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Consumer Advocate Warns: Your Electric Bill Could Balloon by 50 Percent

Already paying some of the highest energy costs in the country, New Hampshire ratepayers will soon be paying a lot more.

According to a filing with the Public Utilities Commission, Liberty Utilities is seeking approval for an increase in the default residential energy rate from 8.393 cents per kilowatt-hours to 22.223 cents per kilowatt-hours.

Donald Kreis, with New Hampshire’s Office of Consumer Advocate, said the net effect of the charge will be that Granite Staters who use Liberty can expect to pay nearly 50 percent more for electricity when the new rate goes into effect in August.

“That means a typical bill for a residential electric customer of Liberty Utilities will go up by nearly 47 percent from its current level,” Kreis said on Twitter.

Granite Staters already pay the seventh-highest residential electricity rates in the nation.

Liberty has about 43,000 electric customers in New Hampshire. Kreis said Eversource, New Hampshire’s main electric supplier, is expected to file for a similar rate increase before the PUC soon.

“To my knowledge, these huge default service prices are unprecedented since NH broke up its vertically integrated electric utilities more than 20 years ago,” he wrote on Twitter.

He said on Twitter the reason for the rate increases is the rising cost of natural gas, which electric supplies use to generate the power needed.

“In New England, we rely on natural gas for the majority of our electricity. Natural gas futures prices for the coming winter have hit $30 per mmBTU. Wholesale electric suppliers have priced those natural gas increases into their bids,” he wrote.

Reached Wednesday, Kreis said New Hampshire doe not have a robust natural gas market for homeowners, the state uses a lot of natural gas to fuel power plants, like the Granite Ridge power facility in Londonderry. 

Unitil, one of the state’s two other electric utilities, has rates currently at around 10.3 cents per kilowatt-hour and is on a different rate schedule than the other two companies. New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, the second-largest utility in the state, expects to adjust its power supply rate later this summer.

“It’s safe to say that we’re seeing the same dynamics playing out in the New England electric wholesale market. Costs for summer supply are up dramatically from last year, driven primarily by huge increases in the price of natural gas, which is used to generate about half of the power in New England,” said NHEC Communications Administrator Seth Wheeler.

The rate increases coming from Liberty and Eversource far outpace predictions from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The winter electricity forecast saw a price rise in New England closer to 16 percent, not 47 percent.

“We expect the summer increases in retail residential electricity prices will range from an increase of 2.4 percent in the West South-Central region to a 16.1 percent increase in New England,” the EIA forecast states.

Kreis said utilities buy power from suppliers in six-month increments, and the rate increases reflect the increased prices they are paying for power under the new six-month contracts, which will start in August. There won’t be another chance to change the rates until next year, meaning prices will remain high until 2023.

New Hampshire’s elected officials have taken note.

On Wednesday, Gov. Chris Sununu and Department of Energy Commissioner Jared Chicoine announced that, for the first time ever, the state plans to use  Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding to help struggling households pay for summer electricity costs. The funding will be routed through the New Hampshire Fuel Assistance Program for pre-qualified, low-income households.

“We are allocating $7.5 million in funds to provide low-income families with assistance to help cool their homes this summer,” said Governor Chris Sununu. “As a result of unprecedented Washington spending that has unleashed record inflation, uncertainty in the energy market following President Biden’s anti-domestic energy policies, and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, energy prices are skyrocketing across the country. While there is not much that states can do to rebuff federal inaction, we are doing what we can at the state level to ease the burden on low-income families.”

Details of the plan, including the exact amount of funding available per family, are still being developed.

“The Department of Energy is working diligently with stakeholders to provide summer electric bill assistance to currently-eligible LIHEAP customers,” said Department of Energy Commissioner Jared Chicoine. “We are hopeful that this assistance will help provide some relief to consumers in these challenging times.”

Kreis said in the short term consumers should shop around for competitive electric suppliers and lobby their municipalities to enter into power aggregation deals to lower the costs. They can also apply for the state’s energy efficiency programs.

