Here’s What to Watch For at Tomorrow’s Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee Hearing on Energy Prices

To: Energy Reporters, Economic Reporters 

Dt: November 15, 2021

Fr: Jason Phelps, Climate Power, [email protected]imatepower.us, Erik Mebust, Climate Power, [email protected] 

Re: Here’s What to Watch For at Tomorrow’s Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee Hearing on Energy Prices

 

On Tuesday morning the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will look at rising energy prices as concerns about inflation dominate headlines.  Last week, a Labor Department report found a consumer price index spike of 6.2% from a year ago in October, with core inflation rising 4.6%. Families report being particularly worried about the price of gas and of heating as winter approaches.

The Build Back Better Act can address these concerns by investing in clean energy and lowering household costs for families. In addition to the direct relief for household energy costs in the package, clean energy is cheaper and less volatile than fossil fuels, and studies show that transitioning away from fossil fuels can save families hundreds of dollars per year. A range of economists including Larry Summers and 17 Nobel prize winners in economics have supported the plan, explicitly because it will “ease inflationary pressures.”

As the hearing airs tomorrow, we urge you to watch out for fossil fuel disinformation, Senate Republican efforts to use inflation to score political points, and to keep a few facts in mind as you get to the heart of today’s rising energy prices.

Below is a list of experts who can speak to the economic and energy provisions of the Build Back Better Act that remain popular, effective, and moving in Congress right now. Please reach out to Jason Phelps, Advisor and Director of National Media, or Erik Mebust, Rapid Response Media Coordinator, to connect with one of these experts or to get more details on the policy and what it means for delivering savings to American families:

  • Dr. Leah Stokes, Associate Professor at UC Santa Cruz
  • Trevor Higgins, Senior Director, Domestic Climate and Energy, Center for American Progress

Here is what to watch out for during the hearing:

Clean Energy Cost Savings 

  1. More clean energy and energy efficiency will cut household costs. A recent Rhodium Group report found that the Build Back Better Act’s investments in clean energy, energy efficiency, and storage would save American households an average of $500 per year in energy costs. You can get more details of that report from our recorded press conference with Center for American Progress and Rhodium if you want to dive into that research deeper. A new analysis from the Rocky Mountain Institute also found these investments will save utility companies and customers roughly $9 billion a year.
  2. Price volatility will be more common so long as the U.S. runs on fossil fuels: The Senate will hear testimony from Tim Gould, the Chief Economist at the International Energy Agency (IEA). Last month, IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol’s commented that global investment in clean energy is currently a third of what it needs to be to meet the Paris Climate targets, and that “the longer this mismatch persists, the greater the risk of further sharp price swings and increased volatility in the future.”
  3. Climate-driven extreme weather is disrupting fossil fuel production, driving up prices. This year, U.S. oil and gas production has been hit by extreme weather. A deep freeze in Texas hampered gas production, summer heat waves across China, Europe, and the US boosted demand for electricity for cooling, and Hurricane Ida in September cut offshore energy production in the Gulf. Recent heat waves caused record demand for electricity as households turned to air conditioning to escape warming temperatures, driving up electricity prices by more than 400% in the Pacific Northwest. If we fail to address climate change, electricity costs for residential and commercial ratepayers will go up by as much as $30 billion per year by mid-century as temperatures continue to rise.

Oil & Gas Disinformation 

  1. False claims that clean energy cannot meet America’s energy needs. The Senate will hear testimony from Robert Bryce, a rightwing journalist who has testified that renewables cannot meet the U.S.’s energy needs. Analysts like Princeton University Professor Jesse Jenkins are virtually unanimous in their agreement that the U.S. can meet President Biden’s goal of 80% clean energy by 2030 if we take strong policy action now.
  2. Lies that President Biden’s policies caused the rise in energy prices. Politifact found that “any impact [of President Biden’s policies] wouldn’t be detectable in the recent gas price changes.” Energy prices everywhere are also set in a global market. 
  3. Attacks on the reliability of clean energy. Clean energy generation is more price stable than fossil fuels, which are famously volatile and will only become more volatile in the future. It is also faster to construct and less vulnerable to disruptions from extreme weather. Renewables also do not pose a risk of dangerous leaks or explosions that threaten human health and public safety.