A Key Role For Cooperatives in Energy Development

Listening to the President’s speech today regarding his administration’s priorities in terms of energy, I couldn’t help but feel that I was witnessing the beginning of an era that might actually work toward creating a world different from that we now know. As strikingly naive as that sounds, Obama‘s short but meaningful speech laid down a broad plan and made clear his priority to reshape where America gets its energy.

One example of a plan to save energy and boost the economy that struck me as rather simple yet very intelligent was an initiative to weather proof hundreds of thousands of homes. Analyzing the many layers of impact this one action would have reveals the potential multiplier effect.

First of all, weather proofing would reduce the heating costs to home owners, who would then have that much more income to spend spend in their communities. Also, it would necessitate the purchasing of large quantities of building material. Also, it would keep working men and women in the home building/ fixing industry, well known to be hard hit by the economic downturn.

What would enhance this multiplier effect even more would be carrying out pieces of this intelligent initiative using cooperatives. Establishing local or regional cooperatives of home owners as well as home builders would increase the effectiveness of this plan’s economic stimulas in a number of ways. First of all, scales of economy means that materials could be purchased in larger quantities and therefore at a better value for the home owners and home builders. Also, financial inputs would be mainlined into Main Street – income produced by cooperatives is not kept by an individual or corporation but goes directly to the members/ users/ owners. Money would stay local, making investments more effective.

Also, perhaps less tangibly but no less importantly, cooperative organizations increase the strengths of community and business networks and organizational capacity, further facilitating business interactions. Finally, home owners will see more value in their houses, have more of a commitment to their neighborhoods and communities, and will feel true ownership and therefore will be more eager to participate in these initiatives that will, as President Obama says, not be easy.

21 Shots of the Cannon, and Here We Go

The Capitol lawn, Purple Ticket Section, Inauguration Morning

Reported as the largest event in Washington DC’s history, with an official number of 1.8 million people in one place at one time, the swearing in ceremony on the steps of the American Capitol had without a doubt an important impact on the psyche of the nation. If one succeeds at tuning out the constant chatter of paranoid and soul sapping cable news and the punditry that can be so cluttered and cyclical as to rob itself of all meaning, one would be rewarded with an uncertain and anxious but, indeed, optimistic chorus of people, citizens of this country and others, touching the sands of a new shore after what could have been a very long and story voyage through dark waters.

Shannon and I, taking advantage of the fact that we are both from rural Minnesota, were honored with tickets from Congressperson Collin Peterson, giving us access to an area just behind the seated section at the bottom of the Capitol’s steps and the stage where the ceremonies were conducted. We stood on the north side of the lawn, nearby the canons, which we became well aware of when the 21 gun salute surprised us, rumbling through the silence just after the weight of the recitation of the Oath of Office effectively put a hush over the entire National Mall and its millions of enraptured visitors.

The Capitol Comes to Perham, MN

Not only was I lucky enough to attend the Inaugural ceremonies on the lawn of our Nation’s Capitol last Tuesday, feeling the pulse of the 21 canon salute vibrate through my core, I was also honored to have my thoughts on the event published in the Perham Enterprise Bulletin, the weekly newspaper of Perham, Minnesota and surrounding areas. “The Whole World Is Celebrating Together” was published in the January 22nd edition of the paper.