|Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 7.1.13
Monday, July 1, 2013 â€“
As always, if you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office by email, please visit my website at
Near the end of June, I was invited to give brief remarks at a celebration with area veterans. I think these remarks are appropriate to share during the 4th of July period. Because I rarely use prepared text, the remarks went something like this:
â€śI want to thank all of the veterans here today for their service to our country. You have answered the question that Patrick Henry so eloquently put forth in a church in Richmond - Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?
â€śBy putting yourself in harmsâ€™ way and serving these United States, you answered the question the same way that Patrick Henry did. Again quoting Henry - Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
â€śAs we move forward as a nation, I hope that we will always choose liberty over tyranny.â€ť
May God bless these United States.
President Obama recently announced that he will be charging his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with issuing even more regulations on both current and new coal-fired electric power plants. These regulations would surely be damaging to our region, and to the nation, if implemented. However, as the President of the West Virginia Coal Association said, these â€śimminent restrictions on carbon emissions from power plants â€¦ exceed the capabilities of current technology.â€ť
As I have said previously, there is another way. We can strike a balance. There is research underway on new technologies that would burn coal cleanly and efficiently. This would help preserve the coal industry, its jobs, and the economy of Southwest Virginia while protecting the environment.
Days after announcing these new regulations on American energy producers, President Obama announced his new initiative called â€śPower Africa,â€ť which will spend $7 billion to bring electric power to six countries in sub-Saharan Africa (where, according to the Administration, more than two-thirds of people do not have access to electricity). These countries are Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania.
Iâ€™d like to look at three countries that are not in the Presidentâ€™s plan: South Africa, Mozambique, and Botswana.
South Africa ranks 9th in proven coal reserves, with 30.2 billion tons. Furthermore, 75 percent of the population has access to electricity. That is the highest percentage rate in sub-Saharan Africa. 77 percent of the countryâ€™s energy needs are met through coal.
Another country working to make the most of its coal is Mozambique, which is estimated to have 6 billion tons of coal. Mozambique has increased its number of electricity customers by 311 percent in the last decade, and Botswana has a 58 percent electrification rate.
According to a 2011 report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, â€śRecent power shortages and a general lack of spare generating capacity in southern Africa also have led to increased interest in new coal-fired power projects in countries other than South Africa. Of particular significance are major investments being made by several international energy companies to develop coal reserves in Mozambique and Botswana for the purpose of supplying both domestic coal-fired generating plants and international markets.â€ť
It is interesting that countries using coal are making strides forward in providing electricity to citizens. South Africa is a leader in sub-Saharan Africa in electrification, and Mozambique is quickly moving forward as well. Reasoning would suggest that the rest of sub-Saharan Africa ought to consider following the lead of South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique in harnessing affordable coal in order to bring electricity to the people.
Student Loan Rates
As you may have heard, Senate Democrats left Washington for a week-long period without having passed any sort of plan to address federally subsidized student loans, which doubled on July 1 without action by Congress.
It is important to note that some new federal student loan interest rates would be impacted if the Senate fails to reach an agreement. Students who borrowed money before July 1 will not see a change in their rates.
In contrast, my colleagues and I in the House passed a bill in May which leads to affordable loans with a market component, fair for both students and taxpayers.
The Senate Democrats broke into two warring camps, and as a result they have passed nothing. One camp supports a proposal that, in my opinion, is unworkable in a long-term setting. But the other camp supports a bill that, while different from the House-passed legislation, is similar in that it uses some free-market principles. If the Senate should decide to advance this version, I believe a compromise could be worked out.
I hope Senate Democrats will work together and advance a responsible plan soon.