New Hampshire energy consumers are looking at a tough winter ahead, too. Home heating oil is selling for close to $6 a gallon, up from about $4.50 a gallon average this past winter, and $3 a gallon from the prior season. Relief is a long way off, as the EIA expects the 2023 winter season to see heating oil back down to under $4 a gallon.

Craig Stevens, a spokesman with the energy and business coalition, Grow America’s Infrastructure Now, said Democratic environmental and energy policies, like restricting domestic energy production, have pushed prices higher.

“The rise in electricity prices is, unfortunately, much too predictable considering the energy policies of the past two Democratic administrations promised – and have since delivered – Americans. Between Presidents Obama and Biden, they have forced the shuttering of power plants across the country, made the siting and construction of transmission lines virtually impossible, stopped pipeline expansion, and closed off domestic energy production,” Stevens said.

“We need more than vapid rhetoric, empty promises, and finger-pointing; we need a comprehensive – all of the above – energy policy that recognizes our current energy needs and the growing energy needs of our increasingly electrified economy.”

With prices likely to remain high through to next year, Kreis said New Hampshire ultimately needs to diversify how it generates power in order to avoid another year like 2022. 

Pappas Signed ‘No Fossil Fuel Money’ Pledge, Took Money from Nord Stream Lobbyist

Just a week after Granite Staters learned U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan received a $2,900 donation from the lead lobbyist for Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline comes word U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas also received a check from the same man.

The difference? Pappas signed a pledge not to take it.

“A major Democratic donor and Nord Stream 2 lobbyist has made maximum campaign contributions this year to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and vulnerable Senate Democrats, campaign finance records show,” according to Axios.

The donor is Vincent Roberti of Roberti Global. Politico reports his firm earned more than $9 million in lobbying revenues from Nord Stream 2 since 2017.

Among his donations: $2,900 — the maximum primary contribution — to Hassan this cycle; and $2,500 to Pappas for his 2020 re-election campaign.

The latter is problematic because Pappas has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge organized by Oil Change U.S., a political 501(c)4 organization associated with the 350 environmental group, as well as the Sunrise Movement, Evergreen Action, Sierra Club, Earthjustice, Working Families Party, Greenpeace USA, Indivisible, and People’s Action. 

Part of the pledge involves not taking more than $200 in donations from any individual associated with the oil and gas industry, including lobbyists.

“The No Fossil Fuel Money pledge includes rejecting contributions from the federal and state-registered lobbyists of fossil fuel companies. This includes ‘in-house’ registered lobbyists who work directly for oil, gas, and coal companies, and outside registered lobbyists registered to lobby for one or more fossil fuel industry clients while employed by external lobbying firms,” the No Fossil Fuel Money FAQ page states

Representatives for Oil Change U.S. did not respond to a request for comment. However, according to the pledge website, the group should at least be investigating Pappas’ Roberti donation. If Pappas does not return the money he can be removed from the list of politicians who took the pledge. 

“If a violation has occurred, the coalition will notify the politician and give them one week to return the contribution(s) in question, as noted above. If the politician returns the contribution, they will remain on the pledge. If not, they will be removed from the list of pledge signers” the website states.

Pappas is still listed as a signer on the pledge website. His office did not respond to a request for comment. It also declined to say whether Pappas would return the contribution.

Pappas’ fellow liberals, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) have used the no-fossil-fuel-money pledge as a campaign talking point and fundraiser. According to the pledge website, politicians are encouraged to raise money off the fact they signed the pledge.

“Many politicians have used the pledge-signing moment as an opportunity to highlight their commitment, by publicly sharing a photo of signing the pledge, releasing a short campaign video explaining their reasoning, or even sending out a fundraising appeal based on the pledge,” the website states.

