Cap-and-trade bill would zap Southeastern U.S.|Guest column

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Last month I visited Washington, D.C., and engaged our congressmen in discussions about proposed legislation to address climate change. The Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, sometimes referred to as the Waxman-Markey Bill or Cap-and-Trade Legislation, is in committee right now. We have been monitoring this legislation closely because we are concerned that it could severely affect the cost of electricity. A few steps remain before it becomes law, but lawmakers are attempting to pass the bill quickly without giving ample time for committees to make changes and examine possible repercussions. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is pushing for this bill to come to the House floor very quickly which will allow no time for anyone to make changes or improvements. Plainly stated, this is a very bad bill that will have severe negative effects on Mississippians.

Congress’ plan would have us stop burning coal and other fossil fuels to generate electricity. The overall benefit of the plan would be minimal, but it would cost Americans billions of dollars on their electric bills. Further, the bill would shift the majority of these costs to the Southeastern states away from the Western and Northeastern states, namely California and New York.

Coal is relatively affordable and plentiful in the United States. Removing coal from America’s fuel options will undoubtedly raise costs to electric consumers in Mississippi. If the proposed legislation goes into effect, the likely outcome is that American coal will be exported to China and India, countries which do not plan to adopt emissions reductions. Nearly every week, China adds one new coal-fired power plant to its electric system.

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Can our economy withstand this so-called cap-and-trade legislation? The proposed legislation calls for a speculative cap-and-trade program overseen by Wall Street traders. The purpose of the program is to cap, and then steadily reduce U.S. carbon emissions. We believe that the average electric customer in Mississippi will see a dollar for dollar increase on his or her monthly bill for every dollar charged for a carbon emission credit allowance. This is essentially a tax on energy. We estimate the cost of a carbon credit would start at $15 to $20 and the price could go as high as $100. Under such a scheme the cost of power could double or triple. Not only would this devastate the average residential consumer, it would cripple business and drive what remains of our domestic industries and jobs to other countries.

Congressional leaders have referred to this as “sticker shock” and a necessary consequence of their proposals. The president has already stated that the cost of electricity will “necessarily skyrocket” under his cap-and-trade plan. The rationale is that Americans will not be able to afford electricity; therefore, they will not use it. Unfortunately, the costs will not be spread equally throughout our country and our region will be hit harder than others.

To be honest, the current proposals just do not make sense. On behalf of our members, we told our congressmen that they run the risk of making electric service less affordable and reliable for Mississippians. The costs of electricity could go so high that many people would not be able to afford electricity at all.

Electricity is more than a conven-ience, it has become a necessity for all people, and it should be affordable to all Americans, not just the very wealthy. We are asking our members to visit or call 1-877-40BALANCE. You can learn more about these developments. Mississippians cannot afford higher electric bills.

Lawmakers are trying to pass this legislation very quickly to avoid anyone seeing the flaws and inequalities it contains. All of us should be watching these developments very closely.

C.H. Shelton is general manager of Yazoo Valley Electric Power Association.