Why are you paying more for energy? Blame “natural” gas exports.
For years, the oil and gas industry has pitched more drilling and fracking as a path to “energy independence” — a scenario where the United States didn’t have to depend on foreign countries for energy. In practice, the industry has doubled down on exporting gas to other countries, which drives up the price of Americans’ monthly energy bills and makes us even more dependent on international market forces outside our control.
Methane gas tripled in price last year. Europe scrambled to secure gas supply following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and repeated threats to cut off gas deliveries to the continent. The increased demand led to much higher prices as multiple countries bid against each other for liquified gas shipments, most of which now come from the United States – officially the world’s largest gas exporter as of last year.
These higher prices translated to a bonanza of profit for gas industry CEOs and shareholders. Exxon made nearly $20 billion in profit in a single quarter — the highest profit in the company’s 150 year history. Profits were up for US utilities that sell and burn gas as well – a report by Accountable.us found that the country’s nine largest utilities saw millions in increased profits and paid out more than $11 billion in cash to investors.
While exports are great business for highly paid CEOs, they’re a recipe for higher monthly bills for American families. Just six years ago, the United States exported almost no methane gas. But the industry went on a building spree, adding dozens of new gas export facilities — often in communities of color who were already dealing with elevated levels of air and water pollution from heavy industry. Now upwards of 20% of gas is sold to the highest bidder overseas. That means the utility that delivers gas to your home is now competing with entire foreign countries for the same gas, and will be for decades to come.
These energy higher prices are rippling through the US economy, worsening inflation and raising energy bills. From Oregon to Illinois to Nevada, rising gas prices are driving up home heating costs — no matter if you have gas or electric appliances.
Electric utilities are also raising rates as they pay more for the methane gas they burn in gas power plants, and pass the costs directly on to their customers. The public bears all of the risks of volatile and unpredictable gas costs, while the utility companies and their shareholders make profit no matter what.
These higher costs are a huge driver of economic inequality and put millions of Americans at risk of having their energy shut off if they can’t pay. According to a new report by the Center For Biological Diversity, Energy and Policy Institute and Bailout Watch, utilities shut off energy service to low-income customers more than 1.5 million times in the first 10 months of 2022. The top dozen companies that led the country in shutoffs could have covered the “costs” of keeping those people connected to essential utility services for just 1 percent of the profits they handed out to their investors last year.
The gas industry and their political allies never asked the American public if they wanted more volatile and unpredictable monthly energy bills, but that was the outcome of the gas export building spree of the last several years. The wind and the sun don’t suddenly spike in price, but methane gas does all the time. It’s time to get off this rollercoaster of higher energy costs by saying no to more methane gas — especially export facilities that pollute Gulf Coast communities and make our energy bills more expensive and volatile.