(NewsNation) — The cost of gas keeps increasing, and that is driving up the price of virtually everything else. But energy comes from a lot of sources, including coal, which makes up about 30% of US electricity. And right now, prices in that sector are soaring as well.
The Global Energy Institute’s Price Map showed the largest year-over-year increase in residential electricity rates in 13 years — 5.6%.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce attributes the increasing cost of energy to increased demand as travel and manufacturing return amid the COVID-19 pandemic; investors’ uncertainty over the Biden Administration’s plan to phase out fossil fuels; and the United States’ lacking infrastructure, among other reasons.
As Americans enter the warm summer months, a time when people usually expect to be paying more for energy, some are growing frustrated — and looking for ways to cut back.
Rick White, who owns The Bier and Cheese Collective in Astoria, Queens, said his February electric bill came as a shock.
“The supply charges were up by 346% over the prior month,” he said.
For White, the cost to run his business has gone up 20% in just the last year — forcing him to skimp in ways he otherwise wouldn’t, including hiring.
“You’d love to be able to pay people a little more money,” he said. “We can’t necessarily do that. Making big purchases? We might have to pull back on that. Preventative maintenance on equipment.”
His business’ energy company — Con Edison — doesn’t burn coal, but its price is directly linked to the cost of natural gas.
More than 40% of U.S. coal comes from above-ground mines in Wyoming. The bulk of the rest is dug out of the Appalachian region. In central Appalachia, coal prices have climbed 40% this year and more than doubled over last.
Texas consumes more energy from coal than any other state, followed by North Dakota, Indiana, Missouri and Illinois.
Right now, European energy companies are stockpiling ahead of an August ban on Russian coal exports stemming from the war in Ukraine, creating a supply and demand dilemma exacerbated by less mining in general, as renewables become more commonplace.
This year, coal futures overseas have risen more than 100% in some places.
All of those factors are making people like White’s day-to-day existence more difficult.
“We own a home. We have the same bills to pay. It still costs me money to heat and light my home,” White said. “It has a great impact. It has a ripple effect.”
So how can the average person save money? The simplest answer may be the best — unplug your devices.
According to the U.S. Department of energy, standby power drains 5-10% of residential energy use. Unplugging electronics could save consumers $8 billion annually, or more than $100 per household.