Project 21: High Home Heating Bills Disproportionately Harm Minority Households

Project 21 members are speaking out on the topic of oil drilling and energy independence:

Black Activists Support Increased Domestic Oil Exploration

High Home Heating Bills Disproportionately Harm Minority Households

Citing the need for America to achieve energy independence as well as aid poor and minority households already suffering from rising heating bills, activists with the black leadership network Project 21 are speaking out in favor of oil and natural gas exploration efforts under consideration for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

The U.S. Senate approved legislation on November 9 to allow oil drilling on approximately 2,000 acres – or 0.01 percent – of ANWR’s 19.6 million acres. The House of Representatives is expected to consider similar legislation as early as this week. Drilling on this small and desolate portion of ANWR is expected to generate $2.5 billion in government revenue, create a significant number of new jobs nationwide and recover between 4.3-11.8 billion barrels of oil. OCS-related legislation in the House would allow states to “opt out” of federal moratoriums that currently prohibit offshore oil and gas production.

A small group of Republican congressmen are attempting to block any provision that would allow oil and natural gas exploration in both ANWR and the OCS.

“Home heating bills are expected to be higher than usual this winter. People can choose not to drive their car when fuel prices are high, but they shouldn’t have to choose not to turn on the heat to keep their family warm,” said Project 21 member Deneen Moore. “Low-income households unable to afford rising heating bills might resort to unsafe alternatives. Drilling in ANWR, for example, would be essential to helping alleviate the high cost of energy in the U.S., create jobs and help America become less dependent on foreign oil.”

If new sources of energy are not found and utilized, minority households will be forced to spend a greater percentage of their budgets to keep their homes warm. The U.S. Department of Energy recently projected that heating costs will soar this winter. The cost of heating a home with natural gas is expected to increase by 32 percent increase; with heating oil, 26 percent.

Based on 2004 median income figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, the average black household using natural gas for heat can expect to pay one percent more of their income (from 3.2 percent to 4.2 percent) and Hispanics 0.9 percent more (2.8 to 3.7 percent) for home heating while their white counterparts will only be paying 0.6 percent more (two percent to 2.6 percent). Heating oil users will experience almost exactly the same percentage change but will pay a larger portion of their incomes (4.2 to 5.3 percent for blacks, 3.7 to 4.6 for Hispanics and 2.6 to 3.2 for whites) to stay warm.

This inequity further depresses minority prospects for investing, paying for higher education and contributing to retirement savings plans and further hinders socio-economic advancement.

“The prospect of keeping warm this winter costing so much more than the rate of inflation should offend every American family, but its impact on this country’s working poor borders the criminal,” said Project 21’s John Meredith, who is active in several community-based non-profit groups. “How can a nation so rich and powerful justify forcing families to choose between staying warm and eating? We can’t. Opening ANWR to exploration is the only humane thing to do.”

The full press release can be found here.

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