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Rep. Wes Culver says Hoosiers need to embrace alternative energy sources June 18, 2009

Posted by Laura Arnold in Uncategorized.
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From the Goshen News http://www.goshennews.com/local/local_story_168113550.html

By JESSE DAVIS
jesse.davis@goshennews.com

Published: June 17, 2009 11:33 am—

NAPPANEE — Now is the time for Indiana to address the future of alternative energy.

State Rep. Wes Culver, R-Goshen, delivered that thought among other messages while speaking at McCormick Motors in Nappanee Saturday, when both the car dealership and UNL Furs, a fur buying and trading business also located in Nappanee, were recognized by the Indiana Renewable Energy Association for steps taken toward energy conservation. McCormick had a solar grid-tied system installed in February, while UNL Furs installed off-site solar and wind systems late last year.

Culver said Americans in general only tend to appreciate the impact of alternative energy when the cost of traditional energy sources, such as automobile gasoline, are high.

“The American mindset is if gas is $2.50 or less, we’re OK, and if it’s more, then it’s not OK, but it’s only that day that they look at it,” Culver said. “A year ago, when gas was $4, it was a crisis. Then gas went down and everyone forgot about it.”

He said the result of such attitudes in Indiana is compounded by difficulties within the Statehouse that keep alternative energy legislation from passing. Among those difficulties, according to Culver, is the idea that anyone interested in alternative energy wants the same things, such as an end to the use of coal. That creates significant pressure against such measures, especially from legislators located farther south where Indiana’s coal deposits are located.

“They’re thinking that anyone interested in alternative energy wants to shut down coal, and they have all these people in their district that produce coal, and all these utility companies that are built around making their energy off coal,” Culver said. “And then you get these utility companies that come down and say ‘Hey, don’t vote for this bill because it’s hurting the coal industry, and if you do that, utility prices for Hoosiers are going to skyrocket and you don’t want that.”

A bill on net metering, a policy allowing consumers who generate their own energy to sell a certain amount back into the grid for retail credit, was the most recent casualty. Current state law allows energy generators to sell up to 100 kilowatt-hours back into the grid, which Culver said was tied for the lowest amount in the nation. Different bills have suggested a new limit of up to five megawatt-hours.

The main problem with that bill, Culver said, was that it was too cluttered. Although the concept of net metering has drawn solid support from the legislature, it was the additional items within the bill that doomed it. Those items included requirements for utility companies to produce a certain amount of their energy through alternative means by 2015, 2020 and 2025, and also included a tax credit system.“

I remember talking to Ryan (Mishler, a state senator) at 11:30 at night on the last day, and I’m like ‘are these bills going to come out of committee?’ and he said ‘no, it was killed, can’t get a signature on them,’” Culver said.

Another major hindrance in the Statehouse he noted was a partisan divide on the basic issue of alternative energy. Democrats, he said, tend to be more energy-minded, while Republicans are focused on other topics. Culver called himself an “odd duck” in being both Republican and interested in the expanded future use of alternative energy. He later referenced that aspect of his personal efforts in discussing his fight for net metering.

“I’m in their ranks, behind the lines, and I’ve stood up and made this presentation to our caucus, and that’s part of the reason I think we were able to get 20-plus votes coming out of (the Republican caucus) for net metering,” he said.

He also talked about what he called “smoke and mirrors” in the last legislative session, when coal was classified as alternative energy so long as sulfur and other negative outputs were sequestered underground.

Near the end of his comments, Culver also issued a challenge to consumers.

“We need to change, as Americans, how we use energy,” he said.

Rep. Wes Culver (R-Goshen) is a freshman member of the Indiana General Assembly. Visit his official website at http://www.in.gov/r49 or read his Energy Plan at http://electwesculver/energy/html.

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