America's Leaders Should Not Leave Consumers out in the Cold This Winter

WASHINGTON (January 18, 2006) -- A new report released today by environmental and consumer organizations documents this winter's soaring natural gas and heating oil prices that are creating real hardships for many Americans.

The report, Stay Warm, Save Cold Cash, by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Sierra Club and U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), identifies simple, immediate steps for consumers to reduce their heat and energy costs this winter. The report also urges the federal government to increase investments in efficiency and renewable energy. These inexpensive, clean solutions are readily available, and can promptly lower energy bills. The report contrasts these solutions with polluting energy policies proposed by the administration and their allies in Congress.

The full report, which includes nationwide and state specific energy use and conservation profiles, is available on the coalition website (pdf file).

"American consumers are struggling to pay for heating this winter because of wasteful energy policies designed to benefit Big Oil," said U.S. PIRG Legislative Director Anna Aurilio. "Fortunately, consumers can take simple efficiency steps to stay warm and save cold hard cash."

"The fact that so many families are facing a home heating crisis this winter is prime example of why the United States needs greater investment in energy efficient and renewable energy technologies," said NRDC Energy Advocate Jim Presswood. "Making our homes and businesses more energy efficient will help families keep warm, save on heating bills and take a big step forward for our energy security."

"Just as the nation needs to reduce its dependence on polluting sources of energy, families need to reduce their dependence on electric and gas companies," said David Hamiltion, Director of the Sierra Club's Global Warming and Energy Program. "By taking cost-effective, common sense actions, Americans can become more energy efficient and reduce their home energy bills."

The Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently released a forecast that said heating bills will be one-third to one-half higher for most families across the country this winter. The sharpest increases are expected for those who heat with natural gas, who can expect to pay an average of $280 more during the upcoming winter compared to last year (an increase of 38 percent). Additionally, consumers who heat their homes with fuel oil will pay $260 more (an increase of 21 percent).

The fastest, cheapest, and cleanest way to relieve American families from the burden of high energy costs is through energy efficiency and conservation. Today's report shows that by implementing simple solutions such as sealing up drafts in windows and installing programmable thermostats, the average American family could save up to $750 in heating costs each year.

Beyond its recommendations for solutions that individual consumers can implement, the groups identified energy saving policy solutions. For example:

  • fully fund the low income energy assistance and home weatherization programs;

  • accelerate and extend energy efficiency tax incentives for buildings and homes;

  • issue long overdue efficiency standards for homes and appliances;

  • establish a national renewable energy standard for utilities that would reduce demand for expensive fossil fuels;

  • launch a comprehensive nationwide energy efficiency education campaign; and,

  • increase fuel economy so that cars, SUVs and other light trucks average 40 mpg, which would save 4 million barrels of oil per day.

These programs can be paid for with a small tax on record breaking oil company profits.

"There are well proven programs that can help consumers stay warm, save energy, and save money. All that's required is a government that responds more to public needs than to those of oil company lobbyists," concluded U.S. PIRG's Aurilio.