Rep. Ross Berry: Nation’s energy policy driving inflation

AS EVENTS unfold in Ukraine, access to energy is at the center of every strategic decision being made. Our NATO allies and others in Eastern Europe are reliant on global stability in the market, as they import much of their energy from foreign countries. Here in New Hampshire, residents are also feeling the heat of higher energy bills this winter as low temperatures cover the state and global supply constraints hurt U.S. consumers. While Granite Staters are solutions-oriented people, New Hampshire can’t solve this problem alone. The state needs better federal policy to help unlock America’s energy resources and get them delivered to New Hampshire safely and more cost effectively.

In Washington, the Biden administration continues to demonstrate its abhorrence to U.S. energy and energy jobs. It is threatening to shut off the development of energy supplies on federal lands and offshore. It’s making it nearly impossible to build pipelines. And it sounded the death knell for the Keystone Pipeline project which would have brought Canadian energy resources into the U.S. for refining and use. All of these decisions ultimately drive up energy costs for New Hampshire residents and make our nation more reliant on foreign sources of energy. A consequence we are currently witnessing as an emboldened Russia marches into Ukraine while the world holds its collective breath.

The administration’s efforts to limit North American energy development will have short and long-term consequences for our nation’s energy supply — some of which we are already seeing in New Hampshire. This winter, propane costs are up nearly 20% over last year and almost 40% from two years ago. The same goes for home heating oil and kerosene. Energy suppliers like Unitil and Liberty warned state regulators in November that energy prices would spike over 50% for their customers, costing the average New Hampshire family about $500 more this winter.

While $500 is a lot for any family, increases in energy prices disproportionately hurt the working class the most. A recent study found that families struggling along the economic margins will spend 18 percent of their income, after housing costs, on energy — including to heat their homes, cook their food, run appliances, and get to work. The numbers are even higher for adults living by themselves and single-parent households.

Of course, part of New Hampshire’s challenge is our lack of energy transportation infrastructure, leading to an inability to get needed fuels across the state.

Although the industry has adapted and we see heating oil, kerosene, and propane trucks in towns and communities throughout the Granite State, our lack of pipeline infrastructure adds costs and makes natural gas less available.

There’s also federal regulations that get in the way of transporting energy, specifically the Jones Act, which requires ships that transport goods and products from one U.S. port to another to be U.S. flagged. That significantly limits the amount of energy and commerce that can be transported between U.S. ports, while artificially causing a transportation scarcity, further raising costs.

Who could forget the Russian ship that docked in Boston, coming to the Northeast’s rescue a couple of years ago, simply because U.S. policymakers can’t get out of their own way? This is even more insulting when you consider that there is plenty of natural gas and other energy products just 350 miles down the East Coast being shipped from Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania.

And as we transition away from coal as a baseload feedstock for electricity, we must find solutions to the never-ending parochial fights over siting of solar arrays, wind farms, and transmission lines that will be needed to get the power to homes and businesses. It’s a problem of the government’s own making that it is easier to pay more to get energy from Russia, than it is to pay less to get American energy from Pennsylvania or Canada.

It is also a problem that the government must fix.

Federal, state and local policymakers across the country and throughout the region need to work together to identify and overcome energy production and transportation hurdles to help alleviate these challenges, and help bring less expensive energy to people across the Granite State.

Helping to solve this U.S. problem will also go a long way towards solving the global energy issue and dampen the influence of petro-rich countries like Russia.

Ross Berry (R-Litchfield) represents the town of Litchfield and parts of Manchester.

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