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NASHVILLE – In a speech today at Georgetown University, President Obama announced a broad federal mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electric power plants. The President will instruct federal regulators to apply the Clean Air Act to carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, effectively outlawing coal-burning facilities.

“More than 40 percent of electricity used in Tennessee comes from coal, so the President’s plan will be a disaster for Tennessee families and businesses,” says Mike Knotts, director of government affairs with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Reliable, low cost electricity is the backbone of the U.S. economy.”

While the President’s plan will impose costly regulations on all consumers, Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are especially concerned about this proposal because rural and low-income Americans already spend disproportionately more on energy than others.

“The President’s proposal will make electricity more expensive, causing families and businesses to sacrifice even more,” says Knotts. “Without question, electric bills will get bigger for the Americans who can least afford to pay them.”

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives will actively monitor this proposal, review its impact on ratepayers and keep members informed and engaged on the issue.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association represents Tennessee’s 23 not-for-profit, member-owned electric cooperatives and the 1.1 million consumers they serve across rural and suburban Tennessee. Click here to learn more and get involved.

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Late spring/early summer is absolutely one of the most beautiful times to live in Tennessee. The mild temperatures and brilliant blue skies just call out for a little extra time listening to the birds from the backyard hammock. In my case, it’s listening to the kids play, but undoubtedly this is a time of year to get outside and enjoy nature’s beauty. As one of my favorite musicians sings, “Life’s way too short to waste it all inside.”

The great weather this time of year does more than just inspire us to spend more time outdoors, though. As winter fades away, it is inevitable that you’ll see neighbors starting yard projects, road builders paving new highways and your local electric cooperative’s lineworkers busy with projects to keep the power flowing.

As the temperature outside rises, so does the amount of time your air conditioner will run to keep the inside of your home cool. That means higher electric bills, sure, but most would agree it is a small price to pay for the comforts of modern society — right? Well, there are some people who hope to use the increased activity outside and your higher electric bill to their advantage so they can separate you from your money.

This is the time of year that I start to hear about scams and attempts to steal from you, using your electric service as a cover story. Please be aware of these real-life schemes so you will not fall victim:

Phone calls asking for payments

You receive a phone call from someone who claims to work at the cooperative offering a friendly reminder that your electric bill is past due. The caller ID may even display the name of the co-op. The caller tells you that you can avoid late fees or having your service disconnected if you make a payment over the phone by giving them a credit card, prepaid debit card or checking account number.

This is a common type of scam called “phishing,” and it works just the same via email. There are lots of variations, but a phishing scam uses common, publicly available information to trick you into believing you are talking to a legitimate individual or institution. Scammers then try to convince you to give up important information like Social Security numbers, bank account numbers or credit card information.

Never provide your private financial information to someone who calls you directly. Many cooperatives offer pay-by-phone options and may even call to tell you that your bill is past-due. But your co-op will never call you to initiate a payment. Make the phone call yourself. And be sure you are calling the phone number provided to you by the co-op. If you ask that same “friendly voice” who dialed you in the first place for a number to call back, the scammer will gladly provide you with his or her own number.

A knock at the door

Two men knock on your front door after parking a large white truck in front of your house. They tell you that they are employees of (or contractors working for) your local cooperative and need to perform some work on the poles along the road. They unload some tools and walk around your property. After a quick trip to the store, you discover the men are gone and your lawnmower and television are missing.

This is an unfortunate but true story that happened to a cooperative member here in Tennessee. Thankfully, the culprits were only interested in stealing property and not in any other more serious crimes. However, it is important to note that if your co-op needs to access your property to perform work, authorized individuals will be driving marked vehicles and carrying identification.

If you have any doubts at all about the legitimacy of the individuals, call the co-op directly to confirm their identity and ask if any work is scheduled at your address.

The “magic” black box

The advertisement you recently saw in a magazine or on the Internet claims that an “amazing new device” will lower your power bill by 30 percent just by plugging it into an outlet. The ad says the device is so effective that “power companies will hate this.”

While I am just as hopeful and excited as you might be for new scientific discoveries, an old adage applies here: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” One of these products, advertised heavily on the Internet, is simply two wires buried in a plastic container of sand.

You will see a lot of these advertisements at the end of the summer and winter but rarely in the spring or fall. Why is that? If you buy this magic box in the first week of September, plug it in and wait for your next electric bill, chances are your bill will, in fact, be dramatically lower. Why? Because temperatures are cooler, your air conditioner is no longer running nonstop, and you used less electricity. But, by the time you figure out the scam, the “money-back guarantee” will have expired — and your wallet will be just a bit thinner.

Always looking to expand my mind, I recently purchased an educational text on electricity. It is written on a level that takes this technically complex product and puts it on a down-to-earth level. The authors, both university professors, do a great job of explaining this innovative product and the ways it impacts people’s everyday lives.

The book, “Electricity Comes to Us,” was published in 1937. Reading it today is a lot like opening a time capsule and trying to imagine what life was like in that era.

The book, “Electricity Comes to Us,” was published in 1937. Reading it today is a lot like opening a time capsule and trying to imagine what life was like in that era.

The book, “Electricity Comes to Us,” was published in 1937. Reading it today is a lot like opening a time capsule and trying to imagine what life was like in that era.

For the period in which it was written, the book does a great job explaining electricity, which at that time was far from universally available. The text walks through how electricity is generated, transmitted to homes and used by individuals. It even describes how to electrify a doll house. (We don’t recommend that!)

The section of the book that explains how electricity travels from the generating station (hydroelectric or coal) to homes is titled “The City Power Lines.” Not only was electricity carried into the city at 550 volts, it wasn’t carried into rural areas at any voltage.

Today, even the most remote part of Tennessee is likely to have nearby distribution lines that carry electricity at 7,200 volts or greater.
The advances in the distribution of electricity made me ponder the book as a time capsule. What went through the minds of the authors when they described how electricity was used? There is a drawing of an electric toaster in the book that was innovative and futuristic then but would be terribly unsafe in any home today.

Here’s how my friend Paul Wesslund frames that thought in a recent Kentucky Living magazine column:

“How didn’t you use electricity 40 years ago? You didn’t use it to charge a mobile phone or an iPhone. You might have used it when you switched on your record turntable to play music from a 12-inch, black, vinyl disk.

You most likely didn’t use it to power a computer. And even if you did have one of those garage-sized machines, there was no Internet to connect it to hundreds of millions of people, libraries and businesses all over the world.

Today, electric cars, solar and wind energy and efficiency practices are turning from novelties into more commonplace power practices. In 1973 these energy options were so expensive they seemed like science fiction.

The list goes on: TV remote controls, microwave ovens, flat-screen TVs, GPS, hospital MRIs.

“Which of those things could you have confidently predicted in 1973? What are your predictions for 2053?”

The authors of “Electricity Comes to Us” could not have possibly fathomed the many ways we generate and use electricity today. I don’t know that anyone could have done so. Given the advances that have transpired since 1937, I don’t know that our predictions for 2053 would be any better.

It’s difficult enough to maintain today’s electric grid. And the rapidity with which technology advances, it’s difficult and expensive to plan for the future. However, the goal today is the same as it was in 1937: to bring electricity to the homes of the user. No matter how you’ll use electricity in 2053, we’ll be here to bring it to you.