Jackson County Times

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Friday, June 12, 2009

“Our Government Is Not Addressing Our Energy Problems”

Gary Clark, West Florida Electric executive addresses the “Concerned Americans” Tea Party organization.
By Sid Riley

On Thursday evening a group of approximately sixty “Concerned Citizens” assembled at the Agricultural Center on Highway 90 W. to conduct their monthly meeting and to hear an address presented by Gary Clark, VP of Member Services for West Florida Electric Co-op in Graceville. He spoke on the impact the proposed “cap and trade” emissions control program will have on the average citizen’s electric bill.

“This is actually a program designed to be an attack on the use of coal”, Clark stated. “At the present time coal costs approximately $45 per ton, they are proposing adding to this cost a tax that might reach $25 per ton or more. This increase would have a profound impact on the cost of electricity for the residential user. Meanwhile, the government continues to ignore the possibility of building more nuclear power plants, and is doing nothing to create delivery systems for our nation’s vast reserves of natural gas.”

Clark described the bureaucratic hurtles which have been created to prevent the construction of new power plants. “On the average, it takes seventeen years to complete all of the pre-construction permitting which is required by a multitude of federal and state bureaucracies. In Florida, it is much worse. Our organization once considered building a new production facility in Florida, but we soon realized it would be much more expensive and would require much more time for permitting than building the same plant in Alabama. Thus, Florida lost the opportunity for those jobs and the tax base revenue from this construction, due to what many perceive as excessive environmental requirements.”

Clark pointed out that very little of the stimulus funding is going toward projects which attack our existing power generation needs. Instead, they are tending to focus on wind, solar, and emerging technologies for renewable energy programs which are decades away from development, and may never achieve viable commercial applications.
“We need to petition our governments to allow energy industry representatives to at least be among those invited to sit at the tables where these sweeping energy policy decisions are being made,” Clark emphasized. “At present, these decisions are being made in an environment of political motivations, which are being overly influenced by radical environmental organizations. Knowledgeable executives from the utilities are not being included in the decision making process. ”

Clark described the high costs required to build a new power generation plant, and stated that in today’s environment, investors are just not willing to take the risk in building a new coal or gas operated power plant. As our population continues to grow, our economy expands, and demand for power increases, this problem will become more acute. “Brown outs”, power rationing, and escalating costs are inevitable. Meanwhile, in China, a new 500 megawatt coal generated power plant is coming on line every few days.

Clark stated that nuclear generated power results in the lowest cost to the consumer. It does not generate any carbon dioxide, and is a safe, proven system of production. “A boiler-plate plan for approved designs for nuclear power plants could have been prepared years ago. This pre-approval would greatly reduce costs and permitting time during construction. Instead, we have to permit each step and wait on the bureaucracy throughout the process,” Clark explained.

Clark stated that it will only be through the influence of “grass roots” organizations, such as this “Concerned Citizens” group that the existing wasteful, prohibitive government attitudes will be changed.

After Gary Clark’s address Elaine Thompson gave a review of pending federal and state legislative and executive actions which members were encouraged to petition, call, and e-mail the appropriate Washington and Tallahassee decision makers. Sybil Andreasen reviewed the membership activities of the Tea Party “Concerned Citizens” movement. The Orlando organization was reported to have over 10,000 members enlisted, and the ranks of the movement is growing across the entire nation. A national demonstration in Washington, with over one million Concerned Citizens attending is being planned for later this year.

Another local meeting will be scheduled for July.

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