Californians equally as compensation for the use of the sky, a common asset.
Recently the California Public Utilities Commission adopted a climate dividend policy for the part of the revenue generated in the electricity sector. In announcing its decision, the PUC wrote, "Returning revenues equally to all residential customers is more equitable and comports with the idea of common ownership of the atmosphere given that residential ratepayers will ultimately bear the increased costs as a result of the cap-and-trade program." Although the dividends are small — between $40 and $80 per household per year — they are nonetheless a start. Californians should begin to see this money reflected on their utility bills this year.
In 2015, California's cap and trade program will add the transportation sector, generating up to $6 billion per year. Depending on how auction revenues are spent, the economic bite on low- and middle-income families may become even more painful. In contrast, if dividends are issued, low- and middle-income people will be protected, the economy stimulated and investment dollars steered toward clean energy.
In the next six months many interests will vie for a piece of the AB 32 revenue pie. We urge decision-makers in Sacramento to follow the state Public Utilities Commission's example in keeping the interests of average Californians in mind and creating a model that might help move the rest of the country toward adopting a carbon price.
Mike Sandler is co-founder of the Climate Protection Campaign and former program manager at the Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority. Barry Vesser is the deputy director of the Climate Protection Campaign.