While climate change threatens the public health and economic well-being of everyone, low-income Americans are especially vulnerable to the extreme weather and dramatic increases in electricity costs associated with global warming, according to a new report released Wednesday by Natural Resources Defense Council. “Bridging the Clean Energy Divide,” shows how a transition to cleaner power and reduced carbon pollution can help address many of these challenges, leading to healthier communities, greater savings, and a stronger economy.
In 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced the Clean Power Plan, which aims to cut carbon pollution by 30 percent from 2005 levels. As this report demonstrates, investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency can address many of the challenges associated with carbon pollution reduction and provide major benefits to low-and-fixed income individuals who often live in the most toxic areas with few means to mitigate problems like air pollution, extreme temperatures and natural disasters.
Some key points of the report include:
- Reducing carbon will lower energy costs and create jobs—creating a more reliable electric grid that will create more good-paying employment in the clean energy sector.
- Clean energy is becoming more accessible, more affordable, and increasingly available. Over the last few years, in fact, wind and solar have become cost-competitive—lowering production costs and expanding access.
- Health care costs are exacerbated by pollution in surrounding environment, which can cause chronic bronchitis, heart conditions, aggravated asthma, and sometimes premature death.
- Low-income consumers are less likely to miss a utility bill payment when they are using less energy, preventing the costs of disrupted service, notices, collections, and recollections for both the customer and the utility.
“The effects of climate change present an enormous hurdle to those who work hard and play by the rules, but lack the resources to protect themselves,” said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, NRDC Director of the Clean Power Plan Initiative. “There is much more we must do to help low-income communities keep more of their hard-earned dollars and protect them from dangerous air pollution that makes it harder for them to breathe.”
“The poor and elderly already devote a large portion of their income to energy costs, but that doesn’t have to be the case,” said report author Katharine McCormick, NRDC Midwest Advocate. “The reliability of fossil fuels has been overstated. When we diversify our energy portfolio and invest in efficient and renewable sources like solar and wind, we help improve reliability, decrease our dependence on the market, and insulate people—especially the poor—from unpredictable coal and gas price spikes.”
“Big polluters are financing their fortunes on the backs of those who can least afford it by scaring them into believing clean air and renewable energy are bad for their pocketbooks,” said Casey-Lefkowitz. “Not only is this not true, they are endangering our most vulnerable—and this report shows how we can fight back.”