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Guest Blog: Kelley Earnhardt Miller on Small Businesses and Affordable Electricity

As the co-owner of a small business, I know firsthand the wonderful and important role small businesses play in communities across our nation. Small businesses drive our local economies, fuel innovation and provide opportunities where they may otherwise not exist, creating two out of three new jobs in the U.S. every year.

The economic health of our communities depends on the success of our small businesses. We have seen that here in Mooresville, N.C., where JR Motorsports has proudly called our home for years. In order for a small business to succeed, it’s important they be allowed to flourish, not held back by rising costs. When the costs of doing business increase, small business owners are forced to make sacrifices to keep their operations afloat.

Electricity is one of the most critical components of a modern business, powering everything from a garage full of machinery to the heat and air conditioning that keep us warm in the winters and cool in the summers. Small business owners rely on low-cost, predictable electricity rates to balance budgets and invest in future growth.

The team at JR Motorsports knows that rising electricity rates affect our bottom line. The last thing my brother Dale Jr. and I want to worry about is choosing between hiring a new team member and keeping the lights on. We’re glad that North Carolina’s electricity rates are nearly 11 percent lower than the national average, due in part to our state’s use of coal.

I’m grateful for an abundant energy resource that can reliably power not just my business, but small businesses across the U.S. I’ll be back with a guest blog post in June, but until then be sure to learn more about affordable, reliable coal-based power, and keep watching the JR Motorsports team each race weekend.


Guest Blog: Buckeyes Count on Coal

For more than 200 years, coal has powered the Buckeye state. With new proposed regulations seeking to change that, Ohio’s energy future, as well as the nation’s, could be in jeopardy.

U.S. Senator Rob Portman tours B & N Coal Company in Noble County, Ohio with the Ohio Coal Association.

U.S. Senator Rob Portman tours B & N Coal Company in Noble County, Ohio with the Ohio Coal Association.

The growth Ohio saw in the early 20th century and the rise of the world’s strongest middle class was no doubt powered, in part, by Ohio’s coal industry. During that time coal jobs were abundant, reaching nearly 50,000 in 1918, the highest in history. Coal also made Ohio an epicenter for manufacturing because of its ability to produce low-cost, reliable electricity. When talking about this state’s great history, you couldn’t possibly tell the full story without coal.

Tom Mackall (CEO, E. Fairfield Coal Company) shows a mining tool to Ohio Congressman Bill Johnson before a mine tour in Jefferson County, Ohio.

Tom Mackall (CEO, E. Fairfield Coal Company) shows a mining tool to Ohio Congressman Bill Johnson before a mine tour in Jefferson County, Ohio.

Current coal reserves in America have the ability to power Ohio and the rest of the country for more than 250 years. That is, if Washington D.C. would step out of the way. The Obama Administration and its unprecedentedly radical Environmental Protection Agency has continuously attacked Ohio’s coalfields with excessive and politically motivated regulations. The effects have been costly for Ohio’s families, who continue losing access to affordable and reliable electricity.

The most disturbing part, however, is that when EPA was taking “testimony” on its so-called “Clean Power Plan,” it stayed far away from Ohio and other coal-producing states. It’s easy to make these decisions when you don’t have to look into the eyes of the people you are harming the most.

When asked by Ohio Congressman Bill Johnson during a committee hearing if she could visit his coal-producing district in Southeast Ohio, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said she had a busy schedule, but that her office would look into it. So far, McCarthy has not landed her taxpayer-funded jet anywhere near coal country to hear how these regulations will affect Ohioans.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judi French tours B & N Coal Company in Noble County, Ohio.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judi French tours B & N Coal Company in Noble County, Ohio.

Our vision statement at the Ohio Coal Association is simple:

“…We are committed to advancing the development and utilization of Ohio Coal as an abundant, affordable, and environmentally sound energy source.” 

Environmentalists cringe when reading that coal is environmentally sound because it goes against the misinformation they have propagated for years. The facts are the facts, and our coal companies have tremendous mitigation and reclamation records that have been recognized nationally.

