The Hispanic community in the United States is a large and fast-growing segment of the population, which means it will increasingly influence how this country produces and consumes energy. Likewise, public and private sector policies affecting the supply, price and distribution of energy will affect Hispanic communities in interesting and unique ways.
In the last ten years, the Hispanic share of the total U.S. population increased to 18% and Hispanics accounted for 52% of all U.S. population growth. This means inevitable growth in Hispanic purchasing power, which is manifesting itself in the energy sector. A 2012 analysis by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Inc. revealed that Hispanic households have lower income levels on average than non-Hispanic households but consume more oil and gasoline needed for personal transportation. Data suggests this is because Hispanic households are larger and have more wage-earners who need a car to get to and from work. In that way, Hispanics are especially vulnerable to gasoline price spikes and have a strong stake in policies affecting the country’s driving habits and use of public transit.
Hispanics also have the lowest household residential energy demand when compared to other demographic groups. To be sure, many Hispanics communities are clustered in states where a mild climate corresponds to lower demand for energy to heat and cool homes and businesses. Still, the CHCI’s deeper look at the data revealed that, for a number of factors, Hispanics tend to use less energy in their households on average. Whether this means a flattening of demand as the economy returns to normal growth rate remains to be see but it highlights how the nation’s diverse Hispanic communities, as a whole, are already shaping the U.S. energy profile.
New technologies related to traditional sources such as oil and natural gas and the imperative to invest in renewable technologies and alternative energy are converging as Hispanics are being encouraged and supported to pursue careers in STEM fields. Even as the Hispanic share of the U.S. workforce grew from 3 percent in 1970 to nearly 20 percent today, Hispanics account for just 7 percent of the STEM workforce based on Pew Research’s findings. In recent years, private and public initiatives are working to raise that number. At a 2014 forum on Hispanic millennials in STEM fields former Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz, said, “It’s not actually about altruism, it’s completely about our economic future.”
The availability of affordable heat and electricity and gasoline often has a large impact on household economic security. Low-income households pay more than three times the amount that higher income households pay. For a family with medium income of roughly $25,000, an annual energy bill of $1,700 annually forces trade-offs with other necessities such as food, according to a 2016 report for the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.
Hispanics with low incomes are more likely to live in older housing with poor ventilation and aging, inefficient appliances and heating systems. These disparities also compound emotional stress and its adverse effects on physical and mental health. In 2018, the Energy Information Administration reported that up to a third of the country’s households struggled to pay fuel bills with Hispanics and racial minorities being hit the hardest. Of the 25 million households that reported forgoing food and medicine to pay energy bills, 7 million faced that decision nearly every month,” the report stated.
In summary, the large and growing U.S. Hispanic population has a strong interest in how the United States simultaneously manages its abundant natural gas and oil resources and pursues alternative sources. A vibrant energy sector benefits everyone and Hispanics have a strong interest in how this will create employment opportunities and decrease income and energy insecurity.