As 2024 unfurls, it’s worth putting a few things in context. While we may have seen a slight dip in gasoline prices, we’re still paying prices last seen 12 years ago. Add in persistent inflation that still brings sticker shock at the grocery store and interest rates last seen in the 1980s, and it is clear Americans will enter the election with money on their minds.
There is one important financial thread we all need to pay attention to, and that is energy costs. Lower energy prices spark lower prices for our essentials – food, housing, and transportation – including every gift you sent during the holiday season, whether by U.S. Mail, UPS, FedEx or Amazon. Conversely, higher energy prices mean higher everything prices because energy is literally an inescapable factor in every economic calculation.
This is the broad message I delivered in testimony during a Congressional hearing on Jan. 11, at the kind invitation of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. Against this concerning energy backdrop, it behooves American voters to support candidates who, regardless of party, back sensible energy policies that deliver abundant, affordable, reliable, and environmentally responsible energy.
Right now, the United States in 2023 is expected to have produced more natural gas and oil in a year than any nation, ever, according to the latest U.S. government data. This is a great achievement – coupled with our increasing use of renewable energy – but is generally viewed in a negative light by extreme activists and a few fellow travelers in government. This is a mistaken, sad response to an achievement that – if allowed to continue – will do more for our economy, our households, and our environment than the myriad of government controls being offered.
America’s energy success is borne largely of entrepreneurship and market competition, and comes despite a federal administration and a few states intent on throwing every regulatory and bureaucratic impediment in the way. That playbook has included, among other things:
- Ignoring laws passed by Congress requiring an oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico until forced to do so by a federal court
- A 500-day delay in a legally required offshore leasing plan
- The fewest onshore and offshore lease sales in history
- Constantly delaying and changing the rules to permit much-needed pipelines and transmission that would help keep electricity rates low for Americans.
The current Administration’s M.O. from day one has been to attack and limit domestic energy production, by issuing restrictions, delays and numerous economically self-defeating energy regulations. These include policies restricting the use of natural gas and targeting natural gas appliances – water heaters, furnaces and even the gas stovetops that a majority of Americans love – without any plan for how all that new electricity will be generated.
Although the stated impetus for these policies is something we all agree is important – an improved environment – the evidence is crystal-clear from California to New York to Europe that these policies trigger higher costs, restrict consumer freedom-of-choice and require us to use higher-emitting sources of energy to make up the predictable supply shortfall.
In other words, the environment loses.
Ordinary people lose, too.
Retail residential electricity rates slowed their rise in 2023 but still were still climbing in October, the latest data available. Although electricity pricing is complex, one of the biggest factors is the cost of fuel – once again, when supply is restricted in the face of unyielding demand, prices climb. This is what makes unwise, restrictive energy policies so expensive.
In states like California, New York and Massachusetts, where energy sources are limited by government fiat, rates have risen higher than elsewhere. The cold weather across the nation this month has shown that regional grid managers are right to have shouted from the housetops about near-term blackout worries.
Already, many elected leaders who have opposed traditional fuels are signaling they may have been shortsighted, or are trying to deflect blame and keep the cost quiet.
California has kept its Diablo Canyon nuclear facility and several natural gas power plants online longer than planned because the state doesn’t have enough generating capacity. It’s already importing more energy from neighboring states, increasing what are already some of the highest electricity rates in America.
All this is occurring while the U.S. leads the world in carbon reduction. In fact, since 1990, the U.S. has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 19% while the rest of the world has increased theirs by over 18%.
What conclusion can we draw from all this? It clear that curtailing energy production and consumer choice is costing families and businesses greatly while generating a federal debt that is unsustainable – and now exceeds $100,000 per American. All while we are already marching toward ever-improving environmental performance and ever-greater energy diversity – and we acknowledge that more needs to be done.
A sensible U.S. energy policy is essential. Cries to ban one energy resource for another should be cast aside in favor of non-partisan, broad-choice energy solutions.
For all of us, energy is a central part of every day, all but taken for granted as it underpins our economy, our lives and our future. Energy should not be a partisan issue, especially when higher prices affect us first through our bills and second, when those costs are passed on to us through the goods and services we buy, which drives inflation. Those in poverty and on fixed incomes are hurt the most.
If we all bear that big picture in mind, regardless of party, our ballot-box decisions should become self-evident. Are we for affordable progress and future prosperity, or failed ideas that remove freedoms and raise the cost of living?
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.