Ohio Congressman Dave Joyce Participates in America’s Power’s "Thank a Miner" Campaign.

Ohio Congressman Dave Joyce Participates in America’s Power’s “Thank a Miner” Campaign.

Our members and association work tirelessly every day to tell coal’s story and to give a voice to those that some in D.C. have chosen to ignore. We teach at schools, community events and alongside our elected officials in both Columbus and Washington. Countless elected officials who have visited our member mines have all had the same reaction to the industry: respect and gratitude to our miners for the coal energy that they work to provide.

The current Administration does not share that reaction and the coal industry has faced incredibly tough times because of it. Regardless, our members have faith that a little bit of Buckeye common sense will prevail in the end. People often say, “Coal Keeps the Lights On.” Well here in Ohio, where we get nearly 70 percent of our electricity from coal, it isn’t just a catchy tag line, but the truth.

Christian R. Palich, President of the Ohio Coal Association


EPA’s Regulations Will Hurt Americans on Fixed Incomes

Like so many across the country, the residents of Red Springs, North Carolina are concerned about rising electricity prices. Since 2001, real energy costs for middle- and low-income families have increased by a staggering 27 percent. Higher energy prices affect all of us, but have a particularly devastating impact on low- and fixed-income families.

Fixed-income seniors are a growing proportion of the U.S. population, and are among the most vulnerable to energy cost increases due to their relatively low average incomes. In 2012, the median gross income of 27.9 million households with a principal householder aged 65 or older was $33,848, one-third below the national median household income. When prices rise but income remains the same, Americans are forced to make tough choices. Do I pay for the utility bill or medication? Do I heat my home or shop for groceries this week?

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon regulations will only exacerbate an already dangerous situation. Under the agency’s plan, 43 states could experience double-digit electricity price increases, with 14 states potentially facing peak year electricity price increases that exceed 20 percent. Jim Martin, chairman of the 60 Plus Association, explained the devastating effect these increases would have, noting that:

Seniors and low-income folks on fixed incomes will be hit disproportionately hard by rising electricity costs. […]Households in the bottom 10 percent of the income distribution will pay roughly three times what the richest 10 percent pay as a percentage of their income. For all of the president’s talk of income inequality, his carbon plan will only exacerbate the problem.

“These regulations single out those who deserve our compassion and our aid and place the greatest cost on their shoulders,” civil rights leader Dr. Charles Steele recently said. Keeping energy prices affordable is critical for so many Americans. Coal can continue to provide the reliable, low-cost electricity our country needs, but must remain an integral part of our energy portfolio.

 


America’s Power Team Heads to Illinois

Hi Behind the Plug readers! I recently joined ACCCE as senior director of communications, and I look forward to contributing to the Behind the Plug Blog. Here’s a short preview of what’s in store for us this weekend:

Today, the America’s Power team is heading to Joliet, Illinois for an exciting weekend of NASCAR racing at Chicagoland Speedway. We’re looking forward to cheering on Regan Smith, driver of the #7 Clean Coal Chevrolet in the NASCAR Nationwide series, and meeting other members of the America’s Power team from around the country.

At our booth, we’ll be talking to supporters about the importance of coal-based power to fuel electricity in our homes and businesses. Coal provides nearly 43 percent of Illinois’ electricity and accounts for close to 39,000 jobs. Affordable, reliable power is especially critical to Illinois’ economy, as the state serves as a manufacturing hub with nearly 580,000 workers – or 10 percent of the workforce – employed by the industry as of 2013. Keeping our energy costs low will allow these manufacturers to grow their businesses and hire even more workers throughout the state.

If you’re at the race, come find America’s Power in Champions Park, where Regan Smith will be meeting fans and signing autographs on Saturday September 13th at 10:00 AM CT. And if you’re not at Chicagoland Speedway but will be watching the NASCAR races this weekend, keep an eye out for Regan in the #7 Clean Coal Chevy rounding the track and (fingers crossed) racing to victory.

