Rural Missouri Magazine

We can take is the time

AMEC executive vice president Barry Hart
by Barry Hart

by Barry Hart

From where I sit, it looks like spring has arrived. I can not remember a year when spring was so anticipated by so many people. This past winter was brutal, and I’m not just referring to the ice storm that hit in January. The temperature stayed just cold enough to keep furnaces running around the clock.

Meanwhile, all those electric gadgets that are becoming common in our homes consumed a steady flow of electricity. Missouri electric cooperative members are now using more electricity than ever before.

As a result, electric cooperative members experienced some of the highest electric bills they’ve ever seen. Co-op employees told me they are seeing homes that used more than 8,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity in a single month. I can remember a time when that amount of electricity consumption could have only occurred at a commercial account.

Across the state, high bill complaints are up. Part of the blame goes to rate increases that many electric cooperatives have put into place for a variety of reasons. But the real culprit is the fact that we are using more electricity. And when we take a look at the bottom line on our bill we automatically assume it is the rate and not our electricity use.

This is the main reason Missouri’s electric cooperatives developed the “Take Control & Save” energy-efficiency program so you can work with your local co-op to reduce the energy use at your home or business. There are many success stories around the state where members have installed energy-efficient appliances and lighting and weatherized their homes to significantly reduce their monthly electric bill.

When I hear someone talking about high electric bills, I think about what is happening in Washington, D.C., and I worry that those bills could go even higher. Energy debate there focuses on limiting releases of carbon dioxide. President Obama’s fiscal year 2010 budget features a climate change policy that will generate tax revenues for the federal government through emission credit auctions.

Call it what you want, but that proposal is a back-door tax, plain and simple. That tax rate would be set by Wall Street, collected from you by utilities and divided up by Congress in ways we can only imagine.

Worse, when limits are placed on carbon emissions, we could see a redistribution of money from rural, Midwest states to urban coastal states. States like Missouri that are heavily dependent on coal to generate electricity stand to pay the most for emissions credits under any cap and trade plan. The Wall Street Journal, in an opinion piece, put it this way:

“Cap and trade, in other words, is a scheme to redistribute income
and wealth — but in a very curious way. It takes from the working class and gives to the affluent; takes from Miami, Ohio, and gives to Miami, Fla; and takes from an industrial America that is already struggling and gives to rich Silicon Valley and Wall Street ‘green tech’ investors who know how to leverage the political class.”

Here we go again, taking away from Main Street to give to Wall Street!

For the past year I have been telling you about a campaign called “Our Energy, Our Future” that encourages electric cooperative members to speak out about the need to ensure affordable rates for the future. Since that time, more than 1.6 million messages have been sent through the campaign.

I encourage you to get involved with this dialogue in 2009, even if you did so last year. A new question asking Congress to meet both federal public policy goals and your need for affordable, reliable electricity has been added to the Web site.

Your electric co-op may call on you to tell about your personal struggles with affordability issues so we can share that with Congress. As Congress gets closer to enacting new energy legislation, your participation is now more important than ever.

Hart is executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.

E-mail Barry Hart


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