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Rural Missouri Magazine

California dreaming on climate change

AMEC executive vice president Barry Hart
by Barry Hart

by Barry Hart

As expected, California Rep. Henry Waxman moved a climate change bill out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee he chairs in May. When that happened, electric cooperative leaders examined the bill in the same way a restaurant patron would test a new dish added to the menu.

Their response? “Needs work.”

Vowing to help fix problems with the bill instead of defeating it, Glenn English, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, strongly expressed the concerns rural people have with this bill in a meeting with committee leaders. At the same time, he stood ready to pull the trigger on an unprecedented grassroots campaign to defeat the bill if the chairman didn’t meet fairness standards called for by a broad spectrum of rural groups.

As passed, the climate change bill heavily favors states on the coasts while penalizing Midwest states — including Missouri — that are heavily dependent on coal to generate electricity. At issue is the allocation of credits to meet a cap-and-trade program at the heart of the bill.

Cap and trade would work by slowly lowering the number of permits for emitting carbon dioxide available to utilities, manufacturers and other companies. Under the plan passed by Waxman’s committee, the chairman’s home state would receive 200 percent of the credits it needs to meet new emission standards.

By contrast, Missouri would only receive 60 percent of the credits it needs. Missouri utilities would have to buy additional credits on the open market at a price set by auction.
Guess what this will do to the price you pay for electricity?

Fortunately, for Waxman’s bill to clear the full House it must pass muster with several other key House committees, including the Agriculture Committee chaired by Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, who shares many of the concerns electric cooperatives have voiced about this bill. The ranking member of the Ag Committee is northwest Missouri Rep. Sam Graves, who had this to say of the bill:

“A bill that has been projected to decrease farmers’ average net income by 57 percent is a bad bill. Chairman Waxman and Speaker Pelosi are not considering what is best for all Americans. Their Hollywood and San Francisco constituents will not face the hardships this bill will bring to farmers.”

Rep. Blaine Leutkemeyer, who represents Missouri’s ninth Congressional District, also voiced opposition to the measure. “This bill will increase taxes, eliminate jobs or drive them offshore and raise the energy costs of those hard-working farm families trying to make ends meet,” he said.

And Rep. Ike Skelton wrote in a letter to Gascosage Electric Cooperative Manager John Greenlee that the devil is in the details of the proposed bill. “As H.R. 2454 is considered, my colleagues and I will carefully review it. For those of us from rural America, it will be critical that we look after the interests of farmers and others living in small towns. It will also be important to ensure parts of the country, like Missouri, that rely heavily on coal-fired power plants are not given the short shrift.”

Let’s hope NRECA’s Glenn English succeeds in his efforts to improve this bill, using the seat at the table gained for him by millions of messages sent to Congress by electric cooperative members through the Our Energy, Our Future campaign.

In the meantime, you can help support these efforts by continuing the dialogue through the Our Energy, Our Future campaign. Log on to www.ourenergy.coop or contact your local electric cooperative for assistance.

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

E-mail Barry Hart

 

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