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Give thanks for energy; think of those who can’t afford it

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans can count their blessings this Thanksgiving. The good fortune shared by most of us is having enough to cook entire holiday meals, huddle around in our warm homes, and enjoy what some might consider simple luxuries, even if we may not be able to travel to the homes of friends or family.

Many of us can be thankful we have enough money to avoid having to choose between paying our energy bill or buying groceries, and that we live in a nation where energy is relatively affordable and available to all. That’s not the case for many American families.

Right now, one in five American households has had to cut back or cut out necessities like food and medicine to pay an energy bill, according to recent Energy Information Administration data.

Think about that – one in five American households has to choose between keeping the lights on or eating, or keeping the heat on or healing.

And that’s in a modern nation with affordable and abundant energy, where environmental progress is a priority — as demonstrated by the often-obscured fact that the U.S. leads the world in reducing emissions more than any other nation, year after year.

That’s a function of stringent environmental standards that shrink our emissions even as we produce more oil and gas than any nation and are the second-biggest renewable energy producer.

Yet some argue that this progress isn’t enough – and they’re right. We can never stop adding more energy to our mix and demanding that every molecule of energy from every source is produced in the cleanest, most environmentally responsible manner.

However, by pushing for plans that ultimately, and, seemingly arbitrarily, limit our energy choices without fully acknowledging the environmental progress that is occurring, some casual supporters are inadvertently hurting those of us who do not have the means to take on the added costs.

The wealthy among us can absorb a significantly higher energy bill; most of us cannot. Unfortunately, some state-led plans that limit energy choices ultimately increase costs for families, small businesses and farmers who can’t afford them. Why? Because energy bills are like a hidden tax on everyone’s disposable income, and it hurts those with less income more.

So, as we consider plans that will move us into the next decades, we ought to take a moment to examine the lot of those less fortunate than us.

The poor, those struggling with low- or fixed-incomes and our seniors will all be the collateral damage of these untested policies which limit our right to choose and come with a higher price – much of it to pay for subsidies. That’s one in five New Mexicans who meet the poverty threshold, and that doesn’t include others who still may not have the financial means to handle higher bills. Just think of how many people live paycheck to paycheck.

Already, some elected leaders in California – a prime example of what happens when feel-good ideas crash headlong into reality – are speaking out to defend those who can’t afford expensive electricity policies.

So this Thanksgiving, let’s give thanks for our good fortune and our blessings, whatever they may be.

But let’s also lend our voices to those who cannot afford higher energy bills by demanding equitable energy policies that still get us where we want to be environmentally, without rushing so fast we harm our most vulnerable citizens.

We should urge our leaders to put first the needs of the least among us, not the wants of those among us who need the least.

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

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