Saturday, May 26, 2018
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Op-Ed Columns

Energy bill expected to reduce area electric costs

THE Clean Energy and Security legislation that passed the U.S. House of Representatives aims to restore America's energy independence while creating green jobs to spur economic growth.

Our Great Lakes region, along with some Northeastern states, are the only parts of our country without equal access to federal benefits for electric power, thus denying competitive rates for our residential, commercial, and industrial consumers.

The high cost of power in our area - 14 to 18 cents per kilowatt hour - is the primary factor contributing to job loss. Even other areas of Ohio pay one-third that amount. For thousands of Ohioans, action on the jobs front cannot come quickly enough. Our region already is a major solar and biofuels leader.

We can do more, and if you look at a map of Ohio, no region is better positioned than northwest Ohio to take advantage of the coming wave of green-power jobs. Already, estimates link 6,000 jobs to this emerging green-energy industry.

The House version of the energy bill includes a provision I worked hard to incorporate. It begins to establish federal energy parity for the Great Lakes states. This region, home to 116 million people and accounting for 39 percent of our nation's gross domestic product, has long suffered a competitive disadvantage because of the absence of a federal power authority.

The provision aims to level the playing field with the other regions of the country - the South, the West, and the Tennessee Valley Authority - that have benefited from federal power to develop their economies. These regions borrow at the favorable federal-funds rate and also receive significant federal energy infrastructure investments annually.

Since FDR's New Deal, the federal government has provided significant financial subsidies for energy infrastructure construction and development in the southern and western states to help them develop economically.

Power marketing authorities like the Western Area Power Authority, which covers 14 states, and the Bonneville Power Administration, have powered the West.

Just this year, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 invested no less than $6.5 billion in additional borrowing authority, including $3.25 billion each for the BPA and WAPA for line infrastructure and renewable power generation. Such subsidies clearly provide a huge strategic advantage.

As one example, the Bonneville Power Administration has successfully offered low electricity rates in the range of 6 to 9 cents per kilowatt hour and promoted economic development for its region.

Meanwhile, no matching entities exist here. With the power costs in our region among the highest in the nation, firms either leave or choose not to locate here. Economic development in our region has long been held back by unconscionably high electric rates. The recent brownout underscored how unsustainable the current configuration is.

My amendment to the energy legislation would authorize similar access to federal energy opportunity for our Great Lakes region. It proposes $3.5 billion in bonding authority to create jobs through the development of clean-energy platforms. These funds will be paid back over time, as occurs in other regions.

Without our region being placed on an equal footing with other parts of our country, green jobs will flow elsewhere, further harming our economy.

My provision allows a federal instrumentality such as the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. to undertake these energy development activities across our Great Lakes communities.

Our region should demand no less than equal treatment from the federal government.

The bill also aims to stimulate jobs through development of alternative energy sources to supplant carbon-based emissions.

Generating green energy in our free-market economy will spawn alternatives to carbon-based power sources, and that will translate into new industries, new jobs, and new economic opportunities.

Our region's track record speaks for itself - among the top three solar centers in the hemisphere; growing biofuels industries; the first solar plant at a U.S. National Guard base; establishment of the Clean Energy Incubator at the University of Toledo; advanced green-energy research at the University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University, and an expanding roster of start-up companies that are pursuing exciting opportunities in solar, wind, and other green-power sectors.

The innovators in business and academia in northwest Ohio have expended enormous energy and resources to launch a green energy infrastructure here.

Now the federal government must keep its shoulder to the wheel to give them as much chance to succeed as the coastal states.

Our nation and the world are turning to green energy in an attempt to slow the damage to our atmosphere for the sake of generations to come.

The potential for creating new jobs with a sustainable energy industry future for northwest Ohio has markedly improved with the passage of the market-based, energy-security bill.

Now we must seize the economic opportunities that it will create.

Marcy Kaptur represents the 9th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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