We’ll always have Paris
Interesting that when Humphrey Bogart said, “We’ll always have Paris,” to Ingrid Bergman in the 1942 film Casablanca that their brief romance could be a bit like the Paris international climate agreement, called the Paris accord, a brief romance. Both realized that world events meant they would move on.
For those who missed the movie, YouTube has that final parting scene and for those who want a better understanding of what has been called one of the best movies ever made, YouTube also has “Ask the Professor: What’s So Great About Casablanca?”
But back to Paris, and the Paris accord and what that means for Platte-Clay co-op members.
Both signing the Paris accord in December, 2016, and then withdrawing from the Paris accord in May, 2017, did a lot and did a little.
First, coal production is at it’s lowest since 1984—a 35 percent decline since 2008, reports the Energy Information Agency (EIA). The Paris accord had nothing to do with that.
While we are most sympathetic to coal miners who work in another one of the most dangerous jobs, along with electric utility line workers, coal companies, like many other industries, have introduced a high level of mechanization.
That trend will continue and that doesn’t mean more jobs. It does mean that now many workers need specialized, skilled training.
Like many other positions, computers and machinery, including robots, are changing the nature of the work place. No amount of jawboning is going to cause companies to increase their operating costs and lower net profits.
Another reason for the lower amount of coal consumed is because of energy efficiency; we simply are using less electricity and power producers are turning to wind and solar.
Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc. (AECI), Platte-Clay’s power producer is projecting slow to modest growth for the 51 rural co-ops it serves.
Other utility companies are moving away from coal to wind and solar. The EIA reports that with the change from coal-fired power to the less carbon-intensive energy sources of renewable energy and natural gas that the U.S. is becoming cleaner.
AECI, Platte-Clay’s power producer has spent $1.1 billion since 1994 to reduce emissions at its power plants. That’s good news, and as co-op members become more energy efficient, the carbon emissions will continue to drop.
One of the biggest benefits of the Paris accord is the general awareness that the climate is changing.
We all know that there is less snow in the winter and our winters in Missouri are milder. We’re seeing different animals in our area, including, for example, armadillos. The nocturnal, prehistoric-looking little mammal makes the familiar possum look downright cute.
The nine-banded armadillo (above) now ranges as far north as Nebraska.
While there are some who spend time pointing fingers at who and what’s to blame, energy company shareholders are concerned about their money as well as the environment.
Recently, Exxon shareholders by a 62 percent (non-binding) vote at their 2017 annual meeting, said the company must begin providing information explaining the bottom-line financial risk the company faces because of new technology and climate change.
For example, looking ahead, how will self-driving electric cars affect oil companies? What happens to profits as vehicles become more energy efficient? Is the company being responsible regarding the environment?
Exxon shareholders, including two major Wall Street financial institutions, supported the initiative, which began in 1990 with shareholder requests for that type of data.
Other investors want fossil fuel companies to move toward a low-carbon economy with or without U.S. participation in the Paris accord. Exxon joins other energy companies in the spotlight of shareholder environmental concerns.
Utility-scale wind farms continue to grow and, for some utilities is the “fuel of choice,” says Ben Fowke, the chief executive of Xcel Energy which serves some 3.5 million customers in eight Midwestern and Western states.
AECI, Platte-Clay’s power provider, serving members in Iowa, Missouri and Oklahoma, agrees with the large investor-owned utility.
AECI provides members with 600 MW of wind energy from five wind farms in Missouri and Kansas, or the equivalent of one good-sized power plant.
Long-term plans call for more wind for baseload power when needed.
The American Wind Energy Assoc., AWEA, shows strong growth: the industry installed 2,000 MW of power during the first quarter of 2017, a 385 percent increase over the first quarter in 2016.
Responsive to good business practices, the environment and members and customers, rural electric cooperatives and utilities now represent 95 percent of the wind under contract.
The Solar Energy Institute Assoc. (SEIA) says that 250,000 Americans work in the solar industry in 9,000 companies located in all states. SEIA says the sunshine industry provides enough power for 8.3 million homes and represents 39 percent of all new electric power capacity added to the U.S. grid, ahead of natural gas, at 29 percent and wind, 26 percent.
Missouri, which ranks 25th in solar energy, has the equivalent of 16,000 homes powered by the sun, a combination of utility scale solar farms, community solar arrays, like Solartech and individual homes. The state is projected to grow 288 MW over the next five years and still rank in the bottom half of solar states.
Solartech, sized to power 14 Platte-Clay homes, to date has generated 403,601 kWh and saved 289 tons of CO2. As a point of information, the average amount of electric energy members use is about 1,200 kWh a month,
So while many were overjoyed at the U.S. pulling out of the Paris accord, the trend is increased energy efficiency, reducing power costs, and lower greenhouse gases from fossil fuel industries.
