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June 8 2015

How High Will It Go?

Carrie L. Lukas

Summer is here, and that means it is getting hot throughout much of the country.

Hot temperatures can do more than make one uncomfortable. As we are witnessing in India, heat can kill.  High temperatures can lead to heat stroke, dehydration, and ultimately death.  Tragically, already more than 2,000 people have died in India due to a historic heat wave. 

Americans are fortunate that we have infrastructure to mitigate the impact of hot weather.  We have better housing and shelter to provide relief from the sun and heat, and ways to cope with water shortages.   

Two-thirds of American houses even have air conditioning.  Air conditioning can offer blissful relief during hot summer months.  It not only makes summer time more pleasant, but it also can benefit the physical health of vulnerable populations, like the elderly, those who are sick, and children.    

Just having air conditioning, of course, isn’t enough.  People need to be able to afford the electricity necessary to run their air conditioners to enjoy its benefits.  Air conditioners use an estimated 5% of U.S. electricity, according to the Department of Energy, costing homeowners $11 billion annually.

Americans have been fortunate, in recent years, that electricity prices have been relatively stable.  Yet that may not last.  The U.S. Energy Information Administration has warned that electricity prices are expected to go up. 

And that’s before the Administration's “Clean Power Plan” kicks in.  That costly new regulatory regime could lead to double-digit electricity price increases in a majority (43) states.  The EPA’s new rules are expected to cost the industry more than $350 billion over 15 years, and those costs will largely be shoulder by consumers.

Just how hard one will be hit, by rising energy costs varies by state.  You can see the economic impact that’s expected in your state by visiting here

Note that rising energy costs don’t affect everyone equally.  Those with lower incomes are much more likely to suffer as a result of rising energy costs:  Energy costs already consume a greater share of their incomes, so they are the most likely to have to cut back on things like their air conditioning when electricity prices climb too high. 

Take the state of Arkansas, for example. Six-in-ten households take home less than $1,900 a month, and an estimated 17 percent of that money goes to pay for energy.  As electricity prices tick up, that will be a significant burden for many Arkansans who will have to struggle to make ends meet and could mean some very unpleasant, hot, humid summers for too many residents.    

Americans should keep this in mind when they hear about new rules emanating from the EPA.  So often the media just echoes the Administration’s platitudes about “encouraging green energy use” and “reducing carbon emissions.”  The very real costs of these regulations – higher prices, which particularly harm vulnerable populations and those with low-incomes – are often unmentioned.  

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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