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March 20, 2014 12:02 PM UTC

The Shifting Winds of Energy Policy - Angry Old White Man Edition

  • by: MichaelBowman

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Earlier this month the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) held its annual conference in Nashville. Jo Ann Emerson, former Missouri Congresswoman-turned-CEO of her top political donor, started the conference with an attack on the Obama administrations' environmental record.  She was followed by the alternative speaker Haley Barbour (who replaced Chuck Todd of NBC who was stuck in D.C. by the ice storm), the former governor of Mississippi.  Mr. Barbour spent half an hour attacking everyone but conservative Republicans.  Everyone in the room seemed concerned that the speaker had gone too far: the numerous, African-Americans, Democrats, unaffiliated voters and environmentalists felt unwelcome and uncomfortable with the harangue and showed it with very limited applause. 

It's hard to miss the irony that such a partisan witch hunt would be waged by an organization that exists only because of the vision of FDR and the New Deal – and today feasts at the trough of almost unlimited dollars doled out at treasury rates.

It didn't go over well; Ms. Emerson has been deluged by letters from the membership, prompting this response: 

Members of the Board,

In the week since the Annual Meeting, I have received plenty of feedback regarding our selection of speakers on Monday morning.  You’re all well aware of what happened: Chuck Todd canceled his appearance over the weekend, the ice storm hit, and Governor Haley Barbour hopped in his car and drove seven-and-a-half hours to pinch hit.  His remarks went well beyond what was discussed with staff, and even with me personally.  In short, this was not the presentation anyone expected, nor was it well-received by our members who rightfully and correctly expect the content of our meetings stay within the context of NRECA’s mission.

Although there is no doubt Governor Barbour strayed into a partisan political field on his own, I’m responsible for the fence which is supposed to prevent that from happening.  NRECA does not endorse the personal political views of any of our speakers.  Our organization’s meetings are not opportunities for others to advance a political agenda of their own.  I know some folks got up and left the room because they were upset by what happened, and I can’t blame them for doing so.  This wasn’t a question of having political balance; it was a case in which those political subjects should never had been broached.

In the future, we will certainly be more careful when filling emergency speaking roles – including asking the crucial question or whether we are not better off abbreviating the program and dropping a speaking slot when we have a cancelation.  Without the lead time to adequately prepare our speakers, there is never a guarantee that we will get what was advertised to us.  I know I’ve learned a valuable lesson about what happens when you hand someone an NRECA microphone and you don’t quite know what they will say.

I apologize that this situation has put many of you in the position of answering for Governor Barbour’s appearance at the Annual Meeting.  I’m sorry for the problems this may have caused for you.  All I can say is that we will go forward smarter and more cautiously to assure this doesn’t happen again.

Very sincerely,

Jo Ann

We've witnessed the coordinated efforts of the Colorado Rural Electric Association and their parent, Tri-State Generation and Transmission, as they launched the deceiving "War on Rural Colorado" campaign. This,  even as they are making plans to significantly expand their already-existing Kit Carson County Wind farm, "Carousel"

The transition is taking place, in spite of the best efforts of the old guard to thwart its every move:

In the case of wind, simple economics is driving this transition.  A quick transition away from coal will not only conserve our resources and provide us with solutions to our current challenges, but create scores of new job opportunities and build a new tax base across America's rural communities. 

As the American West is approaching a panic on the loss of Glen Canyon Dam's generation capacity, 100x that capacity sits undeveloped across the Central Great Plains.  For every challenge that faces us, there is nothing but opportunity that awaits us.  It starts with political will

Rural America is a special place – one being systemically marginalized by its leadership.  It wasn't always this way; we use to understand our interdependence with urban areas. We understood our role in society as producers of food.  A 21st century vision adds "energy producer" to that list.  It's time to stop looking back…we're not headed that way.

Let's let what was once old, be new again.



6 thoughts on “The Shifting Winds of Energy Policy – Angry Old White Man Edition

  1. I think that I could recommend a good pitch-hitter speaker for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. He's from Wray, Colorado, and is not named Brophy.

  2. Did I see that graphic correctly?  Every state has some wind power unit–except for the deep red south?  (Yes, I know that some of those states have access to the TVA–but zero wind power?)

    1. Bless their little hearts.  Those real 'Mericans running state governments in the South think that real men burn dinosaur poop (while simultaneously raiding the federal treasury with blue state dollars). 

      To be fair they, in general, don't have optimum wind resources.  They do, however, have tremendous potention for biomass-derived energy projects.  But at the end of the day, the boys would much rather build nuclear plants than solar, and always, always prefer a good ol' coal plant. (and when they build one, they want federal grants and loan guarantees from the rest of us). 

      True to form, they expect the American taxpayer to indemnify their nuclear plants and provide the loan guarantees from the very same DOE program that funded Solyndra. (Solydra accounted for less than 2% of the DOE portfolio). 

      The words that never passed the lips of the same Congressmen was "FutureGen" , a Bush-era "Clean Coal" debacle that blew through over half-a-billion in taxpayer dollars before someone finally pulled the plug, realizing it was never going to work.

      I never understood why every time some moron in the Fossil Caucus said "Solyndra!", someone from the other side of this debate didn't say, "FutureGen".  One evening I had the opportunity to bump in to (then) Congressman Ed Markey and I asked him "why the silence?"  His response was that Democrats fundamentally believed in the program (it has a 97% success rate, a rate the Einstiens at Bain Capital would kill for) and they understood there were occasional "busts". 

      That's a really long answer to a simple question – but I think it's important to keep everything in context.  The South is rich in biomass and solar; we'll have to drag them in to the 21st century if they're ever going to reach their renewable potential.  And until we drag them to that future, they'll be standing there with one hand expecting federal give-aways while holding a megaphone with the other telling Government to get out of their lives.  


  3. "Distributed" – the "anti-KeystoneXL" model of economic development. Rural America is drowning in economic development opportunities – getting past leaders like Haley Barbour, his friends at NRECA (who should be leading this transition) and the Koch-owned Republican party is our grandest challenge.  We've met the enemy.  It's us. 

    The authors include a cautionary note for regional bioeconomy development, based on real occurrences within regions that have served as sources of nonrenewable energy and resources: “In many (perhaps most) of these regions, the costs of exploiting in situ resources is ultimately borne by the place and its residents. The wealth of the place is temporary, and if this wealth is not reinvested locally, both the place and those unfortunate enough to reside there are impoverished by the mining and environmental degradation. In the bioeconomy, similar impoverishment will occur if the renewable resource base is not protected and if the returns from the resource are not reinvested in the people and places.”

  4. In a scathing op-ed in the The Taos News, Tri-State Cooperative member Kit Carson Electric takes the G&T to task on policy: (the same Tri-State that funded the preposterous "War on Rural Colorado" campaign following the implementation of SB-252 in 2013. 

    Although nominally a cooperative composed of 44 distribution cooperatives, it is really a “top down” dictatorship. Through the mechanism of long-term ironclad power-supply contracts that were procured, at least from the New Mexico cooperatives, by false promises and representations, Tri-State has been able to dictate prices and policies to its member cooperatives with little or no restraint (except for the two years since 2000 when enough New Mexico cooperatives protested to trigger PRC oversight).

    It is not surprising Tri-State’s empire seems to be crumbling. Of the 44 member cooperatives, 25 percent are in open revolt in regulatory commission proceedings and litigation. Most New Mexico cooperatives have expressed the desire to get out of their contracts with Tri-State and obtain electricity from other suppliers

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