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Commentary by David Holt originally published by RealClearEnergy and made available via RealClearWire
Data is always handy for measuring where things are and will be, and the federal government’s energy statistics are painting an ugly picture of the present and future when it comes the loud push to electrify all of our useful, well-functioning appliances.
The sad part is the policies behind those misguided efforts are already costing Americans and forcing those in poverty or on fixed incomes to make choices between heating their homes or having enough food in the coming winter. That unacceptable situation comes in a winter fraught with the increasingly real risk of blackouts in the dead of the 2023-24 winter for 50% of the country.
The annual Consumer Energy Alliance winter energy costs analysis finds that Americans would have paid $137.4 billion more for their home heating and energy bills this winter if plans to mandate the use of electricity only for heating, cooling and cooking had been in place. Thankfully, those efforts have so far failed at the federal level and families that have energy options, including the use of natural gas, will benefit by saving an estimated 21% this winter.
The $137.4 billion figure comes from residential energy cost data the Department of Energy is legally required to update every year, and slipped out the back door with a Federal Register item in August.
This DOE report shows a stunning 32% average price increase, ranging from 16% to 55%, since 2021 for electricity, natural gas, heating oil, propane and kerosene. This is certainly nothing to brag about, and politically risky. If there is a better example of how the current Administration’s existing and proposed energy policies are costing Americans – taxpayers and voters alike – I can’t think of it.
The threat isn’t over as the movement persists to cut carbon emissions by mandating the use of electricity, and thus restricting energy choices like natural gas, for cooking or heating homes and buildings. Activist-driven campaigns are attempting to push states and cities to ban natural gas via legislation or building codes. This approach is already demonstrably failing in California and soon to come to New York and any state that chooses to ignore the crystal-clear evidence shown by the wreckage of Europe, wheresimilar plans fell victim to the realities of energy markets.
Forget that electrification would mean replacing over 200 million home appliances that use natural gas, including furnaces, stoves, water heaters and dryers. And consider the cost to homeowners and building operators of switching to all-electric, which requires costly upgrades to electric panels, ductwork and appliances.
CEA has examined the cost to switch a household from natural gas to all-electric major appliances for water heating, drying clothes, and cooking in many states including Virginia, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania. The average savings drain ranges from $25,000 to nearly $29,000 by our conservative estimates. That does not factor in the acute shortage of electricians.
Nor does it include the long-term cost increase caused when our electricity choices are reduced, which the $137.4 billion figure shows in technicolor. We cannot invest untold billions in new energy systems while eliminating functional ones and expect energy bills to go anywhere but up for families and businesses.
Sorry folks, decrease the supply, prices go up. It’s a law that is impossible to break.
The silver lining in this year’s CEA winter energy costs analysis is that families with access to natural gas will save 21% in home heating and energy bills this winter vs. last because they a) had access to it and b) the domestic natural gas market stayed affordable despite record liquefied natural gas exports. The latter situation stands outs in contrast to bleating from the usual suspects that exports will cost Americans.
Again, adequate supply means affordable prices.
However, some federal policymakers, elected leaders and anti-business activists have succeeded in limiting traditional energy development on federal lands and waters including the Gulf of Mexico, blocking critical energy infrastructure like pipelines, and weaponizing expansive regulatory authority to otherwise kneecap the energy industry.
For some, facts just are not in fashion anymore.
Unfortunately, this wrong-headed crusade will persist. What’s especially troublesome is that with the continued turmoil in Ukraine and the new conflict in the Gaza Strip, the risks of limiting our energy choices wastefully put us back in a position of weakened energy security and exposure to global energy price spikes.
The remedy is simple – an inclusive set of energy policies that balances the need for dependable, affordable, abundant and environmentally sound energy. Concerned Americans must urge their elected leaders and policymakers to put those priorities first, balancing all of them together to develop commonsense policies.
The other road leads to chipping away at our economy, perpetually higher energy bills and more Americans having to choose to heat or eat.
David Holt is president of Consumer Energy Alliance, a U.S. consumer energy and environment advocate supporting affordable, reliable energy for working families, seniors and businesses across the country.
This article was originally published by RealClearEnergy and made available via RealClearWire.