Thursday, December 18, 2008

Energy Co-ops: People Sharing, Prospering and Conserving

When Franklin Roosevelt 75 years ago signed into law the Civilian Conservation Corps in my hometown he was challenged by his critics. FDR responded that when the unemployed started to plant trees and become vested in other environmental improvements in their communities they become shareholders in saving their land. Energy co-ops are not only saving their land, they are also creating a necessary, new paradigm for investing in local economies at a scale that functions to revitalize other aspects of community.

Fostering energy co-ops creates many, complementary economic and environmental benefits. Shareholders lessen their energy bill by investing in small-scale energy production and conservation. This, in turn, incrementally lessons our nation’s dependence on imported foreign oil and our overall carbon footprint. By investing in and lending to small, local businesses, they also contribute to the creation of new “green” jobs and re-circulate money within the community, which has been shown to benefit the local economy by a factor of 3x. When the co-op works their share goes up in value, jobs are created, energy is produced and saved and joyful human interaction result. This county will not lessen its dependence on foreign oil until this nation harnesses citizen’s involvement. We can not afford to wait to develop green infrastructure in neighborhoods, towns and region without engaging Americans of all walks. Energy co-ops also develop positive feedback loops by transforming the homeowners into more self reliant energy conservers. People who buy co-op shares become motivated to get the best return on their collective efforts by promoting the businesses they own a shares.

Today I am a member and helped start several co-ops as both my grandfathers done during the depression. With our present financial crisis I feel most secure in investing in an energy co-op.

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (“EESI”) states the most important jobs for the new Congress in January will be to pass an economic stimulus bill to jump start the economy, create jobs, and revitalize American industry – a tall order, which could cost between $500 billion and $1 trillion [1]. It will be vital to includes in any new legislation innovative projects creating jobs and economic activity such as Energy Co-op(s). Energy Co-ops will strengthen our long-term economic security, and address the reality of climate change. Since the fall of Wall Street we must take strengths of private sector and integrate them with non-profit enterprises. Shareholders can be great decision makers and wise managers.

There are many efforts in the works to expand Energy Co-ops. One good example is Co-op Power (www. cooppower.coop). Co-op Power operates in the New England area as a consumer-owned cooperative to maintain an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable energy future.

Over 48,000 co-ops already operate in the United States and 120 million Americans are co-op members. Roughly 10,000 credit unions (with the total assets of over $600 billion) supply financial services to 83 million members. 36 million Americans purchase their electricity from rural electric co-ops. $80 billion of Community Health Care Providers are owned by their policy holders; and approximately 30 percent of Americas farm products are marketed through cooperatives. [2]”

The tenor of the time is to explore and experiment with new ways energy co-ops can give us local environmental and economic relief. Co-ops can plant seeds to stimulate both energy conservation and community economic development. What better way in getting people to both buy shares and reap the benefits as shareholders? Let’s share it and cooperate together to form American energy co-ops and collectively profit. Cooperation both in nature as in human life is crucial. Energy co-op equate to numerous happy returns or one triple bottom line where people share, prosper and conserve together. Energy co-ops are investments in many ways we can help preserve ourselves, our communities and our earth.

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