Sens. Murkowski, Scott Present New Indicators to Measure U.S. Energy Insecurity

U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Tim Scott, R-S.C., today offered a new set of economic indicators to measure the impact of rising energy costs on American families.

Murkowski and Scott described the tools in a new report entitled, Plenty at Stake: Indicators of American Energy Insecurity. The report is available on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee website.

“As we seek to understand the consequences higher energy costs have on our constituents, this tool will enable us to estimate how many families are pushed below the poverty line, how many lose a significant portion of their spendable budget, and how many are forced to spend more than 10 percent of their income on home energy,” Murkowski said. “It should be our goal to keep energy affordable, and ensure that they never face the harsh choice between paying for household energy or other basic necessities.” 

The indicators described in the report provide a new way to evaluate public policies and other events that impact household energy prices - electricity and oil and natural gas used for home heating and cooling. 

“American families should not be forced to choose between affording groceries and heating their home,” Scott said. “As we look at ways to help those in need, energy costs have to be at the top of the list. I want to thank Senator Murkowski for her work in this area, as our paper today shows some of the tangible effects of energy insecurity and energy poverty.”   

The report examines the impact of increased household energy costs in three ways:

  • The number of households that experience a significant decrease in spendable budget, for example the impact on money available for groceries; 
  • The number of households pushed below the poverty line; and 
  • The average household energy burden, expressed as a percentage of average gross income.

Energy insecurity - the measure of the number of Americans who cannot afford the energy required to heat or cool their homes without sacrificing other necessary expenses - forces many to choose between paying their energy bills or paying for food, medical care, and other necessities. Rising energy prices also disproportionately impact minorities and low-income households. 

The indicators are designed to help policymakers make informed decisions when considering federal policy proposals and regulations that are likely to increase the cost of energy. While Murkowski and Scott looked specifically at the effect of rising energy costs on their home states of Alaska and South Carolina, respectively, the indicators can be applied to any state or region and the report includes results for all states.

The Murkowski-Scott report on energy insecurity builds on the Energy 20/20 blueprint Murkowski released last year. All of the Energy 20/20 reports are available on the energy committee’s website.