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.