Gasoline Will Also See a Cap and Tax Increase
For more than a year, the electric co-ops have been warning members of how climate change legislation being debated in Congress could impact your electric bill. But the climate change legislation’s cap-and-trade provisions for controlling carbon dioxide emissions will also impact the cost of gasoline, diesel, natural gas and propane.
The debate in Congress is beginning to focus on the economic impact of the legislation in terms of consumer cost, job loss and the overall impact to the economy. As you can imagine that cost estimate depends on who is making the prediction and on the factors used in the calculation.
Take gasoline cost increases for example. The American Petroleum Institute says the cap-and-trade legislation could increase the cost of a gallon of gasoline by 77 cents. However, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates it will increase 23 cents if the legislation’s key cost saving features are effective.
Although there is plenty of debate on how much, there is no question the economy will take a hit from higher energy costs. The CBO estimates that the House-passed climate legislation would reduce gross domestic product by up to 0.75 percent by 2020 and 3.5 percent by 2050. CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf and other senior government experts also said forecasts for economic impacts were riddled with ambiguity.
Testifying before a Senate energy panel Elemendorf said, “The uncertainties are very large, even for 2020, and they get larger over time.”
Co-ops Receive Renewable Energy Bond Financing
The U.S. Department of Treasury announced on Oct. 27 a new allocation of Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) totaling $2.2 billion for 805 recipients across the country. In Illinois, Adams Electric Cooperative, Camp Point, will receive a $1.75 million bond for a wind turbine.
These energy bonds are designed to help government agencies, public power providers and electric cooperatives obtain low-cost financing for clean energy development projects. Drawing in part upon funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the bonds function as “tax credit” bonds, which means that the bondholders receive a federal tax credit in lieu of a portion of the interest on the bond. That, in turn, keeps the interest payments low for the project owner.
Overall, $609 million in CREBS will be issued by electric co-ops in 17 states. Wabash Valley Power Association, Indianapolis, Ind., the wholesale power provider for Corn Belt Energy in Bloomington, EnerStar Electric Cooperative in Paris, and M.J.M. Electric Cooperative in Carlinville, received $32 million in CREBS for five biomass energy projects.
In October, the U.S. Department of Treasury announced the allocation of $2.2 billion in Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) for 805 recipients across the country. Adams Electric Cooperative, Camp Point, Ill., will be able to build a wind turbine like this one thanks in part to the bond financing.
Cigarettes Create Hazardous Waste
Studies show that contaminants from cigarette butts can get into soils and waterways, harm or kill living organisms and generally degrade surrounding ecosystems. Cigarette butts can take up to 10 years to decompose and contain trace amounts of toxins like cadmium, arsenic and lead. They constitute as much as one-third of all litter nationwide when measured by the number of discarded items, not volume and, of course, they are a fire hazard. The countryside is not a giant ashtray.
Democrats Bypass Republicans and Approve Global Warming Bill
Despite a boycott by Republicans, Senate Environmental and Public Works (EPW) Committee, Democrats quickly passed global warming legislation in early November. The procedural moves used to speed passage of the bill could undermine moderate lawmaker support if the bill reaches the floor of the Senate. Republicans strongly urged more thorough economic analysis of the bill. Some Democrats are unhappy with the bill, too. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) voted against the bill and Tom Carper (D-Del.) did not vote.
Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), said, “We want to participate in any clean energy bill, but we’re not willing to do that until we know what it costs. We’re not about to begin to vote on a national energy tax that collects hundreds of billions of dollars and puts in a Washington slush fund and starts handing it out all around the country without knowing exactly the consequences of that.”
Electric co-op leaders have asked for legislation that is fair, affordable and achievable. Affordability seems to be in question. On the low end supporters point to studies that show an “average” cost increase to homeowners of $80 to $111 per year.
Scott Ramsey, President and CEO of Southern Illinois Power Cooperative, says, “It troubles me to hear Senate leaders speak in terms of average impacts to electric bills. The problem with such statements is that calculations often include the averages from states with little or no coal and natural gas-fired power generation.” For southern Illinois consumers the annual increase in electricity cost could be between $240 and $1,300 depending on the cost of carbon allowances, says Ramsey.
