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Power Politics

In early May I spent a day in Washington, D.C., with a group of electric co-op leaders fighting to hold down the cost of your electricity.

About 75 strong, they came from places like Somerset, Hickman, and Owenton. They came as CEOs and democratically elected co-op board members, representing 1.5 million customers of local, consumer-owned electric utilities.

They came armed with maps showing that a global warming reduction plan now before Congress would hammer Kentucky harder than almost any other state. They showed how the proposal could make Kentuckians pay nearly two-thirds more for electricity than they�re paying now.

They came armed with opinion polls showing that people across this country want Congress to address concerns about global warming. But those same Americans also want Congress to avoid further burdening families and businesses struggling to pay their utility bills.

The electric co-op officials crowded into offices and meeting rooms to spend time with Kentucky�s two senators and six members of the House of Representatives.

The proposal they discussed seeks to slow global warming by heavily penalizing coal. Since coal generates nearly all the electricity in Kentucky, the state�s historically low electric rates would become a relic of the past.

The men and women from the co-ops agreed there is strong sentiment to reduce human contributions to global warming. And they described how co-ops are already moving toward those goals without such severe shocks to the economy and household budgets. Co-ops aggressively help homes and businesses save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using energy more efficiently. Co-ops are pioneering in use of renewable energy, and researching technology to reduce coal�s climate impact.

The politicians listened and agreed. They acknowledged that sudden, significant jumps in coal prices would drive jobs out of Kentucky and push financially strapped families closer to the breaking point. They said progress on global warming legislation needed to slow down until its consequences and alternatives could be considered more carefully.

Across Capitol Hill that week, these scenes were repeated by delegations from other states. The Kentuckians were among nearly 3,000 electric co-op leaders from across the country carrying a similar message from voters back home, as part of a nationally coordinated lobbying drive on behalf of the 42 million people served by electric co-ops.

That�s powerful politics.

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