By Paritosh Kasotia
This article appeared as a column on The Des Moines Register on June 25, 2015
In a Register column published on June 23, Harry Alford, CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, asserts that the EPA Clean Power Plan will pose undue economic hardships on the 280,000 blacks and Hispanics in Iowa. This is far from the reality. Minority populations already face economic hardships due to high costs of electricity and health. Research shows that low-income households pay nearly a quarter of their income on energy costs; 62 percent of Hispanic households and 67 percent of black households are low income.
When the Clean Power Plan is fully implemented by 2030, electricity bills will be reduced by an estimated 8 percent. This is significant, especially for low-income households. In addition to reduced carbon emissions, the plan will reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulates that significant affect the health of low-income households located near fossil-fuel power plants. Studies have also shown that Clean Power Plan will create employment opportunities for many in the areas of energy efficiency and renewable energy. This is a golden opportunity to train and empower minorities so that they benefit from the economic prospects of this rule.
We have to also question whose interests the National Black Chamber of Commerce represents. A poll conducted by Harstad Strategic Research Inc. on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) finds that 70 percent of Latino and African-American voters support the Clean Power Plan in nine battleground states. Another poll conducted by The New York Times, Stanford University, and Resources for the Future finds that a majority of Hispanic-Americans rate global warming as “extremely” or “very” important and feel that the government should take action to address it. The Clean Power Plan is precisely the kind of action these individuals seek.
Another black leader, Michael Dorsey, who is the interim director for the Energy and Environment Program at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies sums it well by saying, “Alford’s false claims about energy are a triple threat — they harm African Americans in their wallets, they harm them in their lungs, and they threaten the environments they live in…”.