Sign here _______ , ask questions later

Foreign involvement or political alarmism?

By Cameron Tolbert

After successfully shaking off my morning drowsiness with the help of coffee, I would typically begin the solemn trek to the Monte Ahuja College of Business. One day, as I emerged from the Student Center, I was set upon by citizens concerned about China’s influence on our power grid. 

My first reaction was to recoil with fear. After some more in-depth consideration, however, I decided to look around and see if other students were signing the petition. I made up my mind to read the request; as a wise student, I pride myself on reading what I am signing. The man who was pushing the clipboard in my face interrupted my reading to assure me that the threat was real. 

Granted, I felt confident that I was doing the right thing by signing. But, I had not yet proven that signing is a good idea. I decided to Google Ohioans for Energy Security (OFES).

This organization is a for-profit, Limited Liability Corporation formed in July. The company launched a $1 million ad campaign in response to a petition to fight a referendum on House Bill 6, legislation aimed at bailing out Ohio energy companies. The ads are fierce; they claim China is tying themselves financially to our power grid. 

As a student at Cleveland State University, I was obligated to ask questions. What is House Bill 6? Why spend that much? And is what they are saying accurate?

House Bill 6 was signed into effect by Gov. Mike Dewine in July. It calls for a subsidy to support nuclear and coal-powered plants in Ohio. An anti-House Bill 6 group, Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, are trying to raise over 265,000 signatures to qualify their referendum. 

Those opposing the bill argue that the plan eliminates renewable energy standards and cuts efficiency programs. Those in favor of the law, most notably First Energy, claim that not having the subsidy will cause them to close their plants, resulting in 1,400 layoffs. With $1 billion on the line, House Bill 6 is causing tensions to rise.

House Bill 6 proponents criticize Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts for accepting massive sums from a Chinese bank. Despite these claims of foreign involvement, there have been no credible instances of Chinese investors attempting to control our power grid. I find this xenophobic and distasteful.  

However, those collecting signatures don’t make it any easier, as they make a point of not expanding upon their cause. Some petitioners are admittedly not from this state and have been flown in specially to collect your signature. I find this disrespectful. They will not have to live with the consequences their actions may cause. 

Having multiple people with multiple clipboards outside of the Student Center is a tactic intended to use the principle of social proof to persuade students. If you signed the petition, it could be that these questionable tactics worked on you.

Putting my frustration aside, however, jobs may be lost either way. While I tried to find the whole truth by speaking with the bill’s primary supporters, they have not returned my calls. 

The proposal sounds reasonable but has caveats that I would describe as politically motivated. So, I will support a referendum, and I will vote no on this bill. I hope that you will do your homework, and regardless of what you choose, thank you for voting.