“Congressman Pappas needs to immediately return this contribution and explain to New Hampshire voters his support for Biden administration policies that have made Americans and the world less safe,” said Gail Huff Brown, one of the Republicans running for a chance to challenge the incumbent Democrat this November. “It’s time for Chris Pappas to go,” Brown said.

It also raises new questions about Pappas’ claims to be a climate advocate. After years of calling climate change is “an existential threat” and voting to raise taxes on oil and gas companies, Pappas now says he supports increased fossil fuel production and an “all of the above” — oil, gas,  and nuclear — energy policy.

Political observers say Pappas’ reversal is a result of the rising cost of gasoline and home heating oil, which are adding to the inflation problem that has emerged as the top issue for American voters.

Republican critics like Karoline Leavitt, who’s also running in the GOP primary, say it’s a sign Pappas can’t be trusted.

“Chris Pappas has broken nearly every promise he has made to the people of New Hampshire – whether it’s being an independent bipartisan voice yet voting with AOC 90 percent of the time, promising our law enforcement officers that he would protect qualified immunity but voting to strip it, or pledging to our business owners to never vote for a $15 federal minimum wage but doing it anyway,” Leavitt said.

‘Existential Threat?’ NH Climate Groups Stand By Dems Despite Pro-Oil Politics

On Wednesday, Rep. Chris Pappas (D) told radio host Jack Heath it’s time for America to drill for more oil and gas to fight back against inflation.

“Developing more domestic energy is an important step forward,” Pappas said. “We should be looking to maximize our production, ‘all of the above.'” One way to help make America less vulnerable to the international gas and oil markets, he added, is “making sure all the [oil and gas] leases are fully utilized today.”

That’s a very different message from the Pappas who calls climate change an “existential threat” and received a 100 percent score from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) last year.

It is also not the message the LCV expected to be backing when it ran TV ads promoting Pappas a few months ago. The same is true of the Sierra Club, the Natural Resouce Defense Council (NRDC), and other so-called “green” organizations supporting New Hampshire Democrats like Pappas and Sen. Maggie Hassan, even as those politicians abandon climate-change policies and embrace increased fossil fuel production.

The organizations tell NHJournal they are not happy. But so far, not one has withdrawn its political support, either.

“I’ll tell you I’m not a huge fan and I’m not sure what the overall goal is,” said Catherine Cockery, chapter director for the Sierra Club of New Hampshire.

This week, Pappas and Hassan claimed victory after President Joe Biden announced he was releasing 50 million barrels of oil from the strategic reserve in an effort to bring down costs. Biden is also pushing foreign oil producers to generate more fossil fuels as Americas see higher prices at the pump. All with the support of New Hampshire’s federal delegation.

The NRDC’s Bob Deans said increasing oil and gas production is the wrong way to go. But instead of criticizing Democratic allies, he blamed Big Oil.

“The oil and gas industry has the same solution to every crisis, drill more and lock more generations into oil and gas forevermore,” said Deans, whose organization endorsed Hassan for re-election on February 22.

Just two weeks earlier, Hassan told CNN she wanted the U.S. to pump more oil. “We need to push harder to increase the amount of oil, see if there’s more we could do to add to the supply side there,” Hassan said.

Deans did not want to talk about the NRDC’s ironically-timed endorsement. “I won’t comment on the political decisions being made,” he told NHJournal.

Last summer, the LCV ran TV ads “to thank Rep. Chris Pappas (NH-01) and support transformative energy legislation that will…tackle climate change.” They gave the two-term Democrat a 100 percent rating on their 2021 scorecard.

Today, Pappas is supporting the expansion of oil, gas, nuclear — an “all of the above” energy strategy. And the LCV is expected to endorse him yet again.

And the Sierra Club’s PAC has endorsed Pappas, Hassan, and Rep. Annie Kuster in this year’s election, according to its website. Critics say it sends a message that, for environmental activists, it’s politics first, climate policy second.

