The following guest blog comes from Bill Verner, Senior Vice President of External Affairs at Georgia Electric Membership Corporation. Mr. Verner joined the PACE Board of Directors in June.
This week, as families gather to celebrate celebrate July 4th, stories of our nation’s independence will be front and center. As for my family, we will remember my great-great-grandfather, a 13-year-old boy soldier who fought in the Revolutionary War in the Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina alongside his own father, who brought his family to America from northern Ireland. Others will have their own family memories that remind them of the cost those who came before us paid for our shared freedom.
As part of this celebration, there will be lots of familiar sounds. The sizzle of burgers and brats on the grill. Children playing. And later, as the sun sets, hisses and bangs from community firework displays that memorialize America’s hard-fought battle to be free. But among these other sounds, there will be another, perhaps more familiar sound that we too often take for granted: the faint hum of reliable, low-cost electricity.
Although energy isn’t always a top-of-mind issue for most people, the data shows it should be. Nearly half of American families earn less than $50,000 per year. A recent study shows these families today devote one out of every six dollars of disposable income to energy costs. More than almost any other issue, what we decide about how to produce, transmit, and deliver energy affects the everyday lives of Americans. When we take steps to keep electricity affordable and to ensure that power is always available when customers need it, we help guarantee the basic freedom to pursue happiness and prosperity.
Energy is also important for businesses, large and small. Whether it is the local corner store or a large-scale manufacturing operation, low-cost electricity is one of the keys to their remaining competitive. Power generated by a diverse group of resources – including nuclear, coal, natural gas, and renewables – helps keep the lights on for American businesses with minimal interruption. The competitive advantage of power reliability keeps the nation’s manufacturing sector strong and provides a base of skilled jobs for the next generation. In so many ways, energy is the lifeblood that fuels American progress.
That’s why it is vital for policy makers to take the time to develop smart approaches to energy. With an abundance of domestic energy sources, U.S. leaders have an opportunity to set the stage for a future that works for everyone. Just days ago, the U.S. Supreme Court took an important step when it decided the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must carefully consider the cost of its regulations. That is a positive development for those who believe we should apply a more democratic approach to energy policy, instead of allowing an unelected agency to make rules that affect electricity customers from coast to coast.
News about the EPA and the July 4th holiday also reminded me of a story from PACE a few years back that described how Wichita, Kansas, was in danger of ozone non-compliance because of its annual July 4th fireworks display. The agency is due to release a proposal for a new ozone standard later this year, a development that will require the attention of elected officials in both state and federal governments. If not managed properly, a new ozone standard could burden American families with higher energy costs and deal a strong blow to the competitiveness of American businesses.
As we approach the July 4th weekend, each of us knows that freedom isn’t free. It must be nurtured and preserved and, sometimes, fought for. Energy isn’t free either. Like our own independence, keeping the low-cost, reliable energy that has made America great will likely require a struggle, too, and for ordinary citizens to rise up to demand it.