By Chris Ventura | The Intelligencer Wheeling-News Register | February 7, 2018
Consumer Energy Alliance
Nearly 360,000 West Virginians depend on food stamps to make ends meet — that’s 19.5 percent of the state’s population. For these households, paying for food and necessities like clothing and shelter is already a daily struggle, let alone paying an electricity bill that could have been much lower with the right set of policies.
That’s because keeping the lights on, and their homes warm, takes a bigger bite out of the budget for this these households than it does for the average family.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the bottom fifth of households spent 22 percent of their take-home pay on residential utility bills and gasoline in April 2016. That’s significantly higher than the 6 percent experts say is “affordable.”
A common solution you hear is to increase funding for social services programs that help low-income families pay their electricity bills. But instead of creating Band-Aid fixes, we need to work on policies that prevent these prices to begin with.
By supporting all-of-the-above energy policies that greenlight more energy production and expand the region’s bottlenecked infrastructure system, we can help.
Increasing production and building and maintaining pipelines can bring tax relief, energy self-sufficiency, personal security, increased business spending and a wealth of new direct and indirect jobs — like in restaurants, hotels, real estate, grocery stores and manufacturing firms that sell products and services used by local producers.
But more importantly, it will bring more low-cost energy to market, in turn, lowering all utility bills and alleviating the difficulties of paying them off.
Unlike other necessities — like housing, food and health care — cash-strapped families frequently can’t look elsewhere for cheaper energy, and local and federal governments often have trouble finding the resources to assist.
What’s more, transporting resources via pipelines is 4.5 times safer than moving the same volume across the same distance by other means, and 99.999 percent of resources moved through pipelines safely reach their destination. And the more pipelines there are, the more we can work to reduce air emissions and alleviate the risk of accidents or spills on roadways.
Thanks to pipeline upgrades, innovative technology and techniques and surges in cleaner-burning natural gas usage, carbon emissions from electricity generation are at their lowest point in decades.
In other words, pipelines help everyone — energy users and environmentalists alike — do what they want: protect the environment. They also help do what lower-income families want: lower utility bills.
And many projects on the drawing board, like the privately-funded Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Projects like these will provide public utilities with the additional supplies of natural gas necessary to meet the growing needs of the millions of customers they serve. The gas it will move will generate cleaner electricity to heat and power homes more cost-effectively while creating thousands of jobs in communities that dot its route. This is a route which, after three years of review and input from federal, state and local governments, has been changed more than 300 times to lessen the impact to environmental and cultural sites and endangered species.
By approving and building pipelines like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, West Virginians will see both environmental and economic benefits across the state — particularly for the cash-strapped households who need it most.