Please Tell Congress to Find a Balanced Solution

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor

Richard Johnstone

 Some 2,500 years ago, Western cultures Father of History, the Greek historian Herodotus, wrote words that still sound true to the modern ear: Haste in every business brings failures.

Now, he surely wasn't talking about the massive climate change/energy bill that the House of Representatives passed in late June by a hair-thin margin of 219-212 ... but many would say the historians historian could well have been. Because one of the concerns we have about this bill (titled the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, or ACES for short) is the fact that this elephantine document of more than 1,400 pages cycled through the House of Representatives at a speed that would have made Lance Armstrong blush. Inserted into it just hours ahead of its passage were hundreds of pages of concessions made to gain the support of enough wavering House members to pass the bill.

Clearly, the process followed by the House of Representatives on this climate change/energy bill was rushed at best, ill-considered at worst. At a minimum, surely more deliberation, discussion, debate and public disclosure and understanding would have been appropriate before voting on a bill that will have a huge impact on every American in every aspect of life for every foreseeable decade, beginning in 2012.

As your electric supplier, we are deeply concerned that this bill may cause a significant increase in the cost of your electric service. As electric cooperatives, of course, we provide this electric service with no mark-up, at cost, to you and all our other consumer-owners. So our focus has always been laser-sharp: for 75 years, we have worked hard to provide you with electricity that is reliable, affordable, and delivered in an environmentally responsible way.

The House-passed bill, though, could well adversely affect our ability to deliver affordable power, and that is at the very heart of our concern. Sharing equal billing with this concern is our deep, abiding commitment to environmental stewardship. As hometown utilities, whose employees and board members are neighbors of those they serve, cooperatives obviously are deeply invested in enhancing the quality of life in their communities, both human life and the natural world.

But while protecting our environment, we also need to protect the economy in general and the pocketbooks of average Americans in particular, especially during a massive recession.

As part of its effort to address climate change, the House bill will limit the output of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, through a complicated cap and trade system. Because the carbon caps affect oil, coal and natural gas, the bill will impact literally every sector of our economy, from transportation to manufacturing to farming.

Much of the impact on consumers will be in the form of what some are calling hidden taxes, as businesses mark up the price tag on their goods and services to cover their increased costs. The impact on the cost of electricity will be more direct and visible; everyone acknowledges that the House bill will increase the cost of electricity, though no one really knows for sure by how much. Consider this: One federal agency predicts an annual impact on the average family in 2020 of around $180; one think tank, though, predicts that in 2020 the impact on the average family may well be $3,000.

Perhaps one of the most deeply disturbing aspects of the bill is that the true cost impact on consumers is unknown, and perhaps unknowable ... unless the bill also passes the Senate, and is signed by the president and implemented. Thankfully, though, that has not happened yet.

And thats why, today, your voice needs to ring out on this issue in the halls of Washington, D.C.! Please contact Virginias two U.S. senators, Jim Webb and Mark Warner, by calling a special toll-free phone number, 1-877-40BALANCE.

Please ask the senators to protect both the pocketbooks of average families as well as the environment. In short, please ask them to stand strong with Virginias one million electric cooperative consumer-owners and Find a Balanced Solution to both our economic challenges, and our energy needs.


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