AAA: Fracking Saved the Average Family $1,000 Last Year

PACE has written often about the importance of fracking and inexpensive natural gas to America’s energy future. Now, a new report from the American Automobile Association shows that low gasoline prices saved Americans more than $115 billion dollars last year, compared to 2014 prices.

According to AAA, that $115 billion works out to $550 in savings per licensed driver in the U.S., or about $1,000 per household. That is a staggering benefit for American families dealing with stagnant wages. The report found that families used the extra money toward better education, healthcare, or housing, raising their overall standard of living.

The huge increases in domestic oil production, made possible by hydraulic fracturing or fracking, are the main reason energy prices have fallen so steeply. In fact, fracking was the single largest factor responsible for increasing disposable income for the average American family.

The reality is that low gas prices don’t just save people money; they also lead to job creation and general economic growth. In fact, since the 1970’s, higher oil prices have preceded every significant increase in unemployment, while low oil prices have preceded every decline in unemployment rates. The relationship couldn’t be more clear: cheaper energy means a better economy.

Oil and gas prices, of course, are not the only energy prices that affect the American standard of living. Electricity prices remain a significant part of the average family’s household budget. Fracking has saved money in that area, too, by putting downward pressure on the price of energy commodities in general.

Over the next four years, it would make sense for President Trump and Congress to work toward unleashing the full potential of fracking. Increases in production will continue to drive energy prices down, meaning more money in the pockets of Americans and additional job growth.


Energy Institute of Alabama Names Hardwich Executive Director

Blake Hardwich has been named Executive Director of the Energy Institute of Alabama, Board Chairman Seth Hammett announced yesterday.

“Blake will take the lead in working with elected officials and industry leaders as the Institute advocates for solid, information-based energy policy,” Hammett said. “She has a perfect blend of competence, experience and enthusiasm to do the job. We are lucky to have such a capable and energetic person guiding the day-to-day functions of the Energy Institute of Alabama.”

Hardwich brings extensive experience in business and public policy to the job. Hardwich, who also serves as Special Counsel in the Special Business Services Practice Group at the law firm of Adams and Reese, served for two years as Deputy Chief of Staff for Administration for Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.

Before assuming that role, she was Director of The Alabama Prosperity Project, a joint venture of trade association Manufacture Alabama and the Washington, D.C.-based Business-Industry Political Action Committee, or BIPAC, to encourage business and employee participation in the public policy process. She also previously served as Director of External Affairs for Manufacture Alabama.

“I am excited to join the Energy Institute of Alabama and look forward to working with policy-makers across the state and nation to ensure consumers in Alabama continue to have access to energy that is reliable, affordable and clean,” Hardwich said. “Working with state and local officials is a rewarding experience, especially when we are able to provide clarity about sometimes complex energy issues they have to consider when making policy decisions. The Energy Institute is the clearinghouse for fact-based discussion of those issues.”

Hardwich, a graduate of Auburn University with a degree in Political Science and of Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law. At Cumberland, she was selected to the Order of the Barristers and was active on the Moot Court Board. As an undergraduate, she was active in the Auburn Student Government Association, served as Senator-At-Large as well as a member of the President’s Cabinet, and volunteered as a campaign manager for SGA colleagues.

The Energy Institute of Alabama’s mission is to promote reliable, affordable and clean energy to help grow our economy, create high-paying jobs, and build public support for Alabama’s energy industry. Learn more about the Institute here.


Bellefonte Nuclear Plant Purchase Welcome News

In past years, PACE has continued to follow developments at Bellefonte Nuclear Plant, a facility originally owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The plant’s construction was never completed, leaving  a number of options for the utility’s board to consider.

In November, TVA announced that a Washington, D.C.-based company firm, Nuclear Development, had purchased the incomplete facility in northeast Alabama for $111 million. This was welcome news for northeast Alabama, as the purchase will breathe new life into the plant.

According to TVA, Nuclear Development plans to invest an additional $13 billion to bring the plant’s two partially completed reactors online. This will create 4,000 temporary construction jobs and 2,000 permanent jobs in the process. The plants are expected to be finished by 2028.

The plant, located in Jackson County, AL, is currently approximately 55% complete, with TVA’s construction on the project discontinued for good in 2014. TVA’s board of directors deemed Bellefonte to be a surplus property last year and listed it for auction. Preliminary bidding then began in September.

One of the considerations that led to Bellefonte’s purchase by Nuclear Development is that power demand in the region is not projected to rise sharply in the immediate future, providing adequate time for the plant’s completion should the permitting process not  move swiftly. The plant already has Nuclear Regulatory Commission construction licenses.

Nuclear Development’s proposal estimated 8,000 to 10,000 direct and indirect construction jobs would be required during peak construction to complete the project.

“The positive ongoing economic impact to the surrounding region will exceed $1 billion per year,” the company’s proposal stated.

Right now, 39 nuclear plants are currently operating across he Southeast, most of which are expected to operate well into the second half of this century. The most recent of those plants was TVA’s Watts Bar Unit 2, which was completed in 2016. There are currently four more nuclear reactors under construction, two each in South Carolina and Georgia, that are expected to be online by 2020.

Nuclear growth in the Southeastern United States contrasts greatly with nuclear policy in Germany, which is currently planning to phase out all of its nuclear capacity by 2022. Closing the country’s nuclear plants and its increased reliance on volatile renewable energy is expected to cause power prices to rise sharply. The closure of nuclear plants also causes uncertainty for Germany’s power grid since the country has pledged to cut coal-fired power as part of its energy transition.

In that context, it is welcome news that Northeast Alabama continues to recognize the value of low cost, emission free, and reliable nuclear power. Nuclear Development, as well as all of those who contributed to the plant’s purchase and rebirth, are to be commended for their vision of maintaining nuclear power as a cornerstone of the region’s energy portfolio.