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Rural Missouri Magazine

Raising the debate on energy

by Barry Hart

by Barry Hart

Anyone who has ever operated a baler in a Missouri hay field knows how interconnected things are today. Should one tiny piece in the intricate machinery of that baler break, the entire day’s operation comes to a screeching halt.

The same is true for the nation’s energy supply. Seemingly unrelated events can ripple into major problems that eventually trickle down to us as consumers.

The recent hurricanes are a case in point. When the storms hit the Gulf region oil refineries shut down, shipping was curtailed and the resulting decline in supply hit consumers hard in the wallet.

A few years ago an event as simple as a tree rubbing against a transmission line started a series of events that resulted in a major blackout that left parts of the East Coast and upper Midwest in the dark.

Low river levels, disruption of railroad service, terrorist activities, our nation’s reliance on foreign oil and the rising price of natural gas are all potential problems for energy suppliers. These real and potential events are what prompted President Bush and Congress to push for passage of the 2005 energy bill. That measure moved energy to the top of the list of issues our country must deal with.

In December, Gov. Matt Blunt acknowledged the importance of energy to Missouri and pushed its debate up a big notch when he appointed an Energy Task Force to address the state’s growing energy needs.

Energy is critical to Missouri and our economy is vitally dependent on a low-cost supply of energy to heat and cool homes, power industry, fuel vehicles for our many commuters and to keep expenses down for the businesses and farms. Even though Missouri’s energy situation is better than other states, Gov. Blunt has shown wisdom by being proactive to identify ways Missouri can continue our competitive energy position.

By ratcheting up the debate on energy the governor will identify issues and ensure potential problems are addressed before they become a crisis. And the nine-member panel, led by Public Service Commission Chairman Jeff Davis, is more than up to the task at hand.

Other members of the panel include Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, House Speaker Rod Jetton, Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons, Rep. Rex Rector, Sen. David Klindt, Public Counsel Lewis Mills, Department of Natural Resources Director Doyle Childers and Agriculture Director Fred Ferrell.

The governor has asked them to recommend ways to reduce our state’s dependence on oil, provide help so low-income Missourians can pay their heating bills and promote new opportunities for the use of renewable fuels.

This last task is one of the most exciting. Legislation has already been introduced, with the governor’s blessing, which will mandate that all gas sold in Missouri contain at least 10 percent ethanol. This will help boost Missouri’s farmers and move our state closer to energy independence.

Missouri’s electric cooperatives applaud our governor’s initiative in forming this task force. We believe he has the right people looking at the problem at the right time. As the task force meets, your electric cooperative will be well represented in the energy debate and do whatever we can to help.

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

E-mail Barry Hart

 

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Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives

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