'Affordable and Reliable’ Energy Makes Life Possible
In the United States, we have an abundance of affordable and reliable energy. But some of us take having access to energy for granted. We expect to plug in and charge our mobile devices, flip a light switch and click on the television. And without fail, it all works. It’s not until our power—and our way of life—is interrupted that most of us think about energy and where it comes from.
California’s recent blackout revealed that having reliable electricity is an economic privilege, and interviews from across the state suggest those less affluent continue to have more losses and were disproportionately forced off the grid.
As it is, Californians already pay among the highest rates in the U.S. for their power, and unfortunately these costs are projected to rise even more. These increases often have a higher burden on low-income households that already struggle to keep up with rising cost, leading many down the path to energy poverty. The issue plagues not only California residents, but many more across the country including in Pennsylvania, where utility rates for customers are much higher than neighboring states. In Georgia a study finds energy consumption among the highest in America, and in New Mexico a new state law will increase cost to consumers, with the most negative impacts felt by lower income families who spend a larger share of their monthly income on energy.
The irony is that each state listed has an abundance of natural resources that can be accessed. But lawmakers, caving to environmentalist and special interest groups that don’t speak for the poor, continue to put forth expensive policy ideas like the Green New Deal that promote false hope and unrealistic outcomes for those who already grapple each month to make ends meet.
I recently had an opportunity to speak with several residents of Richmond, Virginia, who face these challenges. And it breaks my heart to see a single mother who must decide on whether to feed her children or pay the electric bill. That’s a choice no American citizens should have to make.
Today we use more energy than ever before, and to keep up with the growing demand, we need an approach that makes better use of what we have, especially if it can lower costs, create jobs and increase funding to critical services we rely on like roads, emergency management, and education.
A recent Shale Crescent USA study shows end users have saved $1.1 trillion over the past 10 years due to increased natural gas production that has reduced the price of natural gas in the United States. Meanwhile California, rich with its own natural resources, increased its crude oil imports from foreign countries from 5% in 1992 to 57% in 2018. This is a glaring example of hypocrisy, and here’s why. Booming shale production helped the U.S. overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the world’s top oil exporter for the first time ever this year. How can our natural resources be worthy enough to supply other countries, but not good enough for us here at home?
We need market-oriented energy policy that will allow America to keep exploring and developing our resources safely, and to follow the example of environmental stewardship set by areas like Port Fourchon, Louisiana. The port serves as a major oil and gas hub on the Gulf Coast with some of the largest boat and marine companies in the world operating from there. It’s also a commercial and fishing Mecca that continues to amaze scientists and researchers from around the world.
During the California blackout, many residents were not able to cook and relied on flashlights and oil-burning lamps for lighting. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo urged residents to be “safe and not to drive in blacked-out areas.” We live in the 21st Century in the richest country in the world, and nobody here should be without electricity. Affordable energy makes us better and more resilient.
And the truth is, nature doesn’t give us what we need to survive—we must create it through energy development. Fossil fuels have allowed us to create a life that Americans have grown to appreciate, thanks to innovations from pharmaceuticals to agriculture to mobile devices. We are better off now than ever before, and politicians shouldn’t deny our comfort and prosperity to the least fortunate among us.
Derrick Hollie is president of Reaching America and host of Reaching America on Demand podcast. The organization addresses complex social issues impacting African-American communities.