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Climate Change Policy: Preliminary Observations on Options for Distributing Emissions Allowances and Revenue under a Cap-and-Trade Program: Testimony Before the Committee on Finance, U.S. Senate
John Stephenson (au)
Statement of John Stephenson, Dir., Natural Resources and Environment, GAO. Congress is considering proposals to establish a price on greenhouse gas emissions through a cap-and-trade program that would limit overall emissions and require covered entities to hold tradable emissions permits, or allowances, for their emissions. The purpose of such a program is to raise the cost of activities that produce emissions and thereby provide an economic incentive to decrease emissions. Carbon dioxide, which results from burning fossil fuels, is the primary greenhouse gas and accounts for about 80% of U.S. emissions. A cap-and-trade program would increase the cost of burning fossil fuels and other activities that generate emissions and potentially raise costs for consumers. A key decision is the extent to which the govt. offsets these costs. For ex., the govt. could sell the allowances and then return the revenues to covered entities or households. The govt. could also give away some or all of the allowances. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the value of the allowances could total $300 billion annually by 2020. This testimony provides preliminary results of ongoing work assessing the potential effects of (1) allowance allocation methods, and (2) options for distributing program revenues or the economic value of allowances.
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