It's your electric co-op – own it

To the editor,

If you want to find out which candidates for the LPEA Board care about sustainable energy use, it makes sense to ask local environmental organizations such as San Juan Citizens Alliance, right? Jack Turner and Jeff Mannix are reliably green. They understand that clean, renewable energy is also cheaper, creates jobs and can keep millions in our local economy – all good stuff. Sadly, their opponents “talk green” only at election season. Your clarity about each candidate’s real intentions is vital.

It’s important to vote! Don’t toss away your ballot! Here’s why:

We’re used to paying our bills to corporations that lie beyond our community. Corporations are designed for profit, not democracy. We think of our monthly bill to LPEA as just another bill, like those paid to corporations that draw wealth out of Southwest Colorado.

But think about this: LPEA is a cooperative, owned commonly by us member/owners. It cannot generate or extract profit. Instead, it’s designed to meet rural members’ energy needs, as cheaply, reliably and safely as it can.

Most significantly, LPEA is by design democratic. We own it, and we control it.

Control offers choice – and also equals responsibility. We member/owners share an obligation to make good choices about how we access electricity. We shouldn’t mindlessly bumble along a path, simply because it is already under our feet, or because it saves us the trouble of having to think carefully about options. Make sense? I

owned a ‘65 Barracuda, in bad shape and a gas hog – my sweet car. But the time came when I had to let go and get one more efficient to commute in.

We’re the first generations on Earth to ever confront an existential threat like climate change. The magnitude and staggering significance of climate destruction is so overwhelming that some of us deny its reality. Others mouth the words but are frozen in old habits. Don’t blame or be judgmental – it’s not useful. Be kind. Meanwhile, let’s shake off our shock and get busy.

The first and best step is to locally change the ways we damage our climate. Our current provider, Tri-State, burns around 350,000 tons of coal to generate our electricity. At around 3⁄4 carbon content, that coal emits nearly half a million tons of carbon dioxide. This is low-hanging fruit that we have control over.

And now, economics are on our side: installing renewables ground-up is cheaper than simply operating existing coal plants, according to Pacificorp, the largest operator of coal plants in the Western U.S. That’s particularly significant, since Tri-State (in a restrictive contract until 2050) generates almost 60 percent of its electricity from coal, twice the U.S. average. Meanwhile, many other utilities are making dramatic changes to their portfolio, including Xcel here in Colorado, announcing plans for 100 percent renewable energy.

We Americans have become passive in our usual, depowering relationships. We click away our rights to corporate entities, signing contracts so long and dense they’re unreadable.

But we need to wake the heck up. LPEA is a portal to self-determination. We can install community-owned energy generation, with important benefits that will pass on to our kids and grandkids. These benefits include local, well-paying jobs; recirculating in our local economy the $70 million per year that we currently send to Denver; and sovereignty over our future, with decision-making in-house. Perhaps most importantly, the vital knowledge that we are not continuing to rape our young by continuing our foolish coal-burning habits.

Ballots are mailed April 2 – your vote and awareness are crucial. Get involved, or more involved. If you understand the magnitude of these issues, stepping up and becoming active in creating positive change is the antidote! Visit San Juan Citizens Alliance website for more information and “Renewable Energy Durango” on Facebook.

On Sat. March 23, from 3:15-5:45 p.m., come hear what is happening with your electric cooperative at the Durango Public Library. Presentations and a panel discussion by LPEA directors (speaking on their own behalf, not as representatives of LPEA) and Dick White will illuminate topics such as how power markets operate; what our options are as a cooperative; the risks of no change; and how Durango can join the growing list of cities making real progress toward 100 percent renewable energy.

– Kirby MacLaurin, Durango (please see links online)