One potential holdout is 350 NH the environmental group that regularly leads protests at the Merrimack Station power plant in Bow, N.H. It’s part of the 350.org network, founded by green radical Bill McKibben, which opposes all fossil fuel projects, even if that means leaving legacy power plants burning coal and oil — like Bow — online.

350 NH’s Rebecca Beaulieu said Republicans and Democrats need to stop pushing oil in the long term and focus on renewable energy.

“While managing the price of gas will help millions of people in the present, we must be pushing for more affordable electric vehicles, improved public transportation, and a transition to renewable energy that can fuel our transportation sector,” Beaulieu told NHJournal. “Transitioning to renewable energy will also decrease dependence on imported oil and make the U.S. more energy independent.”

Even as Biden was touting increased foreign oil production, 350NH was tweeting its demand the that president use executive orders to “keep fossil fuels in the ground & declare a climate emergency.” It is a message being ignored by Democrats from Washington to Concord, N.H.

When NHJournal speculated 350NH would continue to endorse Hassan, Pappas and other Democrats regardless of what energy policy they embraced, the organization responded with a tweet:

“Where is our endorsement?”

 

A “Bridge” Too Far For Anti-Pipeline Movement In New Hampshire?

In the politically divided purple state of New Hampshire, getting 22 of the legislature’s 24 state senators to agree on anything is nearly impossible. Maple syrup, the Red Sox, sure. Maybe motherhood and apple pie (depending on where the apples are from)…but a utility company’s natural gas pipeline?

No way.

Except that’s exactly what happened. In May, all but two members of the New Hampshire state Senate—including all 10 Democrats–endorsed Liberty Utilities’ “Granite Bridge” pipeline project. Support from Republicans like Senate President Chuck Morse and Majority Leader Jeb Bradley for this 27-mile natural gas pipeline from Stratham to Manchester is hardly a surprise. But when a liberal environmental activist like Sen. Martha Fuller Clark is on board, that’s definitely news.

“Granite Bridge will make it possible to store and deliver natural gas to a greater number of New Hampshire customers, especially during a cold snap like we experienced this past winter, at a lower cost and with fewer greenhouse gas emissions than home heating oil, the current alternative,” Sen. Clark said in a press release endorsing Granite Bridge. 

Though it’s years away from final approval, the broad, bipartisan support for Granite Bridge stands in stark contrast to the reaction to most of the energy infrastructure projects in the past few months. Even renewable energy projects like Northern Pass (hydro-electric), NextEra (solar) and Spruce Ridge (wind) have been shot down in recent weeks—a fact that makes Liberty’s steady progress on Granite Bridge even more surprising.

It is also a cautionary tale for Green-action groups, showing how they can find themselves fighting alone out on the political fringe. There are still many Public Utility Commission filings, hearing and debates yet to come, but it’s not too early to ask: How did Liberty Utility and Granite Bridge come so far with so little opposition?

IT’S THE WEATHER, STUPID.

 The first thing to remember about New Hampshire and energy policy is this: It’s cold.  Really cold. Too cold, in the opinion of many homeowners, to rely on electricity for heat. In places like Florida, electric heat is fine. But at the border of Canada, many believe…not so much.

The most common home heating fuel is heating oil, used in more than 44 percent of New Hampshire homes. Propane, another carbon-based energy source, heated another 15 percent.

Heating oil is both relatively expensive and emits a relatively high CO2 output. Not only is it used to heat homes, but it also plays a significant role in providing electricity when demand is unusually high.

“During the two weeks of Arctic cold [in 2017], New England generators burned through about 2 million barrels of oil. That’s about 84 million gallons. That’s more than twice as much as all the oil used by New England power plants during the entire year of 2016,” according to ISO New England CEO Gordon van Welie. Even worse, during that cold snap, energy from coal or oil shot up from about 2 percent of New England’s grid total to 33 percent.

All this is bad news for climate activists and energy customers. How can New Hampshire, which has committed to reducing its carbon footprint even as the state’s economy continues to grow, turn this around and still meet its energy needs? One potential solution is natural gas.

