As one of the economists who signed in support of the UCS campaign for climate change legislation, I have to express my disappointment with your response to the Cantwell bill.
1. It is by far the best bill before Congress. It has two features that any serious environmentalist should enthusiastically support: no offsets and upstream (comprehensive) permitting. This is the right architecture. It is simply shocking to me that the bill would be criticized on exactly these grounds! You appear to endorse offsets as a means to secure an international agreement, as if this discredited approach were the only basis for moving forward globally. Clearly UCS is not paying attention to the current discussion around the validity of offsets.
2. You criticize the 2020 targets in Cantwell, but specific targets are meaningless. No matter what bill is passed, Congress will be revisiting these targets every year or two as new scientific evidence emerges and political winds shift (for better or worse). Any target announced today for more than a decade into the future is purely symbolic. What matters is getting the architecture right, so that, if there is political support for more stringent goals, they can be accomplished expediently.
3. Remarkably, UCS sees fit to attack the Cantwell bill on the other feature it gets right: it auctions all the permits and distributes most of the money back to households. Aside from the other justifications for this approach, it is now clear that this is the only way there can be enough political support for serious GHG mitigation. UCS' advocacy for spending carbon revenues on its own desired projects is politically naive. (a) UCS and its environmental allies will not control the allocation process. If Congress gets to parcel out these funds, you can be sure that most will go into "clean coal", biofuels, etc. (b) Carbon revenues are available to be allocated only if Congress passes a bill with a reasonably tight cap, provisions for auction, and few or no offsets. But this will be achieved only if the electorate is convinced it will not be at the expense of their household budgets. Only revenue recycling can accomplish this.
So why on earth has UCS adopted this position? Can it be because you have decided that Kerry et al. is the horse to ride, and that any other approach is a distraction? If so, you should say this and not trot out implausible and disingenuous arguments.
Again: I am really disappointed in UCS. I can't see myself signing any more of your petitions in the future, and in saying this I know I speak for many other environmentally-aware economists.