Make Your Voice Heard!

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor

Richard Johnstone

Chester Bowles, a successful advertising agency executive and later a member of the administrations of both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, once said that “Government is too big and important to be left to the politicians.” Truer words may never have been spoken.

The truth of this quote is why electric cooperatives, over 900 spread across 47 states and serving 40 million Americans, have recently begun a public awareness campaign dubbed “Our Energy, Our Future — A Dialogue with America.” It’s an effort by America’s —and Virginia’s — consumer-owned electric utilities to make sure that the discussions and debates that Congress holds on energy issues, and the decisions our elected officials make, do not occur in a vacuum.

As you know, there are several daunting energy challenges facing our great nation, challenges that must be understood by our citizens. Likewise, our elected officials at both the state and federal levels must also develop a keen understanding of these issues, in part by listening to the concerns of their constituents, and then by voting in the best long-term interests of our nation.

Electric cooperative consumers, of course, own and control their utility, and as such electric cooperatives have always been committed to providing reliable, affordable power in an environmentally respon­si­ble manner. In our nearly 75-year history, though, doing so has rarely, perhaps never, been more challenging.

These challenges include a laundry list of newspaper headline material: the rising cost of the fuels used to generate electricity; the long lead times needed to plan for, receive permits for, and construct a generating station or the transmission lines needed to carry its power to delivery points; rising demand for power driven by population growth and by larger homes with multiple, high-usage technological wonders like computers and plasma TVs; the need to focus more effort on conservation of resources; and concerns about climate change.

On this last challenge, Congress is focusing considerable effort and attention on trying to develop solutions. Our nation’s 900-plus electric cooperatives are on record as willing to support a climate bill that is consumer-friendly, while achieving realistic environmental goals. The bill debated last month by the U.S. Senate, the Boxer substitute to the Lieberman-Warner bill, did not pass at least partly because of concerns about its impact on our economy, fear that it might result in additional energy costs, and the sheer complexity of this massive, 500-page bill.

The issue of climate change clearly needs to be examined in the context of a larger discussion of energy policy in general. This nation needs a clearly understood, laser-focused, broad-based, broadly supported energy policy now more than ever. We hope that, when Congress continues its deliberations on climate change later this year and beyond, it will do so as part of a larger attempt to build an energy road map for our nation that will serve us for decades to come, and that it will do so by engaging the views of average Americans like you and me.

And that’s where you come in. A big part of the “Our Energy, Our Future” campaign revolves around encouraging electric cooperative consumers like you to make your voice heard, specifically by asking questions to your three representatives in Congress: your House member, and your two Senators, John Warner and Jim Webb.

The first question we’d like you to ask them is this:

“Experts say that our nation’s growing electricity needs will soon go well beyond what renewables, conservation and efficiency can provide; What is your plan to make sure we have the electricity we’ll need in the future?”

There are two more questions; we’ll cover them on the editorial page of the next two issues. More information on climate change, and on the three questions, can be found at a special Web site created specifically for this educational campaign.

Please go to www.ourenergy.coop and make your voice heard! The only way to ensure that our electric supply remains reliable, affordable, and environmentally responsible as we navigate the difficult maze of challenges that confronts us is by remaining united as Americans to the common good; by being reasonable people seeking reasonable solutions to complex problems; and by holding our elected officials accountable.

I’d like to close with a quote from another little-known 20th-century American civic leader named Walter Judd, who was, at various times during his long life, a doctor, a missionary, a member of Congress, an editor, and a radio commentator. Mr. Judd once said, “People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote — a very different thing.”

Please make yourself heard by visiting www.ourenergy.coop.


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