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.