High Fossil Fuel Costs Leaving Families in the Cold (And Possibly Dark)

Fayette Power Project, a coal power plant near La Grange Texas, partially failed due to cold weather in winter 2021
Fayette Power Project, a coal power plant near La Grange Texas, is one of the ERCOT plants that partially failed due to cold weather in winter 2021. Sam LaRussa / CC BY 2.0
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As winter comes to the northern hemisphere, impacting the global energy system, increased fossil fuel prices are stretching U.S. families’ finances to, and past, the breaking point.

In Connecticut, the sharp increase in the number of people seeking heating bill assistance is “just unbelievable,” Joanne Balaschak, director of energy programs at New Opportunities, in Waterbury, told the Connecticut Post. “We’re seeing people that are working, sometimes two jobs, they can’t make it. It’s just tough. Everybody is so afraid because the price of oil has skyrocketed. Now they’re hearing that Eversource and [United Illuminating] will be increasing their rates. It’s a scary time,” she added.

New York expects electricity prices to jump as much as 30% due to higher methane gas prices, driven up in part by LNG exports. The Austin, Texas, utilities department is encouraging people and businesses to pay other customers’ bills as residents struggle to pay their electricity bills.

Whether the lights will stay on there, however, is another matter. ERCOT, the Texas grid operator, admitted Tuesday it would not be able to keep the state’s lights on if demand reached the level of 2021’s so-called “Winter Storm Uri,” or if methane gas and coal plants fail, as they did in 2021 when the failure of the state’s gas system led to blackouts and contributed to the deaths of about 700 people, a disproportionate toll borne by low-income Texans, people of color, and people with disabilities.

For a deeper dive:

CT: Connecticut Post; NY: Bloomberg, Utility Dive; Austin: Bloomberg; ERCOT: Houston Chronicle

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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