In the winter, energy scarcity can be a crisis. Sure, energy markets, technical innovations, and policies play an important role. However, nothing can be more important than surviving a cold night in a house with an empty fuel tank!
Fuel poverty can be seen from many points of view. Let’s have a look at the influence it’s had on one particular generation of Americans, those referred to as “millennials”. To understand them is to know their life experiences.
Gen “Y”, the name given to those born in the 1980’s and 1990’s, have taken over the baby-boomers as America’s largest generation. They’ve also surpassed Gen “X” as the largest generation in U.S. labor.
There’s been much discussion and debate about who they really are. They’ve been largely misunderstood by the generations which came before them, sometimes given labels with negative connotations. When we examine the facts, we get a glimpse into who they are, what they stand for, and what influenced their upbringing.
Let’s start by focusing on their late teens. When they approached graduation, employment prospects were declining. Many coped with the situation by living with their parents a bit longer than expected. Others borrowed staggering sums of money for a college career. That debt became especially hard to pay back after graduation, when their education made them “overqualified” in a stagnant job market. Low household incomes made energy costs difficult.
Although we’re not talking about the kind of desperate poverty our country experienced during the Great Depression, it was a painfully slow-growing economy. No doubt, this played a role in their world view.
Fuel poverty was happening during the convergence of major discoveries in climate change and the sharp growth of renewable energy markets. This also played a role in their world view, and will eventually influence their future concerns as adults.
|“Two-thirds of young adults (aged 18 to 34) say they’re inclined to vote for a political candidate who supports cutting greenhouse gas emissions and increasing financial incentives for renewable energy, according to an online poll of 2,105 U.S. residents by the University of Texas at Austin. In contrast, just half of seniors (aged 65 or older) say they would lend such support.”
— Wendy Koch, National Geographic
The priorities of millennials are also on the minds of businesses as they are seen as the single largest growth market in the country. They’re moving into their prime spending years. Before, their spending was a blip on the radar screens of analysts, CEO’s and COO’s were already preparing for change.
So, how does this affect fuel poverty? To understand how a country responds to an issue, we need to know where it’s willing to spend money. Based on research from a number of sources we can piece together a rough profile. For example, the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network organized a project where a group of 18- to-26-year-olds published a budget and was actually scored by the CBO. It says:
|“The economic downturn has created an incredible opportunity to rebuild the American economy in a more sustainable, eﬃcient mold. They are committed to ﬁghting energy scarcity and global warming while investing in communities and listening to community voices.”
Although one example doesn’t speak for all millennials, it sends a powerful message that mimics the sensibilities found elsewhere. These views can be observed (to varying degrees) from many young men and women, irrespective of economic status or political leanings.
The “Budget for a Millennial America” is created by millennials, it’s well researched, and is economically viable! In the context of this discussion, it’s important because it also directly addresses “energy scarcity”.
In another example, a poll by the Center for Marketing and Opinion Research at the University of Akron’s Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, found that 57 percent of 1,000 Ohio millennials named economic inequality and poverty as their biggest concerns.
Clearly, a trend is emerging from one of the biggest and most influential generations in America. It’s inevitable that this generation will have an impact on corporate behavior, political policies, and technical innovation. What makes the coming changes so different from today is that, there will also be more attention focused on poverty. Innovations in energy generation and distribution will no doubt add a bit of diversity to the mix as well.