Green DC: Energy Costs Up Across the Region

This post is part of a weekly feature where we will focus on events and issues, related to the environment, happening in our own back yard of Washington, DC. Come back next Wednesday for another post.

I don't drive a car in DC. This is probably best for everybody in the area considering my driving record in Florida was lackluster. Its good for me because I can afford a nicer place and I avoid rising gas prices.

Unfortunately, all of us non-drivers are beginning to feel the squeeze from higher gas prices even though we don't use the pump.

Prices for products and services are shooting up in response to corporate energy costs rising. In the middle of an economic downturn, the increasing cost of gasoline has led several area employers to begin laying off employees or to freeze hiring.

The Washington Post reported a few days ago that "In Montgomery, requests for food stamps increased 17 percent in the first three months of the year; Loudoun County experienced a 27 percent increase during the same period. Applications are up 21 percent in Prince George's County, 12 percent in Prince William County and 6 percent in the District."
Between July and March, Fairfax County food stamp requests increased by 17%. Applications for food stamps and Medicaid in Arlington County are 25% higher than last year's requests.

Now its time for the utility companies to turn that screw just a little tighter. In June, Pepco will increase its rates by 15% for DC customers. This is the second increase by Pepco in just 5 months. They claim it is necessary to cover increasing energy costs.

Dominion Virginia Power is taking steps to increase its rates as well. They have submitted a request for an 18% rate increase, due to affect customers this summer. This would be the largest increase for Dominion since the 1970's. Their explanation for the increase is due to the rising cost of coal and other energy sources.

There are ways for District citizens to keep their utility bill from sky rocketing. Stores like Greater Goods on U Street and Eco-Green Living on Church Street sell a variety of products that will help reduce your energy consumption. The obvious fluorescent light bulbs are available, but there are so many additional cheap options available.

For instance, THIS window film will help keep the outside heat out of your place by insulating your windows to keep A/C costs down. If you have central air conditioning, install one of THESE thermostats so you can set the A/C to turn off when you're at work and to come back on when you get home. If you have a window A/C unit, use a timer like THIS to do the same thing. Plug all of your home electronics into a surge protector with an off switch. Just switch the equipment off when you're not using it so phantom energy won't be wasted by equipment in the "stand-by" mode. Make sure you are taking shorter showers so you can use and heat less water.

Apparently, Metro ridership is up 7% already this year partly due to rising gas prices. Public transportation is always a great option. If you've never mapped out the public transportation route for your home, check HERE to see if there are Metro buses or trains available to you.

The reality is that energy prices are just going to go up. So many factors are working against us that it would be impossible to keep a lid on these increases. Fortunately, we can lower our individual usage, which will decrease demand, which might stabilize prices in the long term. It will also save us some cash.

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