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Co-ops question candidates 

Contrasts in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race

THE NOVEMBER 8 ELECTION in Kentucky includes races for commonwealth’s attorneys, judgeships, the Kentucky Supreme Court, the General Assembly and all six U.S. House seats in Kentucky. 

In the U.S. Senate race, two-term incumbent Republican Rand Paul is challenged by Democrat Charles Booker. 

As the flagship publication of Kentucky’s electric cooperatives, Kentucky Living provides this overview of the priorities of local electric co-ops and the communities they serve, and the respective positions on those issues by Senate candidates.

Kentucky Living posed the same four questions to both Senator Paul and former state representative Booker. Each candidate was allowed a total of 400 words to answer all questions combined.

We are grateful to both candidates for replying to our questions about key issues facing rural Kentucky and the areas served by electric co-ops.

Kentucky Living: What is your vision for the energy future of Kentucky and the nation, and what do you consider to be the federal government’s role in that future?

Booker: From the recent floods in eastern Kentucky, to the devastating tornadoes out west, and the decades of environmental harm in Louisville’s West End, our most vulnerable communities are bearing the brunt of climate chaos. We must lead the path forward to an energy future that is more sustainable and less destructive to our communities.

There cannot be a transition to a sustainable future unless it is led by the communities most affected. That means investing in communities left behind by Big Coal. The federal government must create incentives to invest in these communities directly, reclaim our mine lands and create good- paying union jobs.

Paul: I continue to believe the best way forward for Kentucky and our nation is an all-of-the-above approach when it comes to energy. Creativity and competition drive all sectors of our economy and the energy sector should be no different. The federal government should get out of the way and stop picking winners or losers through corporate subsidies and useless bureaucratic red tape. It all just adds up to an attack on Kentuckians’ way of life. We should be putting the interests of families and small businesses first, not the interests of the radical left and those getting rich off their green agenda. 

Kentucky Living: Recent events and global energy market dynamics have dramatically reshaped the markets for and supply chains of coal and natural gas, which are both integral to reliable and affordable electricity in Kentucky. What, if any, policy changes or regulations do you believe the federal government should create regarding fossil fuels, including coal plant electric generation?

Paul: The Biden administration’s willingness to appease the left’s half-baked theories when it comes to energy policy is what has resulted in record high energy prices. Their refusal to allow American companies to take part in more domestic production of natural gas and coal is causing pain across the board. The best way forward is to get outrageous regulatory burdens out of the way and stop making industry crushing executive actions the norm. President Biden’s war on affordable energy, including Kentucky coal, must end.

Booker: We cannot rely on foreign governments or fragile supply chains to deliver our energy needs. The best approach to achieving long-term energy independence is to invest in clean energy sources here at home. 

Fossil fuel companies saw the past two years as an unprecedented opportunity to price gouge Kentuckians, as they reported some of their most profitable years on record. We deserve leaders who will put an end to corporate price gouging so that regular Kentuckians aren’t stuck holding the bag. 

Kentucky Living: Kentucky’s electric cooperatives are facing tremendous pressure to go carbon neutral—even at the risk of low cost, reliable energy. If the federal government continues to mandate a carbon neutral target, what would you do to help Kentucky maintain the low cost, reliable energy that has incentivized critical industry to locate here?

Booker: In order to achieve low cost, reliable and clean energy, we need to increase our investment in new technologies. This is not a new concept. Taxpayers have been subsidizing fossil fuel companies for decades, to the tune of half a trillion dollars. Clean and low-cost energy should be just as high a priority. 

We are closer than ever to achieving that goal. But states like Texas, California and Iowa have received far more in direct investment than Kentucky. By embracing this transition, we would create hundreds of thousands of new clean energy jobs that could jump-start our economies.

Paul: I will continue to fight back against the federal government’s attempt to inflict more pain on Kentuckians and Americans at every turn. The policies of the radical left are only possible at the expense of everyday people, and we can see that already in the impacts inflation is having on bank accounts regardless of income level. With the government out of the way, our electric cooperatives will be able to focus on innovation and bringing ease to consumers.

Kentucky Living: Kentucky’s electric cooperatives work to attract and retain industries and create jobs. Beyond the resources in the federal infrastructure law, what is your plan to help Kentucky encourage further economic development and improve quality of life?

Paul: By unleashing domestic energy production, our country will not only be able to return to energy independence but we’ll see more jobs created and lower energy costs as a result. When the Biden administration shut down the Keystone Pipeline, tens of thousands of jobs were lost and the loss of energy production only increased the costs of energy on millions of hard-working Americans. We should be building pipelines between Pennsylvania and New England, drilling in Alaska, and mining any and all precious energy resources right here in the commonwealth. 

Booker: Kentucky has seen massive investment in clean energy, from the $2 billion electric battery plant in Bowling Green to the $5.8 billion Ford Motors investment in Hardin County. But we must go further. 

Decades of failed leadership is holding Kentucky back and keeping us at the bottom in nearly every quality-of-life index. These are systemic issues, and ones that make Kentucky less competitive nationally. In the Senate, I will fight to fully fund our schools, train our workforce and ensure that Kentuckians have one of the highest qualities of life in the country. With federal leadership, we can secure life, freedom and prosperity for every Kentuckian. I call this vision a Kentucky New Deal.

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