Senators Kerry and Lieberman performed CPR on climate policy yesterday, releasing a discussion draft of the bill they have been crafting with Senator Graham. Admittedly, Congress is still a long way from passing a comprehensive climate and energy bill. But in an area of particular concern to the Center — protecting vulnerable low-income households — the senators have done a good job.
Like the climate bill the House passed last year, the Kerry-Lieberman proposal includes a robust program of direct payments (“energy refunds”) for low-income households. The refunds are large enough to protect the typical household in the poorest 20 percent of the population from incurring a financial loss as a result of the policies necessary to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. (The bottom 20 percent consists of households with incomes below roughly 150 percent of the poverty line, or about $33,000 for a family of four.)
The refund program is very similar to the one in the House bill (which we analyzed here). We’ll have a full analysis soon, but here are the highlights:
It’s encouraging that the new proposal, like the House-passed bill, follows the soundest approach to protecting low-and moderate-income consumers in a comprehensive energy and climate bill: providing direct assistance through state EBT systems and refundable tax credits. This approach is effective in reaching these households, efficient (with low administrative costs), and consistent with the goal of encouraging energy conservation.