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Electric cooperative is in denial regarding climate change
Seth Heald's op-ed column on Rappahannock Electric Cooperatives's denial of the causes of global warming

Date published: 1/2/2011


--The customers of Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, the large electric utility that serves many people in this area, are not merely customers. They're also members and owners of the cooperative, much as a stockholder partly owns a corporation. REC CEO Kent Farmer has told members: "We work for you."

The rural electric cooperative system was formed in the 1930s to bring electricity to all Americans. Since REC's inception, education has been an integral component of the rural-cooperative system. REC educates its members on the safe and wise use of electricity and cites education as one of seven "cooperative principles." The REC member magazine Cooperative Living has the highest circulation numbers of any Virginia magazine, and its clout is undeniable.

You might think that REC members could turn to Cooperative Living for current, accurate information about national energy policy, issues in the energy industry, and related problems such as climate change. Yet despite every major scientific body in the world acknowledging that climate change is man-made and a serious threat to the planet, Cooperative Living takes a different view.

In my reading of Cooperative Living over the past two years, I've seen only articles questioning the existence or gravity of climate change. Comments urging action on climate change are relegated to letters to the editor.

Last May, Cooperative Living, whose funding presumably comes indirectly in part from REC members' electric bills, inserted three postage-paid cards for readers to send to their members of Congress, urging them to act to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases, which are known to cause climate change. There were no corresponding cards for the readers who think the EPA ought to act now.

This past October, Cooperative Living devoted a full-page column to a commentator with no climate expertise who dismissed all scientific research showing that prompt action is needed. He claims that "government" largely funds climate research, and therefore climate scientists all somehow have "a conflict of interest." Without citing a single source, the commentator concludes that it will be decades before we see any serious consequences from climate change.

It's hard to escape the conclusion that REC and the wholesale power supplier it partly owns, Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, want to wish away the reality of climate change. So much for education as a "cooperative principle."

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