We take for granted how much energy and electricity we consume on a daily basis until that major thunderstorm comes along that knocks out power for a whole two hours while we’re trying to watch our favorite television show. We use electricity to heat and cool our homes, take hot showers, and refrigerate our food. These are the basics, the essentials, things that we don’t even think about while we’re getting ready in the morning. But as energy prices continue to rise, there are several lower-income families that do have to think about these issues on a daily basis. Do they eat, or light up their houses?
As we battle through the most recent recession, energy costs have impacted lower-income families more than others. Energy costs represent a hidden tax on the poorest Americans, with some studies estimating that they spend one-quarter of their after-tax income on energy. Most of these consumers are single parents, minorities, or senior citizens, all living on fixed incomes. An increase in energy costs can actually force them to get behind on other bills, which can impact each of these groups and cause a greater strain on society, as someone must help to care for the children and older folks.
The demand for electricity is only going to increase as Americans start to spread out from the larger metropolitan areas. As rural areas start to develop, more power lines will be needed to service the population that migrates to these regions. The ability to balance this need for electricity while at the same time maintaining climate change goals will be hard, but can be accomplished. A clearly, defined set of rules is needed so that lower-income consumers and minorities, those who are likely to relocate to these regions, are not negatively impacted. Technology will need to be developed and funded to keep electricity affordable while meeting climate change demands. Otherwise, a growing number of Americans will be unable to pay for power as gas, coal, and natural gas prices rise faster than wages.
The nuclear energy industry can play an important role in job creation and expanding the economy if the government would be willing to pare some of the red tape. Nuclear energy has never been safer than it is now, and could provide instant and long-term benefits to local and state economies. The 104 nuclear units in the United States generate $40-50 billion in electricity sales and revenue while employing over 100,000 workers that contribute to its production.
No matter what’s done, there is an actual energy crisis before us that must be addressed sooner rather than later. Failure to do so could possibly leave us literally, in the dark.