Like Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, we may not be together, but it looks like we’ll always have Paris.
Education, training and information
From the General Manager
Continuing our series on the Seven Cooperative Principles, this month I’m going to talk about how each of them form the template for how Platte-Clay operates. In a way, it’s back to the basics, yet on the other hand, it’s a path to the future, as the principles guide the co-op’s operation. Today, Platte-Clay is one of the most progressive co-ops in Missouri and among the most progressive in the U.S.
This month’s Cooperative Principle is Education, Training and Information. The full text is “Cooperatives provide education and training for members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative. Members also inform the general public about the nature and benefits of cooperatives.”
Those of you who attended the annual meeting had an opportunity to learn about the cooperative, to learn how we’re doing financially, to learn about products and services that both the co-op and area organizations offer.
For those who weren’t able to attend the annual meeting, the same educational and informational opportunities are available online on the co-op web site, www.pcec.coop and day in and day out by calling or stopping by the office.
Following the annual meeting, the Board, staff and I had an opportunity to meet with members in a Town Hall session which was a wonderful learning opportunity and exchange for everyone.
Another opportunity for Education, Training and Information is the 2017 Focus Group. The members who participated in the Town Hall have agreed to be part of the group this year, with a different assignment.
In response to a motion made and passed during the annual meeting, the Focus Group will learn about and discuss environmental issues and how they relate to Platte-Clay. The outcome will be an environmental report to be shared with members next year, another opportunity for Education, Training and Information.
I hope everyone enjoys their summer.
If you have questions or concerns, please e-mail me, firstname.lastname@example.org
Platte-Clay calendar photo contest – Life in Rural Missouri
Again this year Platte-Clay will produce an annual calendar with co-op members’ photos.
The theme this year is “Life in Rural Missouri.” Photos will be accepted until July 31, and judged by popular vote.
For rules, more details and to submit a photo, please go to the co-op web site, www.pec.coop and follow the links or go directly to https://www.pcec.coop/calendar-photo-contest/
Winners will be entered into a drawing for a $100 Platte-Clay fuels gift card that can be used at either the Kearney or Platte City station.
Capital credit checks
Capital credit checks, for amounts more than $15, were mailed out the end of May and beginning of June to the individuals and addresses of record.
Managing summer energy costs
It’s summer, and whether or not the weather predictions are correct, it’s Missouri, and it’s going to be hot. For many families, that means cranking up the air conditioner and higher than normal electric bills.
There are several ways to help manage costs for the hottest and coldest months of the year.
Levelized, or budget billing takes the average cost of monthly service over the past year and divides the amount by 12. It’s one of the best ways to manage energy costs.
Members can even put the amount of the bill on a debit or credit card or a checking or savings account.
There are a few qualifications:
- Members must have had service in the same location for 12 months
- Members must have had 6 months of on-time payments
- Members who don’t keep the monthly budget bill current will go back to standard monthly billing
Landscaping to stay cool
Another way to keep energy costs down is to keep the house from heating up in the day time. Some of these suggestions can be implemented right away, others, such as planting trees, will be more effective years from now.
Plant trees on the south and west side of your home. It’s important to take into consideration how fast the tree will grow and how big it will become. We may want the sun to warm the house in the winter, making the best bet a deciduous tree.
Landscapers say that trees planted within 40 feet of the south side or within 60 feet of the west side of the house are the best locations because of the shadows they create. For suggestions, visit www.pcec.coop and see the section on planting the right tree in the right place.
For those concerned about the Paris accord – trees are a remarkable resource for reducing net carbon emissions.
A vine idea
Plant fast-growing vines to shade the south and west sides of the house. Here are some general guidelines; a local nursery may have suggestions for you too.
Vines will need the proper support, and it’s important to have them where you want them.
For instance, the Virginia creeper has rootlets that act like suction cups that we may not want attached to the house. Vines need air space because they will help retain moisture and can create mold and mildew, defeating the idea of saving money on energy and other costs.
Some vines are more user friendly—morning glories, mandevilla, and moonflower vine, for instance, will twist around a trellis or other support. The trellis or other structure should be a few inches away from the wall of the house to allow ventilation and avoid moisture build up.
A wisteria, which grows well in our area, provides spring flowers and shade through frost, but it is a sturdy plant that gets mixed reviews.
We can keep our house cool and get more bang for our vine bucks by planting food. Climbers include pole beans, climbing peas, cucumbers, gourds, squashes and zucchini. Rodale’s Organic Life says that anything with fruit smaller than a volleyball can be trellised, so the trellis will need to be built or bought with the weight of the vegetables in mind.
