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Why Hispanics need energy advocacy: Our energy bills are 20 percent higher

Every American is paying higher energy bills right now, part of a one-two financial punch with inflation at four-decade highs. Yet, for the nation’s Hispanic population, there is a third hit: our households pay 20 percent higher energy bills than the median American family.

There are more troubling statistics. Two in five Hispanics surveyed early this year couldn’t pay an energy bill, and 18 percent had their utilities disconnected. As for transportation costs, Hispanics spend relatively more because of sharply higher gas and used car prices. No wonder Hispanics incurred a 9.8 percent inflation rate for major consumption categories in May, which is 0.6 percentage points higher than the overall rate.

In recent years, we have begun to hear more and more concerns about energy costs from our members at The Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. At a time of really high prices and bad policy choices, it’s become clear to me that there needs to be Hispanic voices helping shape energy policy.

We need more advocacy to encourage and support affordable, reliable energy and highlight the outsized energy burden that Hispanic families face in the United States. 

There’s never been a more important time to unify the strength of America’s diverse Hispanic populations into a single voice to communicate our perspectives on the need for affordable and accessible energy.

Even though we have roots in different nations, our communities share a common culture of hard work, family first and a firm belief that we shape our futures with both. Hispanic business owners are “twice as likely to report their primary goal as an entrepreneur is to operate a business that can be inherited by their family,” according to the 2021 State of Latino Entrepreneurship by Stanford University.

Strong energy policy is a prerequisite for strong economic growth, and therein lies the common challenge we need to address.

Every American can see that our energy policy is broken. California is pursuing aggressive policies that are failing in the Golden State and have produced catastrophic results in the UK and Germany.These policies drive prices up and leave citizens without reliable service, astronomical bills and little hope. What has failed in Europe will fail in California. Even Texas — an energy giant that embraces the new and the old, with wind joining oil and gas as national production leaders — cannot provide reliable and affordable energy because its policies need fixing.

We need to share our ideas on what makes good policy, and how to lower our energy burden. For a start, let’s get rid of in buzzwords and meaningless phrases like “equity,” mouthed by those who don’t speak for us. We know the devil is in the details of how we get our energy and the rules that govern it.

Together, we can bring more friends and allies across the country to join our mission, especially in states with large Hispanic populations to ensure our voices are heard where they matter most. 

We cannot place ideologically driven energy policies over practical choices. We need every form of energy we can get to meet our increasing demand and to keep our economy strong. We need what is right for places that have different weather, different resources and different needs. Above all, we must place reality over the fearmongering that begets harmful policies.

Consider California’s ban on gas-powered mower sales by 2024: The share of Hispanic employment in landscaping is 2.6 times higher than other industries, and more than one-third of those are in California, Texas and Florida alone, according to a U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce study. This order directly hits an estimated 50,000 entrepreneurs with a requirement to replace their equipment and then carry around 30 or 40 batteries to each of their many different job sites in a day. Then they have to charge them at the second-highest electricity rates in the country.

This is just one of the many examples of policy choices that hurt us.

We need to educate our people and elected leaders on what good policy choices look like. That is the only way to lift the economic burden on Hispanic communities and make more room for our American dreams.

Julio Fuentes is the CEO and president of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He is also co-founder and chairman of the new National Hispanic Energy Council (NHEC), which is partnered with Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA).

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