The climate bill being discussed in Congress would cut $19 billion off the national debt, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in a finding that could increase the odds of the bills passage, according to press reports.
The Associated Press reported that several senators have told Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), one of the bills co-sponsors, that they would oppose the bill if it added to the national debt. The CBO report could convince many of those senators to support the bill.
The bill, which would tax carbon emissions from large emitters like coal-fired power plants, would bring in an estimated $751 billion in new revenue over the next ten years, according to the CBO, while increasing spending by almost $732 billion through rebates and incentives.
Lieberman and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), the other co-sponsor, hailed the report and the possibility that it might ease its passage. But the Environmental Defense Fund remains skeptical the bill will be able to garner the 60 votes required to overcome a Republican filibuster, and said they would consider pursuing a less ambitious bill that focused only on utilities. However, such a compromise bill might turn out to be more expensive, since it would generate less new income as the result of a smaller carbon market.
The bill aims to cut greenhouse emissions by 17 percent by 2020. The bill would force large carbon emitters to pay $14 per metric ton of carbon dioxide, with that number rising to $25 by 2020.
Two Rice University researchers recently said that a carbon tax is the most efficient way for the country to reach its carbon cutting goals. But in order to have a substantial effect on the behavior of carbon emitters, the price may have to be substantially higher than that being discussed in Congress. The researchers said that a tax of even $30 per metric ton of carbon dioxide would result in 10% of coal-fired plants being shut down in favor of less carbon intensive options, like natural gas fired plants. A price of $45 per metric ton, however, would succeed in shutting down approximately 90 percent of coal generation capacity.