Noon: Earth Day message bad for the poor
Friday, April 22, is Earth Day. At this year’s high-level celebration at the United Nations headquarters in New York, the Paris Climate Agreement will officially be signed. Thirty days after its signing by at least 55 countries that represent 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the agreement will take effect — committing countries to establishing individual targets for emission reductions.
While news reports of Earth Day 2016 will likely depict dancing in the streets, those who can look past the headlines will see a dire picture — one in which more than 10 percent of a household’s income is spent on energy costs; one of “green energy poverty.”
To meet the non-binding commitments President Obama made last December in Paris, he is counting on, among many domestic regulations, the Clean Power Plan, or CPP, which Senator Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., called “ the centerpiece of the president’s promise to the international community that the U.S. will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent.”
The Heritage Foundation has just released a report on the devastating economic costs of the Paris Climate Agreement, which it calls “a push for un-development for the industrialized world and a major obstacle for growth for the developing world.” The report concludes: “restricting energy production to meet targets like those of the Paris agreement will significantly harm the U.S. economy.”
Real world experience bears out both Inhofe’s observations and the Heritage Foundation’s conclusions.
Germany is one of the best examples of green energy poverty as the country has some of the most aggressive greenhouse gas reduction programs that offer generous subsidies for any company producing green energy. Based on an extensive study done in 2014 by Finadvice, a Switzerland-based consulting company, I addressed the program’s overall result: raised costs and raised emissions. At that time, I concluded: “The high prices disproportionately hurt the poor, giving birth to the new phrase: ‘energy poverty.’”
More recently, others have come to the same conclusion. On April 13, the Wall Street Journal opined: “Germany’s 16-year-old Energiewende, or energy transformation, already has wrecked the country’s energy market in its quest to wean the economy off fossil fuels and nuclear power. Traditional power plants, including those that burn cleaner gas, have been closing left and right while soaring electricity prices push industries overseas and bankrupt households. Job losses run to the tens of thousands.”
Germany is not alone. The U.K., according to Reuters, is facing “fuel poverty” — with 2.3 million of Britain’s 27 million households deemed fuel poor, meaning the cost of heating their homes leaves them with income below the poverty line.”
Bringing it closer to home, there is über-green California — where billionaire activist Tom Steyer aggressively pushes green energy policies. Headlines tout that California has the most expensive market for retail gasoline nationwide. But, according to the Institute for Energy Research, it also has some of the highest electricity prices in the country — “about 40 percent higher than the national average.” A 2012 report from the Manhattan Institute, states that about one million California households were living in “energy poverty” — with Latinos and African Americans being the hardest hit. With the Golden State’s headlong rush toward lower carbon-dioxide emissions and greater use of renewables, the energy poverty figure is surely much higher today.
This week, as you hear commentators celebrate “the most important Earth Day in history” and the global significance of the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement, remember the result of policies similar to CPP: green energy poverty. Use these stories (there are many more) to talk to your friends. Make this “Green Energy Poverty Week” and share it: #GEPW.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy. She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column.