Posts filed under Affordability

Senior Citizens: Helped by Affordable Electricity, Hurt by EPA Regulations

May is National Older Americans Month, a special time to recognize our nation’s senior citizens. An essential component of honoring our seniors is helping to keep their living costs low, especially because 70 percent of older Americans survive on a fixed income. Affordable energy provided by coal plays a vital role in this process.

Low and stable electricity rates help seniors afford necessities beyond energy, like groceries and health care. Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon regulations will make living on a fixed income significantly harder for older Americans.

NERA Economic Consulting estimates EPA’s plan will cause double-digit electricity rate increases in 43 states, an increase seniors’ fixed budgets have little room to absorb. Escalating costs could force seniors to forgo meals and doctor visits just to afford electricity – a devastating consequence that could seriously impact their health.

Jim Martin, chairman and founder of the 60 Plus Association, recently explained seniors are already having to make tough choices thanks to rising energy costs, but EPA’s plan “will make choices like these all too common, and will push too many of our seniors…across the line from struggling to impoverished.”

To the 60 Plus Association and millions of older Americans, EPA has neglected the effects their rules will have on one of our most treasured generations. Our seniors deserve energy policies that protect their lifelong savings and allow their golden years to be worry-free, not extreme regulations that cause them undue financial burdens.  

 


The Morning Consult: EPA Rule Bad News for Low-Income Households

This column originally appeared in The Morning Consult on April 29, 2015.

Rising energy costs are among the new economic challenges facing millions of families across the country, according to an updated analysis commissioned by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

“State Energy Costs for Families” uses data from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration to assess the impacts of energy costs on American households in 31 states. The report exposes an unsettling reality: America’s poorest and most vulnerable families are devastatingly impacted by higher energy prices, such as those enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency’s policies.

EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan, if implemented, will result in double digit electricity rate increases in 43 states – increases that few can afford. Minorities and seniors are especially vulnerable to these dangers, as they make up a large percentage of lower-income households.

The “State Energy Costs for Families” study also finds that real family incomes have declined since 2001. Declining family incomes magnify the effects of higher energy prices on lower-income and middle-income households, forcing families to choose between keeping the lights on and other basic necessities like food and health care.

EPA has turned a blind eye to these realities and continues demonstrating indifference toward communities that will by hardest hit by its misguided energy policy. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy showcased her apathy earlier this month when she outlandishly categorized the Clean Power Plan as an issue “not hot outside Washington, D.C.”

In fact, EPA’s plan is drawing fire outside the beltway from elected officials and regulators in 32 states, all underscoring the significant threats the proposal presents to consumers including higher electricity rates and weakened grid reliability. Governors and attorneys general in 28 states have called for the outright withdrawal of EPA’s proposal.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have also noted EPA’s disregard toward economic concerns and are rightfully unveiling the costs of its proposal. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power recently held a hearing discussing the economic consequences of EPA’s proposed rule and included witness Eugene Trisko, economist and author of the “State Energy Costs for Families” study. In his testimony, Mr. Trisko highlighted the inevitability of increased energy costs under EPA’s proposal and its disproportionate impact on our most financially vulnerable families.

The facts speak for themselves. Energy costs are going up and America’s most vulnerable households will be disproportionately impacted. By ignoring the valid cost concerns being raised by regulators, lawmakers and elected officials across the country, EPA is leading our nation down a path we simply cannot afford.

 


Guest Blog: Kelley Earnhardt Miller on Family Energy Costs

As a mother of three, I know how challenging it can be to balance our family’s hectic schedule alongside paying the bills. When bills rise unexpectedly, it puts the brakes on a family’s budget.

This is especially true of rising bills that come from necessities like electricity. It’s worrisome when we see electricity rates rising because this expense directly hits parents’ pocketbooks. Money that would be spent on summer camp, college savings and family vacations among other activities has to be diverted just to keep the lights on at home.

We’re glad that North Carolina’s electricity rates are nearly 11 percent lower than the national average, which is largely attributable to our state’s use of coal to generate low-cost, reliable power. Our partner, America’s Power, is committed to ensuring that we all have access to affordable, reliable power no matter where we live as no one should be left in the dark or facing bills they can ill afford to pay.

Until I check back in again in May, I hope you will join me in learning more about coal-based electricity and the role it plays not just in your daily life but in your communities too.

 


Senator Boxer’s Skewed Idea of the Truth – Sky-High Electricity Rates in California Make the Case for Coal

At a Senate Environment & Public Works Committee hearing this past March examining state viewpoints on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) made quite the dubious claim about electricity bills in California and Oklahoma, stating:

“California households pay the ninth lowest electricity bills in the country….It may interest our Chairman to know that the Energy Information Administration found last month that California’s monthly residential electricity bill averaged $90.19 compared to Oklahoma’s monthly bill which averaged $110.47.”

