We're here to help, Mr. President
Lately the focus in Washington, D.C., has been on our failing and fragile economy and the thousands of job losses. We have all read about the financial crisis and have been shocked about some of the problems created for our Main streets by Wall Street.
Members of Congress have been scrambling to have an economic stimulus package ready for President Obama to consider in his first 100 days in office. All Americans realize the tremendous problems he has inherited. We are asking him to lead our country and to find the solutions for these problems following his historic inauguration. We all need to offer assistance in any way we can.
In the midst of these significant economic problems, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Henry Waxman of California, recently announced he will move “quickly and decisively” to push legislation curbing greenhouse gases with a goal of passing climate change legislation by Memorial Day.
Word that these talks were ramping up came as no surprise to leaders at your electric cooperative, who have been closely watching the issue. Clearly, the decisions made in Waxman’s committee and Congress will directly impact the wallets of every electric cooperative member.
When climate change legislation was first considered, virtually no one was talking about how the costs associated with solving this problem would impact consumers. If electric co-ops hadn’t fought for a seat at the table, it’s possible this fact would have been left out of discussions.
Today, with the focus on the economy, it would be impossible for legislators to ignore the affordability aspect of the various climate change fixes being considered. That’s especially true when coupled with the 1.5 million letters and e-mails sent to legislators by electric co-op members through the Our Energy, Our Future campaign.
This effort was the single biggest factor in keeping electric cooperatives from being shut out of the discussion on climate change. Instead, Glenn English, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, met four times with task forces working on the problem.
His latest was with President Obama’s transition team. At that meeting, English continued to raise the need to keep electricity available and affordable for rural people, who include the nation’s most economically disadvantaged.
He encouraged the president’s advisers to consider all economic sectors, to recognize the need for new power plants to meet growing demand for electricity and to end uncertainties about regulation and costs. We are concerned because many legislators are offering solutions that are well meaning, but will result in drastic rate increases for you and your neighbors and further damage the economy.
A situation like this will force every family to make difficult choices for its hard-earned dollars.
We believe our Missouri congressional delegation will make sure President Obama understands the impacts climate change legislation will have on Missouri’s economy and you. We will make sure they have the facts on how the different climate change bills will affect you.
I am asking you to continue your effort to ensure that our elected officials make keeping electricity affordable and reliable a top priority as they develop and vote on energy legislation. If you haven’t done so, log on to www.ourenergy.coop and send your message to Congress. If you have, watch the Web site and announcements from your co-op signaling that it’s time to send a new message.
Your efforts made a big difference in 2008. Let’s not rest until this issue has been successfully resolved without hurting our economy in Missouri or you and your family.
Hart is executive vice president of the Association
of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.