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.

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