The holiday season is definitely the time of giving and sharing, something parents often remind their children. It’s also the time to be thankful, even during a deflating and dangerous pandemic.
Those American families who can congregate this yuletide season will count their blessings they can gather in a warm home and celebrate their traditions and these days, the increasingly rare opportunity to get together with those we love.
This good fortune for many of us includes having enough money to avoid deciding whether to pay for groceries and gifts or our energy bill. We’re also fortunate that our energy is relatively affordable and available to all. This, of course, isn’t the case for every family.
Right now, nearly 19 million Americans could be evicted from their homes at year’s end, and another 12 million are set to lose jobless benefits. One in five households has had to cut back or cut out essentials like food and medicine to pay an energy bill, recent Energy Information Administration statistics show.
And that’s in a modern nation with affordable and abundant energy, where environmental progress is a priority. Simply consider the often-obscured fact that the U.S. leads the world year after year in reducing emissions. This reflects stringent environmental standards that shrink our emissions even as we produce more oil and gas than any nation and are the second-biggest renewable energy producer.
Of course, this progress isn’t enough. We must continue to add more energy to our mix and ensure that our energy from every source is produced in the cleanest, most environmentally responsible manner.
However, some well-meaning supporters of this important goal inadvertently hurt those who can’t take on the added costs required to achieve this goal. They favor limiting our energy choices while forgetting the environmental gains underway.
Sure, many of us can afford to absorb a significantly higher energy bill. But many others cannot. Sadly, some state legislatures and governors are limiting consumer choices for energy which, ultimately, boost costs for families, small businesses and farmers who already struggle to afford it. This occurs because energy bills are like a hidden tax on everyone’s disposable income – and it harms those with less income more.
So, as a New Year’s resolution, let’s examine how untested government programs and policies impact those less fortunate than the rest of us. They include those struggling with low or fixed incomes and our seniors. Then think of the shocking number of Americans who live paycheck to paycheck. Depending on the survey, it ranges from half of workers making under $50,000 annually to three-quarters of all employees. Nearly 3 in 10 say they have no emergency savings at all – and the percentage undoubtedly is higher now than when the survey was taken in July 2019.
So this holiday season, let’s give thanks for our good fortune and our blessings, whatever they may be.
But let’s also lend our voices to those who cannot afford higher energy bills by demanding reasonable and fair energy policies that will carry us to our environmental goals without harming our most vulnerable citizens. As the New Year ushers in a new legislative year, let’s urge our leaders to be giving as well by favoring the needs of the least among us.
David Holt is president of the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA).
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