Friday, August 15, 2008

Here's a thought

The availability of electricity is one of the building blocks of modern society.  Much like the availability of clean, fresh water was the building block of earlier society.

Local and regional governments acted to ensure that water was clean, fresh, abundant, and cheap, and that no one company made undue profit from its distribution or production.

In short, city, county, or state monopolies owned and controlled the water distribution.  Today, that water is tapped and bottled for those of us who don’t mind paying through the eyes for bottled water, but clean, fresh, and cheap water is piped into each and every house where utilities exist (some communities still operate off of well water).

Since it’s a natural resource, production was controlled by God, so nobody could profit off of that.


Well…  what about energy production?  I know, there used to be monopolies that controlled the production, transmission, and distribution of electrons to power our stuff.  But we’ve done away with that and now there’s hemming and hawing about companies manipulating the market to increase profits on what is essentially a vital building block of modern society.


What if a company manipulated the supply of water to increase profits?  Don’t like to pay 4 or 5 times as much for water in the summer?  Well, put out a rain catch and make your own.

That’s basically what power companies are telling us to do today.  Don’t like the price of energy?  Well, use less and produce your own.  Good luck.


There has got to be some way to separate the profit incentive from the production demand for electrical generation.  Cities ensure abundant water or they, quite literally, dry up and die.  In this day and age, without electricity a city will effectively dry up and die.  What gets manufactured without electricity?  What gets assembled without electricity?  Who lives in a community without electricity?  Assuming we move to plug-in electric cars, where will that power come from?  Furthermore, what incentive does a power company have to invest extra money today in a clean energy production plant, when dirty energy is cheaper and more abundant?  More precisely, why build a nuclear power plant in every state when you can build four times that many coal plants for the same price or less?  Plus, having more power plants that produce less per plant (at a cheaper cost per unit) allows a company more flexibility in managing peaks and troughs.

So, what’s a capitalist to do?

Simply taxing oil and/or gas and/or emissions simply won’t do the trick.  That just makes the current means more expensive and new technologies, by default, cheaper.  But taxes can be dodged, loopholes can be exploited, and the best  intentions of mice and men blah blah or the path to hell is paved with good intentions blah blah.

No, there has to be some other solution.  There has to be some other incentive other than mere “profit” (though that is enticing) to push a company or individual to pay twice as much for energy that isn’t generated by burning a dead dinosaur.


Except, there’s no reason for a company to exist other than to make profit.


And nationalizing energy production is a non-starter…  or is it?


Reliant Energy may make enough money in the deregulated markets of Texas and California to put their name on a stadium complex, but I’ve never once seen a stadium with “Municipal Water Works” stamped on the roof line, though everyone drinks clean, fresh water.

I’m not so sure I’m convinced that pure electrical deregulation is such a good idea.



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