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Opinion

Latest Energy Tool Isn’t the One Poverty-Stricken Americans Need

The Natural Resources Defense Council recently launched a digital database aimed at helping Americans track which governors and members of Congress support the federal government’s offshore leasing plan. The key, of course, is to hold officials “accountable,” the NRDC said in a statement, adding, “Using this tool, citizens can see where leaders in their state stand on this pressing issue.”

Agreed. It’s vital to know where politicians and regulators stand. There’s a lot on the line, cash-strapped Americans and our delicate, picturesque environment included.

Which is why, if you see an official’s name on the NRDC’s list, write to him or her — and kindly ask that official to support responsible energy solutions.

Lost in this database and the NRDC’s rhetoric is that the NRDC shares the same alleged goals that the Trump administration and domestic energy industry do — safer energy production and a cleaner environment.

We all drink the same water, breathe the same air, fish off the same shorelines and vacation in the same landscapes. We also all want — and need — a clean environment.

This isn’t a debate. We are all working to protect our environment, which means we’re on the same side. This couldn’t be more evident as the United States leads the world with environmental solutions. Our emissions fell by 11.5 percent from 2005-15; industry-related emissions are at their lowest levels in more than a quarter century, and our regulatory regime is the best in the world, without question.

What’s left for discussion, however, is how we meet our country’s surging energy demand, the rising need for jobs and the growth of our economy. In 2017, about 62.7 percent of U.S. electricity was generated from fossil fuels like coal, natural gas and petroleum. Coal accounted for 30.1 percent; natural gas was 31.7 percent, and renewables met 17.1 percent of overall electricity generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

It is good news that renewables are among America’s fastest-growing energy resources. But the reality is that we remain decades away from the sector being capable of single-handedly powering America with electricity demands increasing every day — especially as the electric car market surges and our lifestyles are increasingly more digitized.

That brings us to the obvious question: How do we turn on the lights; charge our phones and cars; heat and cool our homes; manufacture petroleum-based products including medications; and grow our businesses, workforce and economy if we shut down all traditional energy production and infrastructure out of hand?

Equally important: How do we do it cost-effectively?

American households, in 2016, spent an annual average of $3,211 per person on energy, per the EIA, and the average worker made $48,642 annually. Do the math. That is a staggering amount devoted solely to energy-related costs. While living paycheck-to-paycheck is hard enough, for those in poverty or on a fixed income, the burden is even more daunting, especially when they regularly see a double-digital percent of their take-home pay go toward utility and fuel expenses.

With more than 40 million Americans in poverty, per the Census Bureau, that’s an enormous number of our relatives, friends and neighbors struggling under the weight of unnecessarily high energy bills.

These Americans deserve better. To help, we need real, tangible energy solutions — not the kind of unrealistic, risky assumptions and incomplete data that have led states such as California and New York to have the highest energy costs in the nation, hurting their citizens and driving many to relocate to other states.

When there’s not enough energy to keep up with demand, energy rates skyrocket. Sustaining production and expanding infrastructure to reduce bottlenecks is the best way to maintain that balance. Yet, production and expansion proposals repeatedly get caught up in legal battles or partisan political gamesmanship that drag on for years — all thanks to anti-development groups that mislead Americans into believing they must choose between a healthy environment and access to energy.

You don’t.

What’s more, energy infrastructure such as pipelines remain the safest way to move much-needed energy to natural gas generators, which can be ramped up and down quickly to support the integration of wind and solar into the electric grid. They’re a tag team. They don’t hurt one another; they support and back one another up.

 

David Holt is president of the Consumer Energy Alliance.

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