Driving US families into fuel poverty
By Niger Innis, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez and Amy Frederick
The Obama Administration still hasn't gotten the message voters sent Washington on November 2.
The lame duck session and 111th Congress finally ended, without the White House getting key items on its wish list. So now, the Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department intend to impose costly, job-killing, economy-strangling new rules for power plants and refineries, and implement more land-grabs that will lock up additional millions of acres and more billions of dollars of American energy.
Their goal is to end the hydrocarbon and nuclear era in America – and force us to convert to "renewable" energy. Contrary to clear voter mandates and consumer needs, they are using regulations and executive edicts to slash carbon dioxide emissions, impose "clean energy standards," halt onshore and offshore drilling, and hobble the vehicles, electrical generating plants and factories that are the backbone of our nation's economy, jobs and living standards.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson claims these actions are needed to ensure "environmental justice" for poor and minority families threatened by "manmade global warming." Meanwhile, the United States and entire Northern Hemisphere are enduring yet another nasty winter, marked by early snow storms and record cold temperatures. Some scientists say Earth could be entering another prolonged period of cooler temperatures.
Businesses, workers and families face "fuel poverty," injustice, bankruptcy and worse at the hands of their government, if this regulatory power grab continues.
The Congressional Research Service says average US households will pay almost $1000 this winter just for heat. That's average: Alaska to Florida, Hawaii to New York. Northern states residents will pay double or triple that. Businesses, schools and hospitals will also be driven into fuel poverty.
In Cobb County, Georgia, hundreds shivered outside to apply for heating assistance from a welfare agency that may not have enough money for every family that needs help. Along the Canadian border, in St. Lawrence County, New York, over 8,000 households were approved for heating aid by cash-strapped local, county and state governments that wonder where the money will come from – while Albany has blocked drilling for shale gas that could fuel homes and power plants, and generate billions in revenue.
Even worse, all this is before the Feds actually implement more of the job-killing, family-freezing CO2 limits and other plans they are contemplating. To see what's in store for millions of American businesses and families, one need only look at the planet's one country that is still actually and obstinately plowing ahead to meet its climate change and renewable energy goals, regardless of the costs.
Across Great Britain, household energy bills could double by 2020, to $3,900 (£2,500) a year, market expert Mark Todd of EnergyHelpLine.com has warned. Gasoline prices are likewise climbing to unaffordable levels, and the majority of United Kingdom companies will see their natural gas and electricity prices skyrocket by 100% between 2012 and 2016 – on top of a carbon tax bill of "at least" $65,660 (£42,000) annually – according to the analytical firm Carbon Masters.
Moreover, most of Britain's older coal-fired and nuclear power plants are scheduled to be shut down, with almost nothing to replace them, even as electricity demand rises. That will increase the danger of widespread blackouts, said the Daily Mail, and cause hundreds of thousands UK jobs to be outsourced to countries where energy costs are much lower, and air pollution and carbon dioxide emission standards far less stringent. That will hardly improve England's economy or global environmental quality.
Far worse, more than 5.5 million households will be plunged into "fuel poverty" by early 2011 – forced to spend more than 10% of their family incomes on energy – National Energy Action and other charities said. That's over one-fifth of all UK households and a huge increase from 4.5 million families in 2008. Most in these households are over age 60, but working families are also struggling to keep the heat on, as prices soar.
Nearly 28,000 people died in Britain last winter, most of them pensioners who could not afford adequate heat. Charities say this is the highest winter death rate in northern Europe, worse even than much colder nations like Finland and Sweden. And this winter has already seen the coldest December night for Wales in 169 years of record keeping. Britain is on track to having its coldest December in a century.
To stay warm, thousands of elderly are using travel passes to ride buses all day, while others seek refuge in libraries and shopping centers, the Sunday Express noted. Others are "putting their health at risk, in an attempt to keep costs down," by bundling up and turning the heat down or off entirely, said Age UK Charity Director Michelle Mitchell.
Now, amid the Christmas and New Year holiday, two million homes, schools and hospitals face fuel rationing. Some families could wait weeks before they can get their fuel oil tanks refilled, as more snow falls across Great Britain.
Meanwhile, the British government has cut funding for its Warm Front heating assistance program from $470 million this year to $172 million in 2011, Consumer Focus campaigner Jonathan Stearn angrily noted. And because the winds barely blow during the coldest weather, Britain's "shiny new green" turbines were able to supply only "one-500th of the exceptionally large demand" for electricity during the frigid weather of early December, Sunday Times columnist Dominic Lawson ruefully observed.
That's a tiny fraction of the wind turbines' "rated capacity." But it is a situation commonly faced with turbines on freezing Minnesota winter nights and sweltering Texas summer afternoons, when they average a measly 10% of the electricity output their subsidy-hungry backers say they are capable of.
Is this what Lisa Jackson would call "environmental justice"? How do her actions, notions of "justice," and government-driven energy price spikes square with a 2009 poll by Wilson Research Strategies? It found that 56% of blacks think politicians and bureaucrats setting climate change policy in Washington fail to consider economic and quality of life concerns in the black community. Fully 76% are unwilling to pay more than $50 a year more for electricity, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Northern US winters are far worse than even record-setters in Britain. Why would anyone want to impose costly and nightmarish energy and environmental policies on American families, rich or poor?
The outgoing Congress nearly enacted a bill that would have provided a much needed congressional check on EPA actions. The Murkowski bill fell just short in a Senate dominated by partisan Democrats. The incoming Senate should be far more supportive of such legislation, especially in the face of EPA and other attempts to override the will of Congress and the American people.
The Affordable Power Alliance will urge the new Congress to honor its constitutional duties and prevent the Obama administration from imposing excessive regulations inspired by extreme ideologies. The 112th Congress, including Democrats up for reelection in 2012, needs to heed the overwhelming public demand that America's economy no longer be held hostage by an elitist environmental network – even if that network includes the President of the United States.
Niger Innis is national spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality, a 68-year-old human rights organization; Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, America's largest Hispanic Christian organization, with 25,434 member churches; Amy Frederick is president of 60 Plus, a senior citizens advocacy organization representing over 500,000 seniors nationwide. The three are co-chairs of the Affordable Power Alliance, a humanitarian coalition of civil rights, minority, small business, senior citizen and faith-based organizations that champion access to affordable energy.