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'Climate Dividend' Proposed for California Utility Customers

California residential utility customers will receive a 'climate dividend', about $30 twice a year as part of the nation's first comprehensive 'cap & trade' program if the CA Public Utility Commission accepts a staff proposal at its Dec. 20 meeting,
November 20, 2012, 10am PST | Irvin Dawid
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David R. Baker explains the details of the climate dividend and the "complicated rules" involved in the Air Resources Board giving the state's "electric utilities all of the carbon permits they would need in the first year for free".  In turn, the utilities "had to sell those permits - called allowances - at an auction held last Wednesday (Nov. 14)".

The climate dividend would come from the sale of those allowances and would mean no net increase in utility rates for residential customers.  In addition, commercial customers would receive a small percentage from the sale of allowances.

"On the basis of today's decision, we have a solid blueprint for helping customers ease into a carbon pricing regime, and reap the benefits," said Alex Jackson, legal director of the California climate project at the Natural Resources Defense Council."

The details of the boon to California utility rate-payers were released on Friday, Nov. 17, the same day that Gov. Jerry Brown appeared at the Greenbuild Expo organized by the United States Green Building Council in San Francisco where he praised Wednesday's auction of greenhouse gas permits. Jason Dearen of the Associated Press covered that event, as did John King  and David R. Baker of the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Human impact on climate is real,” Brown said. “It is growing, and we need to take steps to stop it or there will be catastrophic consequences.”

While similar to President Obama's acknowledgment of climate change in his speech on Nov. 14, the same day that marked the advent of the cap and trade program with the auction of emission permits, the different paths that California and the nation are taking in response to climate change become evident.

Blogging on the president's speech in The Hill's E2 Wire (Energy & Environment blog) "Obama vows climate efforts but stays vague on agenda", Ben German writes that the president "offered no concrete agenda to expand on current administration policies to address what he called a major threat".  However, the president was firm on one aspect of tackling climate change: "...a carbon tax is likely a non-starter".

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Published on Saturday, November 17, 2012 in San Francisco Chronicle
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