energy bills

I’ll get more into the specifics of the Waxman/Markey bill in a bit, but first let’s address something lots of people have been asking me about these past few days: how to respond to Republican attacks that Dem energy/climate legislation constitutes an “energy tax” that will cost every American family 178 katrillion dollars every time they flip a light switch or pet a puppy?

Thing is, it’s not that hard to respond to this substantively, but it’s incredibly tricky to respond to it with a 5-second cable-news soundbite.

The substantive response:

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The cap, in isolation, will raise energy costs, but the cap is not passed in isolation. Dems plan to pass the cap in conjunction with several other programs that will have the effect of reducing or erasing the economic impact on most families. If Dem plans are passed, the vast majority of lower-income and middle-class families will come out even or ahead.

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It’s important to keep distinct:

  • The unit costs of energy.
  • The energy bills a family pays.
  • The overall family budget.

The idea is to raise the first while lowering the second, for a net neutral or positive effect on the third.

Three things in particular to remember:

  • The Waxman/Markey bill contains extensive energy efficiency provisions, all of which will have effect of lowering energy bills.
  • Obama’s proposal — and any bill the Dems are likely to produce — returns an enormous chunk of permit auction revenue to taxpayers, which has the effect of healing household budgets.
  • Rising fossil fuel prices and unchecked climate change will be a hell of a lot worse for American families than measures to avoid them.

Now, how can all that be captured in a soundbite on Hardball?

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