Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lindsborg Electric Rates

Reading the July 2011 Memo from the City of Lindsborg fills me with all kinds of mixed emotions.

First, it announces that my electric bill is going to rise by at least $10 per month. That's sad news I can't afford - but it could be worse.

Second, it describes the extremely responsible behavior of our city officials as they sought to prevent a much larger increase on the part of Westar Energy. I'm proud of our city officials for seeking appropriate redress of grievances - as the constitution guarantees and the Declaration implies is an inalienable right.

Third, the memo demonstrates the problem with the ideology driving our current representation in Congress - both the house and the senate. All three of our representatives are ideological free marketers, believing in the force of the "invisible hand" and complaining about the over regulation of American business.

As the memo tells the story, during the Bush administration, the free market was supposed to be set free in the electric power generation and distribution industry. That would result in more competition and lower prices for everybody. No need for government intervention!

Except it didn't work that way for us. The actions taken by the Bush government resulted in "upward pressure on the total cost of wholesale energy."

In other words, we were destined to pay more due to Bush administration actions. No matter what the City council wanted, no matter that residents couldn't search, individually for the Walmart of power distribution, we were destined to pay more due to the unbundling of power generation rates from power distribution rates.

Had we not had government regulation we would be paying much higher electric bills this fall. Westar, according to the memo, (and it's a little unclear on this point) would have increased the rate charged for power generation (not distribution) by 325% over the next twenty years. How much of that increase would we have felt in the first year is unclear. What is clear is that Westar was prepared to gouge small communities that purchased and resold energy to their cities. Perhaps to drive those municipalities out of the market altogether, thus leaving the way clear for Westar's take over of the whole of the business, leaving the consumer without an advocate. (The shut up and pay program.)

Fortunately, the City appealed and the FERC (FEDERAL Energy Regulatory Commission) ruled in our favor and we will face increases, not gouging.

This, my friends, is government at work protecting its citizens from predatory business practices. This is what government is supposed to do. This is what Huelskamp, Moran and Roberts don't want government to be able to do.

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