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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Do We Have To?


Do We Have To?
Sylvie was looking around, almost as if asking if she had to leave...
Eesh, that's almost been my own mental note of writing as of late. It's now been three-and-a-half weeks since the last rambling, and that's really not saying much.

Life has been busy as of late. It seems always as though I've been suffering a serious case of what I like to call the 'Chinese Disease:' Draggin' Ass. At any rate, I'll see what I can do about being a bit more punctual with the posts around here. It would serve us all well. :)

One of the recent 'hot topics' I was intending to ramble or rant about was related to my electric company, which happens to be Agralite Electric Cooperative in Benson, Minnesota. My big rant with them as of late has been related to what I would call 'biased propaganda' as they were presenting through their monthly newsletter.

Now, it's really my only hope that most people simply ignore the newsletter (and treat it like junk mail, which is how I think a lot of people actually handle print material like a monthly newsletter anyway). I, on the other hand, actually read stuff like that, although I have to admit that I skim through most of the random 'filler' material, selecting whether or not an article is worthy of my time based upon its title.

Over the last several months, the 'big argument' that seems to pop up at least once in the first three pages (often times twice) was 'information' relating to forthcoming renewable energy mandates and, more specifically, what those mandates will mean for everyone's electric bills. While I can appreciate the thoughtfulness of the cooperative's management in regard to the pocketbooks of their members, I really have a poor time accepting their arguments for why renewable energy mandates are a Bad Thing.

Without going into great detail, for starters they claim that amongst other things, the technology required to implement such mandates doesn't exist. Fair enough. But, for the uninformed, they conveniently 'forget' to mention that many of these mandates are on the order of twenty years out. Plenty of time for technology being developed right now to make its way into place, at least if you ask me.

Secondly, they use the flawed argument of 'clean coal' technology. I'm not abashedly bringing down the whip on coal; it's likely to serve a purpose as a baseload fuel for some time to come. However, it is not the long-term answer when there are cleaner, more environmentally-friendly methods of generating power. Clean coal is not going to fit the bill when a sizable portion of one's electrical generation is required to fit the renewable banner. The use of clean coal, in my mind, will need to be used as old baseload generation facilities reach their end of life or are upgraded.

Lastly, they use the argument that renewable energy is not as reliable as good old coal and fossil fuel. And as it currently stands, this is the case. The wind doesn't always blow, crops don't always grow, and so forth. However, they're clearly mis-representing the point on this one. These proposed and existing mandates will require that a percentage of supply come from the renewable group. Not all of it.

As I'm kinda sick of getting any further into detail about the arguments, it is depressing to see what is supposed to be a member-oriented company (cooperative) take such drastic and obvious steps to buck these things from the start. And what really pisses me off is when they bring the argument of 'your rates will go up as a result of us having to implement this stuff...'

Umm, they conveniently forgot to mention that in February they raised our electrical rate by approximately 1 cent per kWh. Oh yeah -- why was that again? Right...you have too much overhead and can't afford to keep operating the cooperative the way it's been run lately without jacking up the rates on everyone. How conveniently they forgot to make the argument of 'we're sticking up for your pocketbook' on that one.

Amongst other things, this is one of the reasons I really don't care for my electric company right at the moment. All the more reason to try to get off the grid. Somehow. After all, I do pay $34.50 each month (outside of taxes and whatnot) just to have the privilege of Agralite's service. That's before a cent of electricity is purchased.

Oh, and did I mention that it actually costs me $2.50 (of the aforementioned $34.50) each month to participate in load management programs? I have to pay to be on load control which, in turn, is supposed to assist the cooperative in managing their electrical load.

So why do I participate? Because it's the right thing to do...and it still does save money. But it seems awfully backward a marketing scheme to make a voluntary, for-the-good-of-the-cooperative, program have a monthly fee... Oh wait. I know! They make money by selling electricity -- why would it be in their interest to sell less? Aside from the fact that it's a member cooperative and should have the members' best interests in mind...

So I anxiously await the day when I can generate my own electricity and only have the 'formality' of a grid connection for those moments when the wind isn't blowing, or the sun isn't shining... Hell, just the $34.50 each month is over $400 a year going to nothing but the pride in saying I'm an Agralite member.

Sorry, my sarcasm button was stuck there...

Where I was really going to go with this rant is that as of the last newsletter (which came out last weekend), I only read one mention of the 'renewable mandates are of the devil' argument (which was actually back several pages in the 'filler'). The first several pages were laden with the word 'conservation.'

Now there's a novel idea, eh?

At least it's a start. Perhaps there's still hope for my faith in Agralite...

I find it somewhat strange that a lot of people seem to think that the idea of renewable energy automatically means a complete shift away from what I would call more 'traditional' energy sources (fossil fuel-based, such as coal, oil, etc.). The fact of the matter remains that we are likely to continue consuming fossil fuels for a long time -- there are certain obstacles to completely going 'cold turkey' -- but by innovating and getting more from less (fossil fuels) via the methods of conservation and a blend of more renewable fuels, we will likely stabilize a lot of currently unstable things.

So here endeth the lesson for the night. Until next time...
"The power of accurate observation is frequently called cynicism by those who don't have it."
- George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

--MZ

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