great Technology Revolution

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduces iCAP, legislation to encourage Investing in Climate Action and Protection, at CAPAF.

Event Highlights:


“The call of this generation is the call to stop global warming,” Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) said at an event at the Center for American Progress Action Fund on Wednesday. “America must answer the call to lead the next great technology revolution.” Markey introduced the Investing in Climate Action and Protection Act, or iCAP, which would amend the Clean Air Act to establish an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The bill will be introduced in the House of Representatives next week when Congress returns from recess.

“This bill works by capping pollution, putting a price on carbon, making polluters pay, and investing 100 percent of the revenue generated from the auctioning of pollution permits back into the economy and to consumers,” Markey told the audience, adding that iCAP would reduce global warming emissions “to 85 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.”

Cap and trade under iCAP would begin with a 94 percent auction of emissions permits and transition to a 100 percent auction by 2020. This system would provide a “market-based push” that would encourage innovators to bring their ideas to the energy sector, which Markey characterized as “a marketplace which for too long has been dominated by monopolies or oligopolies who have seen little need to innovate.” Markey also noted that, “only by full 100 percent auctions can we ensure that windfall profits are not created for polluters.”

A full auction would avoid the problems associated with giving allowances to polluters free of charge, as the United States did to combat acid rain in the 1990s and the European Union’s CO2 emissions reduction program did more recently. “That was a mistake, and the Europeans now recognize that,” said Markey.

Markey referred to iCAP as a “cap-and-invest” system. “Under my bill, half of the proceeds from polluter auctions flow directly back to the consumers, protecting 80 percent of America’s families from increased energy costs while our economy transitions,” he said. Auction revenues would fund training for “green-collar jobs” and worker-adjustment assistance, and would also be used to assist energy-intensive industries that face international competition. Still, “in order to stay competitive, these industries will still need to begin innovating on day one.” Additionally, coal and power companies would receive assistance in implementing the carbon sequestration technologies required for all new coal plants under iCAP.

“Under the current regime of climate inaction, America and [China, India and other countries] don’t seek a common solution, but instead look to each other as excuses not to act,” said Markey. He added that instead, iCAP “will bring credibility back to the negotiating table with China and India,” and encourage exporting clean energy technology to other countries.

Markey compared efforts to curb global warming with the nuclear freeze movement in the 1980s and the digital revolution in the 1990s. “We all benefited from the Industrial Age, and we have watched the dawn of the Information Age. Today, we must start the Clean Energy Age,” Markey said. He added, “I am confident that after this bill reaches its goal in 2050—long after many of us have shuffled off our mortal coils—historians will look back on the beginning of this new millennium and say that it was an era of technological development that in the course of a generation changed the course of a planet.”

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