Grant Money Available For Low-Income Home Weatherization
Approximately $242 million in additional Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program (IHWAP) funding is available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to assist with low-income home weatherization efforts over the next two years.
“This funding makes it possible for even more people to get assistance through the Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program,” Governor Quinn said. “Individuals can now get the services they need to stay safe and warm this winter at no additional charge while reducing the cost of their home energy bills.”
Measures may include: weather-stripping and caulking; insulating attics and walls; furnace work; repairing windows and doors; and replacing windows, if needed.
Eligibility criteria: a person making $21,660 or less; a family of two making $29,140 or less; a family of three making $36,620 or less; or a family of four making $44,100 or less. Priority is given to households with high heating bills in relation to income, and households containing elderly members, persons with a disability or young children.
Weatherization assistance applications are processed through a network of 35 local administering agencies. Visit WeatherizationIllinois.com or call 877-411-9276 for more information.
Keep New Pets Safe from Electrical Hazards this Holiday
Every year thousands of pets around the country are given as gifts during the holiday season. Please remember, a frisky dog or curious cat can cause an electrical hazard or fire. Safe Electricity offers this safety checklist:
• Keep electrical cords away from puppies and kittens so they don’t chew on them and receive a severe shock. Cover the cord with a heavy plastic sleeve or ask your pet store for a bitter tasting product you could put on the cord.
• Check to be sure nightlights and appliances are completely plugged into wall outlets. Small fingers, paws or tongues can easily find partially exposed prongs and are a hazard for curious children, puppies and kittens.
• Halogen lamps should never be used in play areas. Halogen bulbs can reach very high temperatures, and if knocked over during play, could easily start a fire.
• All appliances near sinks or bathtubs should be plugged into an outlet equipped with a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI). Playful pets can knock radios, curling irons and other items into the water, but GFCIs stop the flow of electricity instantly.
• Do not allow pets to curl up for a nap behind warm computer equipment. They need to learn to stay away from all electrical connections.
For more electrical safety information, visit www.SafeElectricity.org.
DOE Approves $3.4 Billion of Federal Grants for Smart Energy Grid
President Obama announced in October the largest single energy grid modernization investment in U.S. history, funding a broad range of technologies that could help transform the nation’s transmission system into a smarter, stronger, more efficient and reliable electric system. The $3.4 billion in government grants, made as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will be matched by industry funding for a total investment of more than $8 billion in the U.S. transmission grid.
The Electric Power Research Institute estimates that the deployment of smart grid technologies could reduce electricity use by more than 4 percent by 2030, a savings of $20.4 billion for businesses and consumers across the nation. The investment is also expected to foster the growth of renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
Only the city of Naperville received a smart grid grant in Illinois. But the good news is more than half of Illinois’ electric co-ops are already well on the way to building a smart grid by installing automated meter reading (AMR) equipment. Several Illinois cooperatives are participating in a national cooperative smart grid demonstration grant application. Winners for that round of smart grid grant applications have not been announced.
Oral History of Illinois Agriculture Web Site Launched
Anyone with a computer can now see and hear the history of Illinois agriculture told by the people who lived it. The Illinois State Museum launched the Audio-Video Barn Web site (http://avbarn.museum.state.il.us), featuring 300 hours of interviews with more than 130 people involved with agriculture in Illinois over the past 129 years. The Web site is the culmination of a two-year Oral History of Illinois Agriculture project led by the Illinois State Museum and Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
The interviews tell the story of Illinois agriculture from the people who know it best – grain farmers, beekeepers, elk ranchers, 4-H kids, college professors, broadcasters and pumpkin growers, among others, from every corner of the state. A unique feature of the Web site is the ability to search the audio and video clips based on topic, name, date, or geographic location. The Web site also features educational resources for students and teachers, including instructional videos on how to do oral history interviews and lesson plans based on agricultural themes.