Opinion

Coal-Based Electricity Helps Cash-Strapped Families Keep the Lights On

 

Family incomes have been declining, a situation that has been widely reported and commented on in the media. The choices lower- and middle-income families must make in these situations, however, receive far less attention. Picking and choosing among basic needs due to severe budget constraints is an unfortunate reality for many; one that must be recognized, understood and addressed.

The real-life impacts of declining incomes and rising costs are affirmed by newly updated study, “Energy Expenditures by American Families,” which is based on data compiled from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Analysis of the data collected show that 40 percent of American families—some 51 million households—take home an average of $1,643 each month, and 17 percent of that total goes to energy costs. Even more striking, the poorest 25 million families spend 22 cents of every dollar they bring home on energy.

Energy costs have a disproportionally harmful impact on low-income households, even compared with other necessities like food, clothing, or health care. They have the most regressive impact among these basic needs and are the least likely to be reduced when a family experiences a drop in income.

The bottom line is this: when electricity costs increase, it’s the families who can afford it least that will pay the most.

For all of these reasons, it’s more important than ever that we use the abundant energy resources our country has to offer, including coal. Coal based electricity means affordable, reliable electricity for American households—and it’s especially critical for those in low- and middle-income families who dedicate a significant portion of each paycheck to keep the lights on.

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