The Athens NEWS gives unreserved support for Issue 3 on the Athens city ballot on Tuesday, May 8. This so-called “carbon fee” is an earnest effort to encourage energy conservation and do so at a minimal cost. And the measure has a direct payoff over and above the straightforward benefit of general energy savings; proceeds will go toward a community solar-energy program that installs solar panels on select public buildings.

It’s important to recognize that the proposed carbon fee is not a tax. If you don’t want to pay it, you can opt out of the Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council (SOPEC) electric aggregation program that the city offers residents. Leave SOPEC and don’t pay the fee.

The amount of the fee is an almost negligible 0.2 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity usage. Over a month’s time, this might mean $1.60 to $1.80 per household. But that’s only if the home’s occupants take no steps to lower their energy use.

That’s part of the goal of this measure – to provide Athens residents with an added incentive to save energy. We say “added” because there’s already a significant incentive to save energy in your home – reduced energy bills.

It’s not that hard. Simple energy-saving strategies include:

• Turning off lights and ceiling fans when you leave a room empty.

• Set back the thermostat by a degree or two (higher during the cooling season, lower during the heating season). You’ll be surprised at how quickly you adapt to the new normal.

• Turn up the thermostat setting a few degrees when using ceiling fans. You’ll feel just as comfortable. During mild weather turn off the A/C and use ceiling fans instead. They use a lot less electricity.

• Frequently check and replace air filters in forced-air cooling and heating systems. Schedule seasonal maintenance to make sure the equipment is providing optimum cooling and heating at the lowest possible energy usage.

• Install a zoning system so your heating and cooling system doesn’t have to fully condition the whole house.

• Turn down the water heater temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

• Open windows at night during cool summer evenings, then close the windows as the day heats up, while letting the residual coolness keep the house comfortable longer into the day.

• Install LED light bulbs.

There’s plenty more ways to save energy but you get the idea. This is one of those areas of modern life where your actions can accomplish two good things – helping to conserve the planet while enjoying lower energy bills.

It’s also helpful to realize that the proposed carbon fee for Athens does not reflect the actual costs in electrical generation in Ohio, via coal and natural gas power plants. A true 1:1 carbon fee would be 2.7 cents per kilowatt hour, or $21.60 to $24.30 per month.

This proposal is a no-brainer. If you don’t accept the environmental arguments for saving energy and reducing the burning of carbon, or the elementary equation that less energy use means lower utility bills, then by all means opt out of the SOPEC electrical aggregation program.

However, we’re confident that most Athens voters will recognize that this is a good plan that will do a lot of good at a very modest cost. If you’re voting in the Athens city primary election next Tuesday, vote yes on Issue 3.  

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