Monday, July 2, 2012

The power of utilities

With the massive power outage in the D.C. area comes some enlightening reporting, the kind that doesn't hit the newsstands or airwaves.

This story on the Huffington Post shows how utilities have bought influence in Washington to protect the interests of investors and executives, but not the consumer of the electricity.

Here's a choice paragraph from the article:

"Major electric utilities have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the last two decades on campaign contributions and lobbying as part of a hugely successful push to free their industry from federal and state regulations and ostensibly embrace competition. Rather than a reduction in prices, the result has been that utilities' community obligations have been superseded by the need to drive up short-term profits, while enriching top executives and big shareholders has been prioritized over reinvesting profits in improved facilities."

This reveals, as in the Enron case more than a decade ago, how electrical power should not be in the hands of the investor class. Investors could care less that people could die from their influence. If investors make money, then all is good, at least for them.

When you deregulate a vital industry like electricity, lax oversight will lead to problems in recovering from a natural disaster because upgrades to the grid are secondary to profits.

Public utility commissions no longer protect the consumer of electricity, but rather the investors who don't even use the power.

It's time for the consumer to wrest some power back.

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