Electricity: luxury or affordable for all?
The perfect storm caused by shortages of electric capacity and rising demands in rural Missouri that I referred to in an earlier column is getting closer. As I said before, our involvement in the debate in our nation’s capital on climate change is critical to ensure you can continue to afford electricity.
Recently I took part in a seminar on climate change policy together with other managers of statewide rural electric associations from around the U.S. The things I learned there caused me a great deal of concern.
As a result of visits with co-op members from around the state, I realize there are differing opinions on whether or not humans are causing changes to the Earth’s climate by burning fossil fuels. It might interest you to know that no one at the seminar I attended spent any time arguing whether or not climate change is taking place.
What they did say is this issue is on the front burner in Congress and will be a priority for whoever is elected president. I learned at this meeting there are different ways to set climate change policy with different policies being discussed. It is becoming clear our national leaders can either be a part of the solution to fix the problem or cripple the economy while making the situation even worse.
While some of the brightest minds studying the issue spoke at our meeting, the one who caught my attention the most was Bryan Hannegan from EPRI, the Electric Power Research Institute. This non-partisan group put together a model of what would happen if the nation implements the various climate change strategies being considered.
At the heart of these proposals is a cap restricting the amount of carbon that could be released into the atmosphere. Various segments of industry would have carbon credits allocated to them. If they could not meet limits with their allocations, they would have to buy additional credits with prices set by the highest bidder.
What caught my attention from this speaker — with the impact of running head-first into a wall — was when he said these proposals would cost the U.S. economy TRILLIONS of dollars.
He further stated that the solutions being considered would not solve the problem. In all of the models generated by EPRI, even with trillions of dollars thrown at the problem, emissions of carbon dioxide from the U.S. would continue to increase under scenarios now being considered by Congress.
Climate change is a technological issue, but the technologies that can solve the problem do not yet exist. No one technology is a silver bullet that will solve the problem. But a mix of new technologies, combined with energy efficiency and renewable resources, can curb CO2 emissions without wrecking the economy — provided industry has some assurances their research and development dollars will not be wasted.
As an electric cooperative member, it’s crucial you understand the impact climate change policy will have on society. We all want to protect our environment. But as climate change policy is developed in Congress, we want to get it right. What is at stake is whether electric power will continue to be affordable to all or a luxury only the very rich can afford.
In the coming months, we will be covering the climate change issue in detail through Rural Missouri and in communications you will receive from your local cooperative.
Because your cooperative is owned by you and is non-profit, costly solutions to climate change will go directly to you, the member. We will give you opportunities to share your feelings on this important issue with our U.S. senators and representatives as they debate the most significant public policy decision of our lifetime.
It will be extremely important that they hear from you so your electricity will continue to be affordable and reliable. Now more than ever we can’t take that for granted. Stay tuned . . .
Hart is executive vice president of the Association
of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.