Complex Energy Issues, 

Simple Co-op Philosophy

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor

Richard Johnstone
Richard Johnstone

Our nation faces some tough choices about energy in general, and our electricity supply in particular. In the near term and for decades into the future, decisions being made now will shape and affect our lives and those of our children, grandchildren and descendants yet to come.

These choices really center more on direction and degree than on destination. We all want to get to the same destination, the same place, by achieving several key objectives for ourselves, our families and our nation.

First, we all want to protect this planetary home of ours. Second, we also want to have an adequate supply of electricity to meet our growing needs at home and at work, now and into the future. And finally, we all want this electricity to remain affordable, even as we use ever more of it to stay comfortable, to store and cook our food, to clean our clothes, and to be entertained and informed by all the electronic wizardry of our wondrous age.

Discussions about the nature, speed, causes and implications of climate change have shifted arenas in recent months, from scientific debate to public-policy priority. In the halls of power in Washington , these discussions now revolve around the need to reduce “greenhouse gases” like carbon dioxide and methane. (Carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere when fossil fuels — oil, natural gas and coal — are burned. Methane is released during the production and transport of these fossil fuels.)

And here is one of this topic’s many vexing dilemmas: It is these very fuels that overwhelmingly generate our electricity, fuel our cars, and thus power both our robust economy and our comfortable lifestyle.

Our elected officials in Washington are working right now with climatologists, environmental leaders and utility officials to craft climate-change legislation aimed at stabilizing and/or reducing the amount of greenhouse gases that we emit into the atmosphere. It seems a high probability that legislation will be passed in the near future.

And thankfully, national electric cooperative leaders are also actively involved in the legislative process, as options are being discussed and decisions are being made. As noted earlier, most of the discussions seem to center on “direction and degree” rather than on “destination.” In other words, the focus is on how climate-change legislation will be implemented, and who should pay for it, not whether it’s needed.

As these decisions are being made, electric cooperatives are asking members of Congress to be even-handed in their approach, and to make sure that any legislation addresses the following points:

• Any plan to reduce greenhouse emissions should cover such emissions from all sectors of the economy.

• This is a global issue and therefore other nations should be asked to contribute equitably to the solution.

• Adequate funding should be provided for the development of new technologies to reduce, eliminate and/or store greenhouse gases and help our nation maintain a robust, diverse mix of fuel sources.

• Efforts to conserve energy, reduce electric demand and broaden the use of green energy should be encouraged by making smart incentives available to promote them.

• Electricity is as much a staple of modern life as food, medicine and lodging, and thus it needs to be kept affordable to all Americans.

As a member-owned business, we’ll keep you informed about developments on these important issues. That’s part of our responsibility as your cooperative.

As a not-for-profit utility, we’ll continue to provide you with electric power at cost. That’s the essence of our business structure.

And even as the world grows more confounding and complex, our single priority will remain as simple and focused as ever: serving you as safely, reliably and affordably as possible. That’s what happens when your customers are also your owners.


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