Orange Regan Smith and Car Macro


EPA’s Proposed Carbon Emissions Rule Has Real Consequences

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed  its long-awaited rule aimed at reducing carbon emissions from America’s existing power plants. If the proposed rule is implemented, it will have enormous and far-reaching costs. By cutting down our use of coal-based power, the Obama Administration and the EPA are burdening our families, businesses and local communities with a less reliable and more costly energy future.

So, what are some of the consequences of the rule? Over the past two weeks, we’ve heard from an array of individuals and organizations who understand how far-reaching the consequences of EPA’s carbon emissions rule will truly be:

It will put electric cooperatives across the country at risk.

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jo Ann Emerson: “The potential costs of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) greenhouse gas regulations threaten every household and business on a budget, not to mention the ability of electric cooperatives to continue providing reliable and affordable energy.”

It will raise prices for families and business owners.

National Black Chamber Of Commerce President & CEO Harry Alford: “Black business owners have already faced rising energy costs over the past few years, a reality that has undermined their competitiveness in the marketplace. We hope that EPA’s new regulation does not set the stage for even greater energy costs and, instead, helps to foster business growth and job creation in communities across the United States. We will thoroughly examine EPA’s new rule to determine how it stands to impact black businesses and America’s broader economy.”

It will jeopardize America’s competitiveness on the world stage.

National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons: “As users of one-third of the energy produced in the United States, manufacturers rely on secure and affordable energy to compete in a tough global economy, and recent gains are largely due to the abundance of energy we now enjoy. Today’s proposal from the EPA could singlehandedly eliminate this competitive advantage by removing reliable and abundant sources of energy from our nation’s energy mix. It is a clear indication that the Obama Administration is fundamentally against an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy, and unfortunately, manufacturers are likely to pay the price for this shortsighted policy.

It will encourage an overreliance on one source of energy, eliminating the diverse fuel mix needed to maintain price stability and electric reliability.

Arkansas Rural Electric Cooperatives CEO, Duane Highley: “There were gas plant failures, pipeline freezes and wholesale natural gas supply disruptions. Our nation needs and deserves a diverse energy supply portfolio to keep the lights on. By reducing the amount of coal in our generation mix, prices will go up and reliability could go down.’”

Georgia PSC Commissioner Stan Wise: “These overreaching rules trump state authority, put energy users at risk to future price swings, ignores the investments and progress Georgians have made to improve the environment and are a backdoor attempt to force federal renewable energy mandates.”

 

These are just a few of the millions of Americans who know EPA’s proposal rule to cut carbon emissions  is poor policy with costs that far outweigh the benefits. We look forward to sharing more of these opinions over the coming months and encouraging the EPA to listen closely and drastically change their proposed rule accordingly.


Advocating for America’s Power: Week 1

If you are a frequent reader of Behind the Plug, you have never seen my name before and may be wondering who I am. Well fellow energy enthusiasts, I am China Riddle, a native Eastern Kentuckian making her way as an intern in Washington, D.C. I am writing to you from my office at the American Coalition of Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), where I have worked for one week. My status as an intern who is new to ACCCE may cause you to be skeptical about the credibility of this blog or my knowledge of energy. There is no need to fret, however, as I know first-hand of what I speak.

Before venturing to our nation’s capital, I grew up in a small town in the heart of coal country – Virgie, KY to be exact. My father worked as a miner for seventeen years – making me a true representation of the popular ‘coal miner’s daughter’ notion – and eventually became a chief electrician. When I was fourteen, my father’s unique set of skills in welding and electricity allowed him to open his own mining equipment refurbishing business called K&R Rebuild. While his business is doing well, the volatility of the coal industry has caused serious difficulty in the past few years – difficulties that almost closed us down, putting my family’s livelihood in peril.