This statement, however, boldly skews the truth and requires a closer look at the facts.

Californians actually pay much higher electricity rates than Oklahomans, and far higher than the national average. Data from EIA, the same source Senator Boxer cited in her remarks, confirms California residents paid 16.29 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for electricity in 2014, 30 percent higher than the national average. Oklahoma residents, on the other hand, paid 9.96 cents per kWh, or 20 percent lower than the national average.

What Senator Boxer also fails to mention is the amount of electricity the average California household uses versus the average Oklahoma household. In California, average electricity use per household is 557 kWh per month – the 3rd lowest in the United States. Oklahoma, by contrast, uses 1,142 kWh per month – the 9th highest in the nation.

So while Californians pay much higher rates for electricity, families pay less for their monthly bill for one overarching fact the good Senator neglected to mention – electricity is so expensive few can afford it and, therefore, use it sparingly. With rates that high, can you really blame them?

Coal-based power is affordable and reliable. As Chairman Inhofe’s (R-OK) home state of Oklahoma shows us, states that use coal as their main source of electricity tend to have lower, more consistent electricity rates. Despite the rhetoric legislators may espouse in Senate hearings, coal continues to be the best answer for affordable power no matter where you live.

 


EPA’s Regulations Will Hurt Americans on Fixed Incomes

Like so many across the country, the residents of Red Springs, North Carolina are concerned about rising electricity prices. Since 2001, real energy costs for middle- and low-income families have increased by a staggering 27 percent. Higher energy prices affect all of us, but have a particularly devastating impact on low- and fixed-income families.

Fixed-income seniors are a growing proportion of the U.S. population, and are among the most vulnerable to energy cost increases due to their relatively low average incomes. In 2012, the median gross income of 27.9 million households with a principal householder aged 65 or older was $33,848, one-third below the national median household income. When prices rise but income remains the same, Americans are forced to make tough choices. Do I pay for the utility bill or medication? Do I heat my home or shop for groceries this week?

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon regulations will only exacerbate an already dangerous situation. Under the agency’s plan, 43 states could experience double-digit electricity price increases, with 14 states potentially facing peak year electricity price increases that exceed 20 percent. Jim Martin, chairman of the 60 Plus Association, explained the devastating effect these increases would have, noting that:

Seniors and low-income folks on fixed incomes will be hit disproportionately hard by rising electricity costs. […]Households in the bottom 10 percent of the income distribution will pay roughly three times what the richest 10 percent pay as a percentage of their income. For all of the president’s talk of income inequality, his carbon plan will only exacerbate the problem.

“These regulations single out those who deserve our compassion and our aid and place the greatest cost on their shoulders,” civil rights leader Dr. Charles Steele recently said. Keeping energy prices affordable is critical for so many Americans. Coal can continue to provide the reliable, low-cost electricity our country needs, but must remain an integral part of our energy portfolio.

 


Keeping Colorado Affordably Powered

In June, the Obama Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it’s proposed stringent carbon regulations on existing power plants — a clear attempt to eliminate coal-based power. Next week, EPA will kick off four separate two-day hearings in Atlanta, GA; Denver, CO; Pittsburgh, PA; and Washington, D.C. Here at America’s Power, we’re kicking off a three-part series highlighting the critical role affordable, reliable coal-based electricity plays in all of the places EPA will visit. And, we’re starting with Colorado which depends on coal-based power for local economic development, fuel diversity and low-cost power statewide.

As a top ten coal-producing state, Colorado’s energy reliability and economic vitality are threatened by EPA’s proposed rule. More than 2,500 workers staff Colorado’s 14 coal mines, and thousands of workers’ jobs are indirectly tied to mining and power generation. On top of that, coal is Colorado’s primary power  source and is necessary to keep electricity rates affordable so it can continue to fuel economic progress.

In 2013, 64 percent of Colorado’s electricity was generated by coal. Because coal makes up a majority of the state’s energy portfolio, Colorado has been able to keep electricity prices under 10 cents per kilowatt hour, which is below the national average for power prices. These affordable rates allow businesses to employ more Coloradoans, which in turn enables these employees to have an increased opportunity for income mobility.

Despite the economic opportunities affordable energy creates for the Centennial State, a tremendous number of citizens still struggle to pay their energy costs. Currently, almost 880,000 low- and middle-income Colorado residents allocate 17 percent of their after-tax income to power bills. With so many citizens already struggling, Colorado cannot allow these costs to increase. If the Obama Administration and EPA have their way with these regulations, skyrocketing power bills will be the unfortunate future that Colorado, and the rest of our nation, faces.

Colorado is a fantastic example of how an “all of the above” energy policy can work if the federal government stays out of state-level energy decisions. The state relies on a diverse portfolio of sources and fully embraces the abundant natural resources at Colorado’s disposal including coal which is a vital element of the fuel mix. That’s why so many affected parties will be testifying in front of EPA next week telling the agency that its carbon regulations for existing power plants won’t work for Colorado.

Rather than making everything from power bills to grocery bills more expensive, we should support innovation and prioritize maintaining a reliable and low-cost electricity portfolio. With so many citizens depending on the jobs and affordable energy coal provides, this fuel source is something the Centennial State cannot afford to lose. We’re looking forward to the hearing and hope EPA pays close attention to the important criticisms shared with regards to their overreaching carbon regulations.

If you want to contribute to the conversation by filing a comment with EPA, visit www.KeepAmericasPowerOn.org today.


Advocating for America’s Power: Week 3

I am back again, energy enthusiasts, and as promised have brought more information. I took a look last week at international reactions to EPA’s new carbon regulations, with a specific focus on Canada and Australia. This week my fellow intern, Joe Singh, and I analyze another area of the globe. Joe has a background in economic policy analysis and is helping ACCCE research the global coal market. As I mentioned last week, EPA’s costly new plan would have virtually no effect on climate change, with less than 1 percent in carbon reductions. The Obama Administration understands this, but believes that if they lead by example carbon-emitting nations like China and India will follow. In his research, Joe points out that assuming these nations will follow our lead is contrary to the growing coal consumption in both these nations.

China, the world’s largest coal consumer with one of the fastest growing economies, has said it will set emission limits. Make no mistake, however, China is not exactly following the administration’s approach. The EPA set state by state targets that would reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the electric sector by 30 percent by 2030. China, on the other hand, has instead adopted an emissions intensity target. This emissions intensity target would limit the amount of COemitted for every dollar of economic activity in China, on average. The reason for using emissions intensity rather than absolute emissions is to allow economic growth, which China wishes to maintain. In Joe’s research, he cites an Australian National University report which found that if China maintains its economic growth, even with a significant emissions intensity target in place, COemissions will still grow. Put simply, even if China can meet the targets it sets, its continued economic growth will still result in increased COemissions – not less.

The results of future international negotiations on climate change are uncertain. One can look to the past, however, to provide clues for potential future actions.  In two recent international climate negotiations, agreements could not be reached because of defiance conflict between the developing and developed world. The United States did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, because it exempted developing nations, like China, from reducing their emissions.  Chinese officials claimed that it was “unfair to expect impoverished people in…developing countries to cut back on energy consumption, which is not even sufficient to meet their basic living conditions.”  China’s resistance to a binding agreement arose again during the Copenhagen conference, which occurred during Obama’s first term in 2009.  In a study available on EPA’s website, Western officials blamed the failure of this conference on China’s opposition to binding global emissions reductions.  This opposition was traced once again to China’s view that emissions reductions are robbing developing nations of their right to industrialize. Considering this climate impasse happened only five years ago, it’s unclear if Chinese willingness to reach a binding agreement has changed.  All of this makes me wonder whether the administration’s plan to reduce COemissions will be enough to overcome a history of failed climate negotiations with China.


EPA Carbon Rule Based on Questionable Calculations of Energy Demand

Lately, we’ve been taking a hard look at some claims made in the roll-out of the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon regulation for existing power plants. An Opinion Editorial I penned was featured in The Hill today, refuting six unsubstantiated claims and questionable facts. We’ve seen the misleading claims and want to make sure the reality of America’s energy situation doesn’t fall to the wayside. A recent Wall Street Journal article, “What’s the Real Cost of the EPA’s Emissions Cap?” demonstrates the faulty logic and fuzzy math employed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in setting standards for its greenhouse gas rule.

EPA based its calculations on one fundamentally erroneous assumption: that Americans will use less energy in the future. Conventional wisdom, not to mention the government’s own data, however, tells a very different story. As the piece says, the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently forecast that electricity demand will, in fact, grow 0.9% every year until 2040.

But even if EIA’s data isn’t convincing on its own, conventional wisdom reaffirms that EPA’s postulation falls flat on its face. Simply put, the world in which we live demands more energy. Every day, Americans are using more mobile devices; more electric cars are driving on U.S. roads; and our population continues to rise. And it is low-cost, reliable baseload power from coal that supports economic and societal growth.

EPA is hedging its bets on largely unproven energy efficiency programs that pose enormous cost and implementation challenges. States that have experimented with such measures have yielded, on the whole, less-than-stellar results. The agency’s proposal sets pie-in-the-sky expectations for these programs that, in turn, inflate calculations across the board and set the stage for wholly unrealistic and unachievable standards.

While EPA’s rule clearly misses the mark on many counts, I fear that troubling revelations such as EPA’s calculating method will be unearthed as we more fully probe the measure. EPA needs to get back to reality, readjust its standards using more grounded data and stop misleading the American people about the true costs of its rule.