Energy principles to protect environment and ratepayers

The member companies of the Edison Electric Institute are committed to addressing global climate change and support an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. We have been working for more than two years to ensure climate change legislation protects electricity customers. The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 passed the House last month in no small part because of its provisions to reduce the costs of a cap-and-trade program. And we applaud the Senate leadership’s recognition that even stronger consumer-protection measures are needed to ensure broad, sustained public support.

Among the core elements of the House bill are provisions that initially would allocate emission allowances to utilities. Allocating, rather than auctioning, allowances helps reduce cost increases to all electricity customers — large and small, rural, urban and suburban — without compromising environmental gains. The House bill allocates the majority of the power sector allowances to local electric distribution companies, based on emissions and sales, on behalf of their customers. Merchant coal generators also would receive some allowances to help mitigate price increases in wholesale electricity markets. We urge the Senate to incorporate allowance allocations, and this formula, in its legislation.

Customers also would benefit from a more gradual transition to a full auction. Under the House bill, allocations would sharply decline from 35 percent to zero between 2025 and 2029. A longer phase-out period would help protect customers from sudden energy price shocks.

It also is critical to align reduction targets with the availability of technologies needed to reduce emissions. The House bill would require a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 3 percent below 2005 levels by 2012 — just three years away. This would impose an abrupt and significant price increase on electricity customers. The 2020 emissions reduction target also is very aggressive and should be modified.

We also strongly support inclusion of a “price collar,” with a price floor to encourage investments in new clean energy technologies and a price ceiling to protect against price volatility and market manipulation. In addition, the Senate should recognize the benefits of using legitimate emission “offsets” to allow utilities to invest in emissions cuts outside the power sector.

Harmonizing existing federal and state policies to avoid multiple greenhouse gas regulations also would help hold down costs. A single, comprehensive federal climate law — rather than multiple, overlapping, or conflicting statutes — is the best approach for making significant greenhouse gas reductions.

We believe the time is now to address climate change in a way that protects the environment and electricity consumers. And we stand ready to work with the Senate to move forward on smart climate legislation we can all support.

From Tom Kuhn, president, Edison Electric Institute (trade association, investor-owned electric utilities), Washington

TARP, stimulus have cost Dems credibility

Which part of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, or Declaration of Independence says that everyone has a right to healthcare? None.

In a perfect world it would happen. Look around: It ain’t perfect here. For example, right here in Washington, a bunch of kids have brought change in the name of Chicago politics. No administration has had a higher percentage of lobbyists and tax cheats. And we are supposed to believe that this bunch of crooks can do better than what we have now? Look at TARP: Not one penny has been spent for what was intended. Look at the stimulus: Where are the jobs? Only a fool would think of letting this bunch of jokers provide me with healthcare. I might have been born at night, but not last night.

You want to tell me you want to fix healthcare, then start with tort reform. Tort reform would put a bunch of lawyers out of business, and reduce the biggest single bill for every physician, most of whom spend half their earnings on insurance.

From David Funk, Arlington, Va.

Even COBRA not much help for me

Every major industrial nation has some kind of national health system except the United States.

Premiums are growing four times faster than wages. Half of all personal bankruptcies stem from medical expenses. Forty-six million Americans are uninsured.

I lost my job over a year ago. I was in danger of losing my health insurance, but I’m now covered through my wife’s company. If she loses her job, we will be added to the uninsured.

Here is an important point about our present health care system: People who get sick and are forced to leave their jobs will also lose their health insurance. They are eligible for COBRA; however, when I lost my job COBRA would have cost me $20,000 a year for family health coverage! At that point one would start accumulating large healthcare costs with no way to pay for it.

President Obama has challenged Congress to pass healthcare reform in 2009 that upholds three basic principles: Reduce costs by improving efficiency and investing in preventative care; guarantee every American the right to choose their plan and doctor — including a public insurance option; ensure quality, affordable care for every American.

I agree with the president.

From Reed Eldridge, McLean, Va.