While it’s not carbon neutral, burning natural gas for fuel generates less CO2 than any of the carbon-based fuel sources like coal, heating oil or propane. It’s also significantly cheaper to heat your home with natural gas than heating oil.

Which explains why even progressives like President Obama’s Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz say “Natural gas has shown itself to be an important bridge to a clean energy future.” New Hampshire state senator Clark echoed that sentiment in her statement supporting Granite Bridge:

“Increasing access to natural gas will reduce air emissions and help to fight climate change, as well as lowering our high energy costs in the short term while we work to create an energy future that will rely solely on true renewables, including solar and wind.”

The opportunity to get more New Hampshire households off heating oil and onto natural gas would seem like a win for the green movement. And yet, as Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute notes, “the trouble is there isn’t enough pipeline capacity to bring in natural gas from the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania to New England in times of high demand. Even as America’s natural gas production has soared, the pipeline capacity to get it to where it’s needed hasn’t kept up.”

Holman Jenkins of The Wall Street Journal makes the same point: “New England is in the worst shape [in the nation], having killed multiple projects for new pipelines and even a transmission line to bring hydropower from Canada. Local electric prices are 50% higher than the national average. Every winter, thanks to an overtaxed pipeline network, the six-state region descends into a ‘precarious position,’ according to New England’s grid manager.”

And a 2018 report from ISO-New England is filled with references to “fuel shortages” and “fuel availability” (not to mention the possibility of brown outs and load shedding in harsh winter weather 10 years from now), all of which translates to “customers who need natural gas, but there’s not enough pipeline capacity to get it to them.”

How did New England become America’s energy-grid basket case? “Political obstacles driven by environmental groups,” says Perry.

“THE ENEMY OF THE GOOD”

“There are just so many reasons why a pipeline is just not the right choice.” So says Stephanie Scherr, founder and director of EchoAction.org, a self-described “environmental justice” organization in New Hampshire.  At a public hearing in Epping earlier in the year,  Scherr said “when we choose gas we are complicit in what happens to other people.”

In a statement to NHJournal, The Conservation Law Foundation calls Granite Bridge “a bad deal for New Hampshire residents.”

When asked about the argument made by people like Secretary Moniz and Sen. Clark that natural gas should be a bridge to renewables, Scherr bristles. “I have nothing to say about Senator Clark’s decision. I think it was a most unfortunate decision and we were very disappointed,” Scherr said.

Patricia Martin, EchoAction’s Energy Policy Coordinator, is even more direct. “I am actually quite upset that Liberty lobbyists manipulated these senators into ENDORSING [emphasis in original] the project before they’ve heard any good arguments against it or probing questions about it,” she told NHJournal via email. “Now their egos and reputations will be tied to being named in that press release as endorsing the project.”

EchoAction is part of a broader environmental movement across New England, including the Conservation LAW Foundation, Citizens Climate Lobby and others who oppose virtually all pipelines—period. “They’ve decided to make the perfect the enemy of the good, which is a shame because Granite Bridge can do a lot of good,” a source close to the project told NHJournal.

The strategy is simple: Oppose any expansion of the carbon-energy infrastructure and force New Hampshire to expand renewable energy to meet future needs.

‘I oppose any expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure,” Martin says. “If we want to transition away from fossil fuels, we need to stop expanding its usage as a first step. If you know there’s a stop sign coming up, do you step on the gas and then brake hard at the last moment?”

Echo Action plans to protest outside the New Hampshire Democratic state convention on Saturday, June 23 in response to the Democrats’ lack of fealty to their zero-carbon-infrastructure stance.

The problem is that renewables are nowhere close to covering the region’s energy needs. In a statement, the CLF says of Granite Bridge:

“Rather than lining the pockets of another utility, New Hampshire should support the many small businesses providing low-cost clean technologies like heat pumps for heating and cooling.”

