Energy costs have almost doubled from 2001


Energy costs for U.S. households will almost double this year from 2001, consuming a fifth of the annual income for half of American homes, according to a study by a utility group that opposes limits on coal use.

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which includes Atlanta-based Southern Co. and Peabody Energy Corp. in St. Louis, said the 50.4 percent of households earning less than $50,000 may pay even higher costs as regulators consider limits on coal-burning power plants.

The study is “further evidence that these regs are going to cause an impact on the American family,” said Lisa Camooso Miller, vice president for media relations for the Washington- based coalition, in an interview.

The group said it will cite the study’s results as it opposes greenhouse-gas and clean-air regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency that target coal-fired plants.

Rising gasoline prices accounted for four-fifths of the increase cited in the study. Household electricity costs have increased at a slower pace because coal generated about half the nation’s power during the years studied, according to the group.

For this year, energy costs for about half the U.S. households will be 21 percent of total income, up from 12 percent 11 years ago, according to the study.

The report said the EPA’s mercury and air toxics rule, issued in December, would raise electricity costs, exacerbating the strain from higher energy expenses.

The EPA’s first standards for mercury pollution from coal- fired power plants set rules that environmental and health groups say will lead to the biggest cuts to air pollution in two decades.

EPA Estimates Disputed

The EPA has said the air toxics rule will cost utilities about $9.6 billion to comply. The rule will save lives and result in as much as $90 billion in annual benefits, the EPA said.

The EPA estimates its mercury rule will increase electricity costs about 3.1 percent. The coal group, in a separate study, estimated the EPA rules might raise costs 10 percent to 19 percent at times of peak demand.

The coal study, which examined four income levels, estimated energy will represent 78 percent of total spending for the poorest families, or those earning less than $10,000 a year.

The estimate excluded payments from the federal and state energy assistance programs, such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Households are eligible if their annual income doesn’t exceed 150 percent of the poverty level or 60 percent of the state’s median income, whichever number is higher, according to the program’s guidelines.

‘More Vulnerable’

“Lower-income families are more vulnerable to energy costs than higher-income families because energy represents a larger portion of their household budgets,” according to the study, which relied on Energy Information Administration data.

Energy costs this year will represent 24 percent of after- tax income for families earning $10,000 to $30,000, up from 14 percent in 2001. Families with after-tax income from $30,000 to $50,000 will spend 7 percent of their earnings on electricity, according to the study.

Energy represents about 9 percent of budgets in households that bring in more than $50,000, according to the study.

Categories: General

9 Responses

  1. David Gower says:

    I agree with passepartout that the numbers look a little suspicious. If there was a way to calculate the “energy component” of every thing we buy (goods and services) then the numbers would have a more honest perspective. How much of the rise in food costs is attributable to “energy”? One could consider the corn sugar and corn ethanol factors too. Without getting into exactly what it is that passepartout purchases, one could easily go through category by category and possibly come up with the reported % increase in costs due to the energy cost component.

  2. passepartout says:

    Our household makes close to a 100K a year; we spend no way near a quarter of that in energy. But we have a modest sized home, 2000 sq ft, and we drive cars that average 25 mpg.

  3. passepartout says:

    I am confused. Did the real cost of energy, lets say the cost on 1 BTU, double since 2001, or is has the share of peoples incomes spent on energy doubled? They are not the same. Rewrite the article.

  4. Paul says:

    Yes and you can add groceries, gasoline, diesel and just about everything else that has doubled or tripled in the last three years.

  5. fencesitter says:

    also Paul, the increases and decreases make the public somewhat imune to a rise in price, when it finds a new plateau,
    but then it could be a giant plan.

  6. onevois says:

    “[The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which includes Atlanta-based Southern Co. and Peabody Energy Corp] said it will cite the study’s results as it opposes greenhouse-gas and clean-air regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency that target coal-fired plants.”

    Enough said.

  7. onevois says:

    @ Paul: I remember gas at the start of dubya’s 1st term regular was $1.00 in Austin. I also remember it breaking $3.00 during his tenure and everyone went nuts – all-the-while petro players’ profits were setting new records. In reality, I think the petro players and the masses realized that prices north of $3.00 was not the end of the world and people would just accommodate with smaller more efficient vehicles.

  8. Paul says:

    I remember when gas prices went over $2.00 a gallon when Bush was president and the media couldn’t resist the temptation to remind us of it almost everyday.
    Now that Obama is in the White House and gas is near the $3.50 a gallon mark we hardly hear a peep.
    I wonder why?

  9. David Gower says:

    There is too big of a difference between the EPA numbers and private enterprise data. Someone is looking at this wrong. Who is it, EPA or private enterprise?