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Illinois Country Living

Rick Coons
Phil Carson, Tri-County Electric Cooperative


Tough choices call for strong voices
Energy demand, regulation and cost can be solved with informed voices

For the past year the phrase, ‘Tough Choices Call For Strong Voices’ has served as the theme for National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) meetings. Considering the times we are in and the challenges we face, it is well chosen. Permit me to list and briefly examine three of the tough choices.

First on my list are energy costs. As a cooperative director, my number one focus is the electric bill received by my fellow consumer/owners. The goal is simple — the electric bill must be affordable. Meeting that goal is the challenge.

Not withstanding the recent economic slow down, energy costs have been on the rise over the past 10 years and the primary mover has been increased demand. The truth is that growing economies need increased energy to provide for economic expansion.

Legislation and regulation have also contributed to increasing energy costs. This Congress has continued to consider new legislation to address environmental concerns. Whatever our stance, new legislation will lead to higher energy prices and those prices will be paid by consumers.

Regulation is also impacting energy costs. Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering extending the Clean Air Act (CAA) to address carbon emissions. Many fear that this will lead to a “glorious mess.” I personally would respectfully suggest that the CAA is simply the wrong tool for this task.

What can we do? We can join the ‘Our Energy, Our Future’ campaign and send a strong message to our leaders to resist the urge to address carbon emissions through regulation and the CAA. Go to today and contact your elected officials.

Second on my list is energy efficiency. As energy demand increases we have two options: build new generation or use the energy from current generation more efficiently. Energy efficiency makes the best ‘short term’ sense.

One of the passions of my life is the bicycle. I was surprised to learn that one of the quickest ways to improve one’s performance on the bike is something quite simple — improve the efficiency of your pedal stroke. Tests have shown that a good pedal stroke can improve performance from five to 10 percent. Improved pedal stroke is the ‘low hanging fruit’ and easily accomplished if you apply yourself.

Energy efficiency is the ‘low hanging fruit’ for the electric industry. How do we capture this fruit? We have a whole host of ways in which we can become more efficient with our energy usage: 1) construct new homes in more energy-efficient ways, 2) better insulate existing homes, and 3) purchase and use energy-efficient appliances.

What can you do? Call your electric cooperative today and ask about the programs they offer to address energy efficiency.

Third on my list of tough choices is an impending energy abyss. Energy efficiency is a good ‘short term’ option to address growing energy demand, but this option has its limits. Ultimately, new generation must be built to meet our nation’s growing energy needs. If new generation is not built in a timely manner, we place the economic future of our nation at risk.

Jon Hofmeister, former CEO of Shell Oil, spoke to attendees at the NRECA annual meeting. He said fossil fuels are under attack in the USA. Plans to build over 100 new coal plants have been scrapped. Offshore oil drilling is plagued with delays. Even the tapping of natural gas reserves draws opposition.

Hofmeister warned that unless we change our ways, the USA would face an “energy abyss” in about 10 years. He warns that we will begin to run out of electricity and experience shortages of gasoline. He argues that our nation must develop a clear policy to address this concern.

What can we do about this challenge? Let us put our ‘politics’ aside. These are not Republican, Democrat or Libertarian issues. They are simply American issues. Let us speak with strong voices, with informed voices as we advocate for policies that are good for our nation, our consumers and our children.

Phil Carson serves as a board director for Tri-County Electric Cooperative, the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives, Southern Illinois Power Cooperative and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

© 2016 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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