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A couple of days ago, I expressed disappointment at Senator McCaskill’s remarks about the clean energy bill that just passed the House at the end of June. As Michael posted earlier, Matt Corley at Think Progress had a longer take on the same conservative radio interview. To review, McCaskill tweeted a couple of days ago and reiterated on right wing radio that she wanted to make sure cap and trade doesn’t punish coal-dependent states like Missouri.

Well, as Matt points out, regional concerns such as greater reliance on coal have been addressed in crafting this bill.  Congress Matters has a handy summary of the American Clean Energy and Security Act which points out that 32% of the allowances through 2025 will be given to regulated utilities to keep electricity rates low for consumers. The legislation also provides trade-exposed industries like steel and paper to get 15% of the allowances at the onset of the cap in 2012.

So what does this mean in plain English? In cap and trade, total carbon emissions are capped for the whole country, and then the total is divvied up into credits or “allowances” and assigned to carbon emitting companies like utility companies. If your company has trouble coming in under the cap (which starts out very high and is only reduced over time,) you can purchase allowances from another company that managed to cut carbon emissions and come in under the cap. Given that the allowances are estimated to be worth $50 to $70 billion in 2012, and 32% are allocated for utilities, that amounts to a $16 billion per year subsidy for the first year of cap and trade alone. Not to mention billions of dollars in federal assistance for carbon sequestration for coal fired power plants.

Is there something else Senator McCaskill would like to do to weaken the bill by giving the coal industry further breaks? If so, I’d like to hear her say what it is, rather than have her continue to make vague generalizations that the bill doesn’t take “coal dependent states” into account. Clearly it does.

A final thought. Giving the coal industry further breaks will reduce the effectiveness of the bill in curbing global warming. McCaskill claimed in her interview with Mike Ferguson to believe in the science that says we urgently need to do something about climate change. If McCaskill truly believes that, she should act to make the bill stronger, not weaker.