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by Share Brandt

Invitation to Join ACRE®

Electric cooperatives have a long history of being involved in politics. After all, rural electrification got its beginning with the enactment of the Rural Electrification Act signed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The REA was created to provide low-interest loans to help rural utilities—like locally organized cooperatives—string electric lines to farms.

Since our humble beginnings the electric industry has changed dramatically. The REA is no longer our primary funding source. Electric co-ops voluntarily reduced their dependence on the federal government. The need for the program still exists, however, for those co-ops serving in very sparsely populated, less affluent rural areas. It is Congress that determines the level of funds to be appropriated to low-interest financing for rural electrification.

Energy Policy, or Lack Thereof

It is also the members of Congress who decide the energy policy for the United States overall. The last comprehensive energy bill was enacted in 2005. Since then various energy proposals have been debated and have failed. Legislation has been enacted offering renewable incentives through tax deductions, clean renewable energy bonds, grants and loans, or stimulus dollars. However, these incentives only support a select form of energy production.

What the country needs is strategic energy policy that includes all available energy production technologies. For too much of our history, Congress has reacted to current events to set energy policy. After the 1979 Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant meltdown, Congress virtually halted the nuclear program including recycling of fuel rods. This forced utilities to use coal to feed the growing demand for electricity as U.S. manufacturing and businesses were expanding. More jobs and more people require more electricity production. Now coal has lost favor due to environmental concerns.

Natural gas prices were too volatile and supply more localized at that time. Today the natural gas supply is much different. If electric utilities rely on natural gas to replace old retired coal plants or add new generation as the economy recovers, they could find themselves strapped with new environmental costs that you the customer would then have to pay to fix.

Political Action

As we approach this November 2012 general election, electric co-op members can help determine the outcome by voting and by contributing to the Action Committee for Rural Electrification (ACRE®) Co-op Owners for Political Action (COPA®). ACRE funds support incumbent members of Congress who work on behalf of rural electric co-ops.

I already know that the dollars I have contributed to ACRE will go to candidates who have shown they support comprehensive energy policy and affordable electricity. The candidates will be members of Congress from either party who support electric co-op interests. We are bipartisan when it comes to politics.

We invite our electric co-op members to join our political action efforts through the ACRE Co-op Owners for Political Action. Collectively our small, individual contributions to ACRE amount to bigger checks to support expensive campaigns to keep people in office who will support rural America’s needs. I hope we can count on you to join our voices as one through the Action Committee for Rural Electrifications Co-op Owners for Political Action®. Contact me to see where you can send a contribution, .

Correction to Commentary “Silent Workhorses” in January 2012 issue: The three vintage coal plants Dairyland Power Cooperative plans to retire represent just 60 megawatts (not 181, as stated), which is 5 percent of DPC’s total generating capacity.