We cannot assume reliable energy

I've written before about the dangerous economic consequences our country faces as a result of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed regulations to reduce carbon emissions. It is important to note that the climate policies being promulgated by the Obama administration will harm Americans, and especially the African-American community, in the form of skyrocketing energy costs. In a similar fashion, these regulations will jeopardize our access to reliable electricity, putting our economy and frankly, our entire way of life, at risk of being forever changed — and not for the better.

How will the EPA's regulations impact our power grid? By taking aim at resources that provide the base-load power our electric grid needs, namely coal, the EPA's proposal will shut down a significant portion of our coal fleet, leaving our grid dependent on less reliable resources. That means electric utilities won't have the power needed to serve their customers, which could result in compulsory power rationing and even widespread power outages. Last year, 89 percent of American Electric Power's coal plants currently slated for closure were working at capacity to help meet energy demand through the coldest days of winter, when people needed it most.

ADVERTISEMENT
Our businesses need dependable energy and predictable utility bills to meet the demands of customers and clients and, ultimately, to grow. If a butcher's refrigeration unit goes out from a power outage, spoilage can occur — leaving him without anything to sell, hurting his businesses and his workers. Similarly, if a business's computer system loses power — and almost all businesses today rely on some type of operating system — that company loses the ability to track and process its operations and is left unable to fill orders.

Beyond the impacts business owners face due to weakened electric reliability, those who can least afford higher energy bills will be most affected as the EPA's proposal will dramatically raise electricity costs from coast to coast. Higher costs could leave many unable to pay their monthly bills unless they dip into reserves or, worse, are forced to make tough choices between other critical services.

This list of examples is endless, but the end result is the same: systematic and widespread damage to our economy.

President Obama and his EPA have attempted to curb these realities by pushing propaganda claiming that climate change is a top-of-mind issue for the majority of Americans and minority groups in particular. This is simply untrue, as evidenced by a poll conducted last year, which found that African-Americans voters place jobs and the economy far above climate change. In fact, only 3 percent of those polled listed climate change as a top threat to their community.

Reliable power is a luxury that many parts of the world have never known. When I travel internationally, I am always struck by the lack of electricity access some countries still face. Returning home to the United States after these trips makes me only more grateful that our country has the power we need, when we need it.

Access to reliable electricity is not just a luxury, however. It is part of the circulatory system driving our country's economy. We cannot take our supply of reliable electricity for granted, because if the EPA gets its way, our future isn't looking bright.

Alford is the co-founder, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.

More in Energy & Environment

Judge nixes 'ridiculous' EPA request to block testimony in coal case

Read more »