But even if New Hampshire were somehow converted to an “electric heat” state like South Carolina or Virginia (remember the “it gets really cold here” part?), in 2016 the state got a mere 2.3 percent of its electricity from wind—one-tenth the amount of electricity generated from natural gas. While renewables are close to providing 20 percent of total energy consumed in New Hampshire (a figure that excludes nuclear—which makes no sense, but that’s a topic for another day), by far the largest source isn’t wind, solar or geothermal. It’s biomass. Biomass generates three times more electricity than the other three sources combined.

Not to mention the fact that these “many small businesses” all get subsidies for their biomass/electric/wind from current ratepayers, pushing the cost of electricity in one of the most expensive states in the country even higher.

The reality is that New Hampshire businesses and homeowners aren’t going to sit in dark, unelectrified buildings and wait for wind and solar technology to catch up with current demand. The lights are going to come on, the stoves are going to be lit.  Opposing smart pipeline projects won’t stop that from happening. It just means the natural gas will get to New England in dumb ways.

Like tanker ships from Russia.

Earlier this year, the left-leaning Boston Globe  ran an editorial decrying “pipeline absolutism” and urging the region’s environmentalists to end their knee-jerk opposition to all projects.

Their coverage included the story of a Russian tanker bringing liquified natural gas 4,500 miles from the Arctic to Boston because of a lack of pipelines in New England.

“Climate advocates have put short-term tactical victories against fossil fuel infrastructure ahead of strategic progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They’ve obsessed over stopping domestic pipelines, no matter where those pipes go, what they carry, what fuels they displace, and how the ripple effects of those decisions may raise overall global greenhouse gas emissions,” the Globe argued. [emphasis added]

Why would environmentalists support shipping LNG (via diesel-powered tanker) through the pristine Arctic region when there’s plenty of home-grown natural gas in North America? According to the Globe, a lawyer for the anti-pipeline Conservation Law Foundation “shrugged off” the issue of Russian gas being transported to New England.

“On the plus side, though, they didn’t offend Pittsfield or Winthrop, Danvers or Groton, with even an inch of pipeline,” the Globe noted wryly.

A good way to avoid New England NIMBYism. But how is that a smart strategy for the environment?

THE GRANITE BRIDGE PROJECT

Enter Liberty Utilities and Granite Bridge. On paper, it appears to be a no-brainer. Taking advantage of the state’s “Energy Infrastructure Corridor” program, the pipeline’s 27 miles are mostly located in the Route 101 right-of-way and buried underground, thus avoiding many of the NIMBY issues that have plagued other projects.

And the pipeline will serve a densely populated area from Stratham to Manchester, where natural gas demand is going to climb with or without a new pipeline. Liberty currently serves 90,000 customers from Laconia to Nashua with a single pipeline that is nearing capacity. And that’s a problem.

“Look at what’s happened in California when you refuse to invest in infrastructure,” former New Hampshire Speaker of the House Bill O’Brien told NHJournal. “Energy, water, whatever. You can refuse to build it, but demand is going to rise. In California, they’ve got water shortages, brownouts—it’s a disaster. New Hampshire environmentalists should learn that lesson and support the right projects, not just oppose everything,” the Republican said.

And Granite Bridge also fits in with the new 10-year Energy Strategy released by Gov. Chris Sununu, which prioritizes lower rates for businesses and consumers. The project also includes a large LNG tank in an abandoned quarry near Epping. According to John Shore, senior manager of marketing and communications for Liberty Utilities, this approach will let Liberty to buy natural gas during the summer when prices tend to be low, store it, then use that cheap, stored gas to save customers money in the winter when prices inevitably spike.

“We know the price patterns in the industry and, with this storage capacity, we can use that knowledge to save our customers money,” Shore told NHJournal. If the Granite Bridge pipeline had been in place starting in 2013, this “buy gas when it’s cheap” strategy would have saved Liberty Utilities customers more than $100 million by now, according to Shore. It also provides a cushion against price instability in the natural gas market for Liberty’s customers.

