By Debbie Miles, CEO

America needs an all of the above strategy to keep electric bills affordable image

Electric co-ops are disappointed—but not surprised—that in September the Obama Administration officially abandoned an all-of-the-above energy strategy for a new, all-but-one approach that effectively removes coal from the nation’s fuel mix.

The policy, proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), sets stringent limits on carbon dioxide emissions from future coal or natural gas plants. Trouble is, the new standards are impossible to meet with existing technology.

For several years, co-ops have tested carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, the technology doesn’t make financial sense. It has never been used on a commercial scale at a power plant over a prolonged period to demonstrate its viability or cost. In a 2012 Congressional Budget Office report, engineers estimate it would increase the cost of producing electricity from coal-based plants by 75 percent.

A switch to an all-but-one energy approach would limit Americans’ access to a plentiful and affordable resource. I don’t think we should gamble with the economic well-being of future generations and our nation’s economy.

Already worried about making ends meet, many of Ontonagon County REA’s consumer-members cannot afford the significant increases in electric bills that this policy would trigger.

Historically, the price of coal remains affordable and relatively stable. The U.S. Energy Information Agency reports the U.S. has 236 years remaining of recoverable coal reserves. Coal generates 37 percent of the nation’s electricity—our biggest energy source by far.

It seems the Administration is letting history repeat itself. We saw this all-but-one game in 1978 when Congress passed the ill-conceived Power Plant and Industrial Fuel Use Act. Never heard of it? Few have, but for several years the government banned natural gas for power generation. Yes, natural gas—the fuel source being sold to the nation today as a cleaner fuel option. With gas off the table, electric co-ops were forced to choose between building coal or nuclear plants.

Back then, co-ops were in the midst of a major power plant building cycle. With few options, they invested heavily in coal-based generating plants in the late 1970s and early ’80s. Thankfully Congress repealed its mistake, but not for nine years.

Let’s not repeat past mistakes. Stand with us as we fight to keep electric bills affordable. Raise your voice through the Cooperative Action Network at Tell the EPA we need an all-of-the-above energy strategy.