High Energy Costs for the Poor Might Push Action in Congress

New survey shows most Americans are getting whacked by high energy costs.

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A new study from a key energy coalition finds that poorer Americans are spending a huge amount of their income on energy, a finding the group hopes will spark renewed attention on Capitol Hill to energy reform and legislation. The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity found that lower-income families are more vulnerable to energy costs and that families earning less than $10,000 pay 69 percent of their after-tax income for energy. And for the majority of American families, those earning pretax incomes of less than $50,000, about 19 percent of what's left over after taxes goes to pay heating, cooking, and transportation energy costs."As we continue to rebuild our economy and help those who are having the hardest time making ends meet, policies that ensure access to affordable, reliable electricity should be a high priority," says Joe Lucas, the top spokesman for the coalition.Energy industry officials believe that the only way to kick-start Washington's bid to push energy legislation is to tie the issue to the sluggish economy and the woes of American families. "The only way for energy to see the light of day is if it relates to the economy," said an industry official.Here's the release from the coalition:
Energy Costs Hurting Already Strained Family BudgetsWASHINGTON, DC – Energy costs continue to eat up a disproportionately large share of American family budgets, particularly for low and fixed-income families. These are the findings of a new study released today by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE).The annual assessment based upon data from the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Census Bureau, shows that half of American families are spending nearly 20 percent or more of their total household income to cover energy-related expenditures."Energy costs are still eating away at family budgets," said Joe Lucas, senior vice president for communications for ACCCE. "As we continue to rebuild our economy and help those who are having the hardest time making ends meet, policies that ensure access to affordable, reliable electricity should be a high priority. That is why low-cost coal – the largest domestically-produced source of energy – is so important."According to ACCCE, the survey's findings are particularly timely. Both federal and state policy makers are debating energy and environmental proposals, some of which could significantly raise energy prices."Meeting America's demand for affordable, reliable, and clean energy will require the prudent use of all of our available domestic energy resources, especially coal," said Lucas. "Now, and as we bring new technologies to the marketplace to reduce carbon emissions, coal will remain a good value for the American consumer. Generating electricity from coal will provide our nation with continued access to affordable, reliable, and increasingly clean energy using a resource that is found and creates jobs right here at home."The following are just a few of the key findings discovered by Eugene M. Trisko, the study's author:• Energy costs are taking up a large percentage of household incomes. Approximately one-half of U.S. households have average pre-tax annual incomes of less than $50,000. In 2010, these households are projected to have after-tax incomes of approximately $22,711, of which, they will spend about 19% on energy-related expenditures. The 27 million households earning between $10,000 and $30,000, representing 23% of U.S. households, will devote 22% of their 2010 after-tax income to energy, more than twice the national average of 10%.• Lower-income families are more vulnerable to energy cost increases than higher-income families because energy represents a larger portion of their household budgets. Families earning less than $10,000 pay over 69 percent of their after tax income for energy expenditures.• Household expenditures for gasoline have more than doubled in the past decade. In 2001, the average household spent an average of $1,680 on gasoline compared to a projected $3,456 per household in 2010. Increased gasoline costs account for nearly three-fourths of the $2,395 average household energy cost increase since 2001.