Editorial: Satiating a ravenous energy appetite

The cost of energy continues to soar with no end in sight. We see it at the pump, where it costs a small fortune to just to fill up the car. We see it in the fuel we buy to heat our homes, a subject that is foremost in our minds now that the season’s first frost signals cold weather and high heating bills to come.

We see it in the rising cost of electricity, where the promise of lower prices as a result of competition from multiple suppliers has failed to achieve the desired result. However, those who power their homes and businesses with natural gas are seeing lower prices — at least for now.

Gov. Dannel Malloy would expand the emerging natural gas opportunity to 300,000 additional Connecticut homes and businesses under a comprehensive energy strategy he unveiled for public comment on Oct. 5. His natural gas strategy has the backing of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, as does the rest of the plan.

Safer, cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable energy is the theme of the plan, which was intended to spark dialogue and appears to be doing just that. Environmentalists and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities welcomed its serious attempt to address a problem that contributes to the state’s high cost of living and makes Connecticut less competitive. Also in support of the plan’s broad goals are the state AFL-CIO and the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, two groups that often disagree on issues.

The state’s heating oil dealers are skeptical of the natural gas portion of the plan. Not only do they risk losing customers, but they point out that the cost of energy vacillates, and just because natural gas is lower now doesn’t mean that it will remain that way. In addition, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — the system of releasing natural gas from shale — carries its own set of substantial environmental hazards and has brought objections from environmentalists and residents in states where it is being performed. Time will tell whether natural gas will be as important a part of the plan as it is now.

Mr. Malloy’s plan also reinforces the need for research and development into more renewable, cleaner and cheaper energy and provides concrete steps to take now to reduce our dependency on foreign oil and undependable and dirty fuel sources.

There are steps each of us can take to reduce our energy footprint, such as reducing car trips, carpooling and investing in energy-efficient vehicles or hybrids when we replace our vehicles. We can set timers to reduce heating fuel use when we are not at home or at work, and at night we can sleep under extra layers of covers. We can wear extra sweaters and set the thermostat a few degrees lower.

A serious dialogue has begun among disparate interest groups who recognize it’s in the interest of all of us to work together on a sound energy plan, since our energy appetite shows no signs of satiety.