The bill would enact a complicated version of a cap-and-trade system, which has plusses and minuses. Simplicity is not one of them, and Kerry-Lieberman appears to take this to an extreme, separating out different sectors (e.g. industrial, electric generation, transportation) for different treatment.
It would also boost federal (read: taxpayer) subsidies for nuclear power, which is already getting huge subsidies. You could buy an awful lot of solar panels for the money that we are giving to the nuclear industry now, and this bill would just give them even more.
The allocation of allowances is also problematic. It appears that a large number of allowances will be given away (to the electric generation section) for free, and the bulk of those would be given to the most polluting generators, who would be getting subsidized by (the ratepayers of) the cleanest generators. So California would be paying for the midwest coal states to clean up their act.
In the Washington tradition of providing something for everyone, but especially those who might oppose the bill, there are incentives aplenty for coal states, such as taxpayer funding for carbon capture and sequestration, even though a real carbon price should create a market incentive for the private sector to finance this.
There is a complex smorgasbord of offshore oil drilling provisions, designed to provide something for both pro-drilling and anti-drilling states, while also bribing states with lease revenues to encourage them to be pro-drilling.
Other aspects weaken the bill further. The timelines are slow, with the industrial sector not being covered at all until 2016. The bill appears to allow for huge amounts of potentially questionable "offsets," where you can offset your emissions by doing something like planting trees or capturing cow farts.
This is just a quick preliminary take, as the bill will come into clearer focus as folks start to wade through its roughly 1000 pages. It will also undoubtedly change as the various interests line up to reshape it in their favor.
Like a toddler's first step, the existence of the bill is significant, but it does not take us very far.