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Rural Missouri Magazine

Your voices are being heard

AMEC executive vice president Barry Hart
by Barry Hart

by Barry Hart

The problem with the weather, Mark Twain once said, is that everyone is talking about it but no one is doing anything about it. For some time I have been visiting with you in this monthly column about a perfect storm that is brewing as Congress considers climate change legislation. We call it a perfect storm because at the same time rates are on the rise due to increased demand and rising fuel costs, Congress is considering new measures that could do to electric rates what is already happening at the pumps.

We’ve talked about the weather. This month, I want to tell you what your electric cooperative is doing about it.

This spring our attention has been on a climate change bill known as the Lieberman-Warner bill. That bill sought to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases essentially by punishing any industry that uses fossil fuels, and passing the high costs on to their consumers, which in our case is you.

Debate on this bill came to a head in the U.S. Senate the first week in June. That bill died, based partly on the fact that electric cooperative members sent nearly 200,000 e-mails to voice their concern over the possibility that this bill, if passed, would have significantly increased electricity and other energy costs, dramatically affecting the economy and impacting low- and moderate-income families the hardest. Missouri is now No. 2 in the nation in the number of e-mails and letters that have been sent.

Those of you who have gotten involved did this through a grassroots campaign called “Our Energy, Our Future.” At annual meetings, luncheons, across back fences, coffee shops, co-op offices and anywhere else two or more members gathered, a dialogue on our nation’s energy future is taking place.

The letters and e-mails sent by members from the www.ourenergy.coop Web site got the attention of Missouri Sens. Kit Bond and Claire McCaskill, who helped their colleagues understand the bill’s problems. Sen. Bond held press conferences to do his best to show the negative effects of the bill on our economy.

Particularly noteworthy was a letter signed by Sen. McCaskill and nine other senators. The letter, addressed to Senate leaders Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer, was signed by Claire and her colleagues whose states would suffer the most if the bill had passed. “We believe a federal cap and trade program must not only significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also ensure that consumers and workers in all regions of the U.S. are protected from undue hardship,” the letter stated.

We were told that our grassroots campaign is making the difference as this bill failed to gain the 60 votes necessary to end debate. The good news is that Senate leaders want our national association’s CEO Glenn English to work with them over the summer and fall to make positive changes to the bill.

This action puts us at the negotiating table where we have always wanted to be to protect our members from huge electric rate increases on the heels of the huge gasoline prices you have experienced.

These recent developments place more importance on the Our Energy, Our Future campaign that will show key leaders in Congress that you are watching what is going on in Washington, D.C. It gives rural people strength during the negotiations that will occur.

We must remind our representatives that the climate change debate is a debate with real consequences for real people and their interests must be heard. If you haven’t already, log on to www.ourenergy.coop and let your voice be heard. And if you really want to go to work like many members around the state have, go by your cooperative, get a bunch of cards and make sure your friends and family get involved too. All of our actions today will ensure we have affordable and reliable electricity in Missouri for years to come. Let’s get to work!

Hart is executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.

E-mail Barry Hart

 

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Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives

Rural Missouri
2722 E. McCarty Street
P.O. Box 1645 • Jefferson City, Mo. 65102
573-659-3423

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