Plus, Liberty is putting the LNG tank in an old quarry, where it’s both safer and out of sight.

Lower CO2 emissions, lower prices, more price stability and all hidden underground on a highway right of way.  And green activists at CLF and Echo Action are against it? To the average New Hampshire consumer, ratepayer and voter—this opposition makes little sense.

By opposing projects that have a demonstrable environmental benefit in the name of still-unavailable levels or wind and solar, the anti-pipeline forces have pushed themselves to the political fringe.

And once they’ve marginalized themselves as the “We’d rather see tankers from Russia than a pipeline from Pennsylvania” movement, how much clout with they have in Concord? Won’t it be easier for utility companies to convince lawmakers to shrug off their objections, the way the New England CLF attorney “shrugged off” the impact of their anti-pipeline stance on the pristine Arctic environment?

Granite Bridge could be a turning point for the region’s environmental stakeholders, a path for the energy and environmental movements to find common ground going forward—avoiding clearly-unpopular projects like Kinder Morgan while supporting “win/win” infrastructure proposals.

Or it could be a breaking point, driving moderate voices away from the Granite State’s environmental movement.

Updating New Hampshire’s Energy Infrastructure Should Be a Priority

When I ran for and served in office, it was because I wanted to bring a new, younger perspective to the political process. There were voices that I felt weren’t being heard above the noise created by the same, tired, old politics of the past. I felt that we needed new solutions to address critical issues in our state. We needed to tackle these problems to move our state and our economy forward to create more prosperity and a higher quality of life for everyone in New Hampshire — particularly for young people like me. One of those critical areas was energy.

Energy is different from most other issues dealt with in Concord, because it has the ability to touch our lives in so many different ways.

One of the great developments of the past decade has been an energy renaissance in America. Thanks to technological advances, we’re now able to produce so much energy, particularly from natural gas, that the United States has become the world’s leading producer of energy.

That’s right. We produce more than Russia, more than China, and more than the OPEC nations of the Middle East.

And natural gas is touching our lives in more ways than most people realize.

Natural gas helps to heat and power manufacturing facilities that produce busses for public transportation, components for bicycles, the clothing and shoes that we wear; it’s used in making our cell phones and computers, and the furniture, carpeting and wood floors in our homes.  It is used in making fertilizer.  And of course it cooks the food we eat.

All of this is made possible by natural gas.

On top of all of that, natural gas is improving our environment. Because it is displacing coal as an electric generator, carbon emissions have fallen to near 20-year lows as natural gas production has increased.

Clean-burning natural gas helps to empower other renewable, green energy options by providing power when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine. With natural gas providing a solid foundation for our state’s energy needs, we’re able to operate with a comprehensive, all-of-the-above energy strategy that includes solar and wind power. This only serves to further protect our environment, while balancing those interests with maintaining a high quality of life for everyone in New Hampshire.

But there’s still work to be done so that our state’s economy can take full advantage of the benefits of natural gas.

The rapid expansion of natural gas production has created a problem for our state and our region. We don’t currently have energy infrastructure that is sufficient to handle the increased load of natural gas that needs to be transported and then delivered to our homes, businesses and factories as well as our electric generators.

Our energy infrastructure is out of date, and we need to make it a priority to bring it into the 21st century.

The abundance of natural gas has reduced energy costs in states from coast to coast, but because our energy infrastructure is inadequate to meet current demand, we’re paying higher than necessary energy costs.

That’s money that could be put back into our local communities, donated to charity, saved for retirement, or put aside for unexpected health care costs.

Right now, our state’s high energy costs are a significant driver of jobs leaving New Hampshire. We need to take action to make sure that these jobs stay in our state, for my generation and for everyone who lives and works in New Hampshire.

The way we begin to do that is to tackle this problem head-on. It’s time that we make updating our energy infrastructure a priority in New Hampshire and New England.