Let’s Talk Candidly About Energy

Let’s Talk Candidly About Energy
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File

Even though Americans are working more hours, many are still watching their paychecks erode and saving less money – if they are saving anything at all.

Against this current backdrop, people across the country are spending an annual average of $3,512 per person on energy, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). With the average worker making $48,664 per year, that is a staggering amount of money devoted to keeping the lights on, the house warmed and cooled and the gas tank full.

But for those living on low or fixed incomes, the burden is even more crushing, with the poorest households generally spending more than 20 percent of their income on home energy bills, and in some extreme cases, more than 50 percent.

With more than 40 million Americans living in poverty, according to the Census Bureau, and 13.5 million unemployed or searching for full-time jobs, that is an enormous number of our relatives, friends and neighbors struggling under the weight of their energy bills.

Americans deserve better. How we meet our energy challenges affects us all. While most of these people are strangers to us, we must start paying closer attention to and considering the energy costs of families – just like yours – sitting at the kitchen table trying to pay their bills.

We can’t ignore them forever. The time to help them is now.

When there is not enough energy to keep up with demand, energy prices skyrocket. The solution is sustaining energy production and improving our infrastructure. Yet, energy projects are often caught up in legal battles or — increasingly — partisan political gamesmanship that drags on for years, as anti-development groups mislead Americans into believing that they must choose between a healthy environment or access to American energy.

The truth is we don’t have to choose. We can have both.

Did you know that oil and natural gas pipelines ― despite the claims of protesters ― are 4.5 times safer than moving the same volume across the same distance by other means? Or that over 99.999 percent of what's moved through pipelines safely reaches its destination? Or that natural gas generators can be ramped up and down quickly, which supports the integration of wind and solar into the electric grid? Or that we use natural gas for 33.8 percent of our electricity? Or that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell by 11.5 percent from 2005 to 2015, with the country on pace to meet the Paris Accords — without governmental intervention?

In short, the beauty of energy diversity is that it pushes companies to innovate their technology, reduce emissions and operate under the highest safety standards ― and that holds true for all forms of energy, including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, solar and wind.

But despite the benefits of American energy development, modernized infrastructure and the diversification of our resources, energy has for some strange reason become a political hot potato. It shouldn’t be.

We all want a cleaner environment and access to affordable energy, regardless of our political affiliation. Nobody wants to pay more for consumer goods ― such as clothes, food and electronics ― because of high energy costs.

That is why Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) is launching “Campaign for America’s Energy” – a nationwide movement that engages families, businesses and lawmakers in states and communities throughout the country in a non-partisan, open, thoughtful discussion to ensure people have the information necessary to make the right calls for our shared energy and economic future.

Through that conversation, we seek to find common ground on ways to protect the environment, ensure the lowest possible prices, create greater energy security for struggling households, upgrade America’s infrastructure and push forward with cutting-edge innovations.

If there is one thing we should all agree on, it is this: We need energy to survive and thrive, and we need a clean environment.

CEA invites all concerned Americans to join our dialogue and help create solutions that not only look out for your family when you’re sitting at the kitchen table but also when you’re out enjoying the outdoors. Saying “no” and protesting everything is not a solution. Let’s work together toward real, achievable solutions that keep the lights on and the planet green.

David Holt is the president of Consumer Energy Alliance.

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