‘Keep It In The Ground’ Won’t Save The Environment – Or Your Budget

REUTERS/George Frey

David Holt President, Consumer Energy Alliance
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Most of us paid a lot less in utility costs to keep warm this past winter than we had in previous years. We also drove more miles than ever – also for a lot less – courtesy of bottom-of-the-barrel fuel prices.

Both are shining examples of how America’s once-in-a-generation energy revolution – the byproduct of American innovation and resources, remarkable improvements in technologies and techniques, and record-sized increases in oil and natural gas production – has made many of life’s necessities markedly more affordable while reducing pollution and carbon dioxide emissions. 

Now, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) has provided clarity on how much.

EIA recently said that hydraulic fracturing has improved the average cost of living for most Americans by nearly $750 every year since 2008. In fact, thanks to fracking, oil and natural gas prices fell 71 and 56 percent, respectively, between June 2014 and February 2016, which has sent the price of gasoline and electricity tumbling to today’s historic lows.

If you’re an energy consumer – and if you’re reading this, you are – your life has unquestionably been improved by America’s energy resurgence. And for those living at or below the poverty level, it may have gotten a tad bit easier to make ends meet.

There is no better proof than this to show that Americans benefit from producing more energy here at home.

But that could change if we’re not careful.

Per Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), it’d be unwise for consumers to “be lulled into complacency” by today’s consumer-friendly energy costs given “the historic investment cuts we are seeing” throughout the energy sector, which “raise the odds of unpleasant oil-security surprises in the not-so-distant future.”

“Heed the writing on the wall,” he says.

That is, continue backing an energy plan that supports oil, coal, gas, nuclear and renewables. Don’t pick and choose – it won’t work long term. But an all-of-the-above energy strategy will – a strategy that, as President Obama defined in a State of the Union speech a few years back, “develops every available source of American energy.”

Interior Director Sally Jewel recently echoed this sentiment, saying “It’s going to take a very long time before we can wean ourselves from fossil fuels, so I think that to keep it in the ground is naive, to say we could shift to 100 percent renewables is naïve.”

“We really have to have a blend over time, and a transition over time, that recognizes the real complexity of what we’re dealing with,” Jewel added.

Unfortunately, anti-energy extremists are working to curtail oil and natural gas development and increase your gasoline and electricity prices via a movement called “Keep It in the Ground,” which looks more like a “none-of-the-above” energy plan than an “all-of-the-above.”

Its lone mission is to block energy development on all public and private lands and waters, regardless of any safety or regulatory stringency. Any project related to fossil fuels – pipelines, processing plants, oil and gas exploration, electricity generation, you name it – is an automatic no-no, no matter what, even as global energy demand is expected to swell 25 percent by 2040, with 80 percent of that demand coming from fossil fuels.

These efforts ignore two fundamental facts. First, America leads the world in reducing emissions; we are showing that technology can allow environmental protection and energy production to go hand-in-hand. Second, they don’t have any plans for meeting our energy needs in the absence of fossil energy.

Are you ready for $4-per-gallon gasoline, ever-increasing utility bills and propane shortages? How about those less fortunate than you – are they ready?

Low-income families customarily spend a larger percentage of their disposable income on electricity, heating costs and transportation fuels than those in other income brackets. Unlike other necessities – like housing, food, and health care – these consumers oftentimes can’t shop around for cheaper resources, and most federal and state governments don’t have sufficient resources allocated to assist. For these families, increases in energy prices result in difficult decisions.

And because the cost of energy is embedded in nearly every good and service we use – including the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the shampoo we use, the carpet we walk on, and the medication we take – price spikes commonly act as a regressive tax for families, seniors living on fixed incomes, and those with incomes below the poverty level.

That means the last thing consumers need is an unproven, impractical anti-fossil fuel strategy that opposes every project out of hand, threatens America’s electrical grid reliability, reduces its energy security, jacks up consumer costs, cuts jobs, and jeopardizes the notable environmental improvements industry has achieved in recent years.

That just simply isn’t the right way to go about energy policy. American consumers both need and deserve a well-balanced path towards an affordable, reliable energy future.