Due to the administration’s actions concerning coal-fueled power plants, the despair my family experienced is increasingly being shared by the people of my region. When you shut down coal-fueled power plants, coal mines are also shut down, which in turn affects businesses like my father’s. As I take steps toward my dreams of attending graduate school and working in Washington, D.C., my heart is still tethered to my home. How can I allow myself to leave while my family, friends and neighbors are left to face the hardship EPA’s regulations will surely bring? The answer for me is working at ACCCE and advocating for America’s Power. It is here that I am able to chase my dreams, while still using my skills and passion to work on the most important issue that my native region is facing. Through my role at ACCCE, I can make my voice heard and ardently advocate against unrealistic policies that will leave entire coal producing regions throughout the U.S. in economic turmoil.

So, energy enthusiasts, you can expect to hear more from me over the next eight weeks. I will be updating you on my journey as I work with the staff here at ACCCE to advocate for coal, our most abundant, affordable and reliable source of electricity. Together we can contest these poorly made policies to keep electricity rates down and our lights on.

– China Riddle, Communications Intern


Continuing to Share Your Stories

Continuing our “Share Your Story” segment, I decided to go to our Facebook page and collect some thoughts that you all were sharing with us in our comments section of our posts. It’s always amazing to see everyone band together towards a more affordable and reliable energy future. Here’s what you all are saying:

“You talk about state’s rights. Here’s an example where states need to enforce their rights. I wonder how much money we could slash from the budget if we could eliminate the EPA.”

If we have another winter like this past one, without the coal fired plants we will have significant power outages. All though the environmentalists in California will not care about the people in the Midwest and Northeast.”

 

In response to our macro for “What does Coal mean to you?”:

 “It means that I will have lights when the sun goes down and Barry is taking that away from us. Electricity will be unaffordable after he is done we will all be back to candles.”

“It means my family will eat, my husband is a good man who works hard in the mines to take care of us and we are so proud of him.”

 

It’s also great to see everyone engaging in conversation on posts as well. This week, in response to our posting of an Associated Press article, you all had a short conversation which was great and I wanted to highlight:

“I can’t imagine our power bills any higher! Southwest Virginia is going to be dead and people will have to move away to get work.”

  • “Same here in eastern Kentucky…My great great great great grandfather walked into eastern Kentucky with Daniel Boone…This is home, I don’t want to leave…..”
  • “It is the same for us in PA too. The last couple of years’ work has been getting worse. My husband has worked in coal most of his life and now at 63 what are we to do?? This government is only hurting the working middle class!!”

“Do you realize that the invention of electricity due to coal has extended life expectancy over the past 150 years? The industry is cleaner today than ever.”

 

Many thanks to everyone on Facebook who continues to be a part of the energy conversation. We will soon be putting out another comment tool so that we can all tell the EPA to Keep America’s Power On.


Clean Air Month: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Visits Mississippi’s Kemper County Energy Facility

America’s Power has teamed up with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. again, this time highlighting the advancements in clean coal technology to improve emissions.

Since May is Clean Air Month, we visited the Kemper County Energy Facility in Kemper County, Mississippi with Dale Jr. Kemper is one of the cleanest coal plants in the world. By using the most advanced admissions technologies at work in the U.S., Kemper will be able to power the local community in Mississippi cleaner than ever before. Not only is Kemper utilizing cutting edge technology, but it is also investing in the community by boosting local economic activity, increasing tax revenue, hiring local workers and more.

While at Kemper we got to see first-hand the advanced carbon capture technology they are putting into action. Carbon is separated and transported, in Kemper’s case to local oil fields where it is used in the enhanced oil recovery process.

Just like Dale Jr. says in the video, coal is America’s power and works to keep utility costs low and stable in homes and businesses. Dale Jr. himself is a business owner and understands the importance of reliable and affordable electricity to any business’ operations.

We’re proud to partner with Dale Jr. and spread the word about innovative clean coal technologies like those at work at Kemper. Be sure to check out our most recent video and visit www.AmericasPower.org to learn more: