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Rural Missouri Magazine

Join the battle for affordable electricity

AMEC executive vice president Barry Hart
by Barry Hart

by Barry Hart

Recently, a group of 52 electric co-op leaders from around Missouri went with me to Washington, D.C., to participate in a national legislative conference. Our goal was to make sure your voices were heard on issues being con­sidered by Congress that affect the reliability and affordability of electricity. We were armed with 600,000-plus messages you sent to our congressional delegation and a recent poll that makes it clear how co-op members feel about keeping electricity affordable.

According to a recent poll commissioned by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, 80 percent of Americans agree Congress should know the costs to consumers before voting on climate change legislation.

The issue having the greatest potential to drastically increase your electric rates is now being considered in the House Energy Committee. Electric co-ops nationwide are working hard to help Congress develop affordable, flexible and effective climate change legislation. We are seeking a common sense approach that minimizes costs and ensures that safe and reliable electric power remains affordable for everyone.

As you know, family budgets are already strained by rising energy costs and the downturn in our economy, and climate change legislation that does not take consumer costs into account will place significant burdens on households all across Missouri.

We found out at the conference that public policy will change to achieve reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. The question isn’t if this will happen, but how.

In mid-April, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it was ready to use the Clean Air Act to limit emissions of carbon dioxide, along with five other greenhouse gases blamed for contributing to climate change. However, the agency said it hoped Congress would adopt a legislative solution.

So far, congressional climate change proposals remain vague about how consumers will be affected. The American Clean Energy and Security Act, a draft measure being considered, would employ a market-based system of tradable allowances to cut greenhouse gases. This cap-and-trade system would set a specific limit on carbon dioxide emissions and require purchasing enough allowances to match all emissions.

The bill introduced by California Rep. Henry Waxman does not specify whether these allowances would be given away, as has been done with other environmental laws, or sold at auction to generate a massive amount of revenue for non-related programs, as suggested in President Obama’s 2010 budget. Because consumers are voicing concerns, changes are being proposed that could help, but don’t yet offer enough protection.

Americans are skeptical of schemes that will allow speculators to bid up the price of emissions allowances. That would put electric bills in the hands of Wall Street, and your future electric rates could be driven up by unscrupulous speculators.

The danger of such a system isn’t lost on consumers: 77 percent of those polled believe that a cap-and-trade auction would allow financiers to control the price of electricity; 58 percent agree that climate change legislation must focus only on meeting climate change requirements, not generating revenue for other purposes.

Our electric co-op group met with Missouri’s nine U.S. representatives and both senators. We wanted to make sure they heard how the auction could devastate your family. Our message was well received, and we came back home feeling they will fight to keep electricity affordable. The problem is that one proposal could increase electric rates by almost 60 percent in Missouri but only 9 percent in California where many of those controlling the legislation come from.

Because electric co-ops are owned by consumers, we can’t sit on the sidelines on this battle. We need your help now. Please go to www.ourenergy.coop and send your message to your elected officials. You also can get involved by telling your co-op employees you want to speak up.

The more members who get involved now, the more ammunition your cooperative’s directors, management and employees will have to keep electricity affordable in Missouri.

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

Rural Missouri
2722 E. McCarty Street
P.O. Box 1645 • Jefferson City, Mo. 65102
573-659-3423

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