A Google search will provide any number of trellis designs and DIY plans.
Wisteria, above, draped over a pergola provides shade in the summer and beautiful blooms during the spring. Below, pumpkins can be grown on a trelllis or a pergola and provide garden color and shade.
For immediate window shade, an awning will help reduce solar heat gain by as much as 65 percent on southern exposure windows and 77 percent on western windows.
Make it a retractable awning and it will do double duty, allowing warm solar gain in the winter.
It makes sense to shade windows and southern and western exposures in the summer: it’s cheaper to keep the heat out of a home than paying to cool it.
For those who are re-roofing this summer, go with light colored shingles, which will reflect UV rays instead of absorbing heat and help keep energy costs down.
And finally, some homeowners are even painting their roofs white to help keep summer energy costs down.
Dog days of summer
Actually, the dog days of summer are in August, but it’s summer now, so it would be a good time to get a dog.
For some families, the kids are home and they could start training a new dog and learning the responsibilities that go with owning a pet. The days are longer, so for parents who work outside of the home it’s easier to get out and go for a walk.
The numbers reinforce the importance of spaying and neutering pets: Petfinder says it has more than 260,000 adoptable pets from nearly 12,000 adoption groups in the U.S. In fact, there are more than 1,600 dogs available through shelters and rescue groups within 100 miles of the Platte-Clay service area. Local vets also help place unwanted animals.
Although there are a number of no kill shelters, in many cases there are more cats and dogs available than families, and shelters are forced to euthanize animals because of space or other factors.
There is hope.
One area rescue group, Paws Crossed, steps in to pull animals from high kill shelters and places dogs in foster homes until they can be adopted, that is matched with a family that seems to be a good fit with the dog.
The group, which doesn’t rescue specific breeds, has an online adoption and foster application to start the process, which is typical of most organizations.
Paws Crossed volunteers will review the application and discuss the household, including number in the family, if there are other pets, veterinarian’s name and contact information. References are required and checked.
For some families, fostering a rescue dog is a good way to socialize it before finding the right family and its “furever” home.
Another positive from helping a dog in need — fostering helps teach children empathy, something missing on most computer games.
Other families foster dogs to see if they will be a good fit—everything from monitoring allergies to getting along with the family cat. It’s much like an extended trial. If all goes well and the dog fits in, then the family is complete. If not, perhaps it wasn’t a good fit because of the activity or age level of the dog or the humans.
The adoption application is similar to the foster application as the rescue group wants to get a sense of how responsible the adopter will be. And for some dogs there will be qualifications, such as a fenced yard.
A 501(c) 3 nonprofit, Paws Crossed, Inc., places animals that are spayed or neutered, microchipped, up to date on vaccines and have had full veterinary care.
In addition to foster families, the group can use other assistance, such as volunteers for special events that create awareness and help with fund raising.
How about adopting a horse?
Petfinder has almost 2,000 horses available for adoption—from young colts and weanlings to seniors who make good companion animals. Some of the closer horse rescue locations are in Aurora, St. Louis and Union, Mo.; Pittsburg and Wamego, Kans.; Crete, Des Moines and Malvern, Iowa. Find all of these horse rescue groups on the Petfinder web site.
Close to home in Union, Longmeadow Rescue Ranch has all the animals needed to establish a farm: chickens, ducks, goats, a miniature horse (at the time of the article) and an Appaloosa/pony mix described as a “good riding partner for a confident beginner or a more experienced rider.”
Also of interest at Longmeadow is a horse called Jax, a “handsome black Bashkir Curlie gelded colt,” above.
With Jax comes a bit of horse lore and a geography lesson: the origins of the breed are unknown, but they are descendants of the steppe horses from western Asia, south of the Ural Mountains, according to The Equinest. In the U.S. they are called American Curlies—which may or may not be related to the Asian breed.
The breed is named after the Bashkir people in Bashkortostan, also known as Bashkiria, a republic in the Russian Federation.
The horses are relatively small at about 14 hands and in their home country are raised for milk, meat, packing and farm work. For the weavers in the crowd, their winter coat can be made into cloth.
For those looking for a specific breed, Petfinder starts with, for example, Appaloosas, with 60 horses, runs through draft horses, 18; donkeys, 62; mules, 35; Shetland ponies, 12; and 21 Warmbloods.
For those who enjoy online shopping, Petfinder makes it a bit easier to find almost any animal to match a family.
The Northland Connection is published monthly by Platte-Clay Electric Cooperative, Inc., 1000 W. 92 Highway, Kearney, MO 64060. Postmaster: Please send address changes to: Northland Connection, PO Box 100, Kearney, MO 64060 or email@example.com.
Platte-Clay is an equal opportunity employer.