FRANKFORT – Now this is a head-scratcher: Electric cars might be the answer to lowering electric bills for Kentuckians.

At least that is what the state’s top energy and environment official thinks. The way he figures it, electric rates are increasing to make up for a drop in demand. One way to reserve this trend is creating a new market for electricity here in Kentucky – and that is through electric cars.

That’s why state Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Charles Snavely wants to spend $3.05 million on electric car charging stations across Kentucky. He floated the idea while testifying before Thursday’s meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations & Revenue of which I’m a member. (I’m also a member of the group’s budget review subcommittees on justice and judiciary, in addition to transportation.)

Snavely says there simply aren’t enough places to juice up electric vehicles in Kentucky right now, thus suppressing sales of electric cars. It the classic chicken or the egg causality dilemma.

The money would come from Kentucky’s share of the Volkswagen Settlement. The German car company was ordered to give Kentucky $20.4 million over the next decade for lying about how much pollution their diesel cars belched out.

Since 80 percent of electricity in Kentucky still comes from coal, the envisioned popularity of electric cars could help revive our struggling coal industry. And electrification moves the source of pollution from the about 1.7 million registered vehicles in Kentucky to a handful of power plants where regulators can better implement pollution control technology.

Snavely said all of this is why electrification of vehicles is a good story for Kentucky coal. And apparently, he isn’t the only one to think this. I did a quick search of the internet and came up with these headlines from mainstream publishers: “More electric cars mean more coal” and “Electric cars and the coal that runs them.”

Electric cars often need an entire night to recharge at home, and they can "increase a house's power consumption by 50 percent or more," The New York Times reported in 2013. So there indeed is fact supporting the idea that these electric cars could really boost demand for electricity.

As I said, it’s a head stretcher. I never thought a Chevy Volt might be the answer to affordable electricity in Eastern Kentucky.

I’ll keep you posted on any new developments, as we will take the interim A&R committee on the road to Kentucky’s Jackson Purchase region. The next meeting will be on Sept. 27 in Paducah.

In closing, I would be remiss if I did not pay homage to an American war hero and United States senator, John McCain. Senator McCain proved that, regardless of party affiliation and theological differences, it is possible to work together for the common good and the betterment of our country. He was a model husband, father and friend, and, most of all, he was a great American.

In his return to the United States Senate floor following his cancer diagnosis, Senator McCain proclaimed to the American people, “..let’s return to regular order.” Throughout my political career, I always considered myself a proponent of the separation of power, a protector of the institution that is the legislative branch of government and the United States and Kentucky Constitutions.  I have been a member of both major parties, recognize the failures of both, and like most Americans do not agree with the tenets of either in the whole. Senator McCain will forever be remembered, not just for his many accomplishments, but more for his unquestioned patriotism and love of country. Rest in peace, Senator McCain – you served well.

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