Guest blog by Dr. Gerald Durley, minister of the Providence Missionary Baptist Church of Atlanta, Georgia
As we head to the polls tomorrow, each of us plans to support the candidates we feel best represent our communities and the issues that affect us the most. Although there are many issues that seem to affect low-income communities and communities of color, one issue that sometimes goes unnoticed, yet can bring positive benefits to all ratepayers in Georgia and the rest of the Southeast, is the issue of energy efficiency.
The Book Genesis in the Old Testament of the Bible tells us that when God realized that the earth was dark, he created light from darkness and said it was good. We can no longer hide in the darkness of our own ignorance about energy and the impacts it has on our communities. We must be inspired as civil rights activists, clergymen, businessmen and women, legislators, youth and elderly, to join forces creatively to encourage good energy policies for our state and our region.
You may have heard utility executives say: “the cheapest source of energy is the power plant we don’t build.” This is true because a well-designed energy efficiency program can mean cost savings for consumers and utilities alike. Not to mention, energy efficiency allows us to reduce our fossil fuel emissions and maintain the health of our children and elderly who are continually being threatened by our already strained air quality. A report released last month by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy(ACEEE) confirms that the Southeast as a whole would benefit greatly from strong efficiency programs. For example, my state, Georgia, currently ranks 37th in the nation for efficiency goals, just behind Tennessee and ahead of South Carolina.
Unfortunately, during the winter months, people on fixed incomes often have to choose between paying high heating bills or paying for food and medicine. Fortunately, due to more investment in energy efficiency programs as a result of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) commonly referred to as the stimulus bill many of our friends and families will see reduced energy bills this year because their homes have been weatherized.
Last year, $124 million went to Georgia’s Weatherization Assistant Program (WAP). That allowed people in low-income communities the opportunity to weatherize their homes to reduce energy bills and create savings in stretched household budgets. This was more than 40 times the budget in 2008 when the Department of Energy allocated $2.9 million to Georgia for weatherization projects. An additional $67 million was made available for energy efficiency block grants to large and small communities throughout Georgia through the ARRA, as well.
The Congressional leaders who supported the Recovery Act and its efficiency measures did more than create jobs when they developed policies to weatherize 5,000 homes in Georgia and thousands more across the country. They succeeded in improving people’s quality of life and protecting our environment, as well. A program like WAP provides a clear example of how beneficial energy policy can save all consumers money, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and, most importantly, begin putting people back to work.
When preparing to use the power of your vote on November 2, please reflect on the benefits that such programs are bringing to your state and consider how the candidates who want your support stand on energy policies and other issues that critically impact our communities.
– Dr. Gerald L. Durley is an ordained minister and a psychologist who is the Pastor at the historic Providence Missionary Baptist Church of Atlanta, GA. He currently serves as the Co-chair of the Regional Council of Churches of metro-Atlanta and past-president of the Concerned Black Clergy of Metro Atlanta. Providence is well known for its numerous community outreach initiatives which include programs involving fathers involvement with the family; feeding and housing referrals; alcohol and substance abuse counseling; grief counseling and other programs to enhance human welfare.