President/CEO of the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives
Join the Debate on the Energy Tax
Members concerned about energy costs contact Congress
Things are heating up in Congress as debate begins in earnest over energy policy and climate change legislation. We’ve been doing our best to keep you informed about this debate through this magazine, at your annual meetings and through the national program “Our Energy, Our Future” at www.ourenergy.coop. Many of you have responded and gotten involved. Thank you.
The position of electric co-op leaders really comes down to this: We support a balanced approach to meeting environmental goals and the increased demand for electricity, but we are concerned that the solutions remain affordable for our members and our economy.
Co-ops serve rural areas with a higher percentage of retired citizens and those that fall near or below the poverty line. We still serve areas with less than five meters per mile. That lower density creates higher costs for co-ops that serve rural citizens.
The reality is energy in all its forms is going to become more expensive. We don’t believe our members can afford a large tax on top of that. We think they deserve to know what is being proposed and how much it could cost them. With our economy in a tailspin it’s good to see more leaders and consumer groups starting to join us in addressing the cost this energy tax will impose.
Co-ops are all for innovation, research and development of new energy sources. That’s not just talk. We walk the walk. The only utility-owned wind generators in Illinois are owned by two electric co-ops. One near Winchester has been in operation for several years. Another just became operational last month. A third is in development, along with a larger co-op owned wind turbine project. Another co-op is developing the only biomass generating project in Illinois.
Electric co-ops in Illinois are miles ahead of the other utilities in installing smart grid technology. Sixteen Illinois co-ops have already installed automated meter reading technology. This technology will enable new and innovative energy management options.
Illinois electric cooperatives have been nationally recognized for energy efficiency programs. Recently we helped start the Geothermal Alliance of Illinois. We also became part of a national research project on plug-in hybrid cars. Many of our co-op member service employees perform energy audits every day. Several are very involved in energy rate certification programs.
Co-ops are very involved in their communities including local schools. They’ve put on hundreds of safety demonstrations, helped with energy efficiency projects, provided energy education classroom materials through a Discovery Channel program and been involved in a successful youth leadership program for nearly 50 years.
The president’s budget proposal predicts that we will be adding a $78.7 billion carbon tax by 2012. If you divide that by the 105 million households in the U.S. it’s an “average” of $750 a year. Averages are deceptive. That tax will also be unevenly spread across the country and create a much larger burden for some citizens just because of where they live and where their energy comes from. Yes, those of us who get our energy from coal will be taxed much more.
A new tax concerns me, but what really bothers me is only $15 billion of that $78.7 billion energy tax will go to clean energy technology. The rest will go toward tax credits. The only problem with that is we are going to fund those tax credits with an energy tax. Why not reduce the tax to an affordable level and spend it all on clean energy research, development and installations? If this is really about cutting greenhouse gasses then we should get serious and spend it all on solving that. This is just a new tax proposal. They will call it a cap and trade system instead of a tax and utilities will be the tax collectors.
We are for innovation and research. We are for developing new sources of energy. We are for affordable energy. We trust you are, too! Without it our economy is going to suffer even more.
Please, do your part go to www.ourenergy.coop and send your message to Congress.
Former Illinois State Senator Duane Noland is the President/CEO of the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives, Springfield.
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