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Rural Missouri Magazine

No Pill for Phil

by Frank Stork

The Punxsutawney groundhog saw its shadow the second day of February. This was the scene. The Pennsylvania critter emerged from his den, the sun was out so he saw his shadow, became frightened and quickly retreated to his deep hole in the ground.

Folklore has it that all that activity calls for six more weeks of winter weather. For energy users across the country, the retreat of "Phil the Groundhog" was bad news.

The cost of natural gas rose to record highs this winter. In addition, many experienced energy shortages and blackouts. Everyone was praying for an early spring.

If we are not careful, consumers in many states could find themselves enduring high-cost electricity and power blackouts. Thinking of that, some wonder if consumers would be willing to pay a lot more for electricity to avoid a blackout? If so, would the option to purchase electricity at any price be a choice for all consumers?

For some, we think the answer to the first part of the question may be yes. We know the answer to the second part would be no.

In spite of all these emerging energy problems, some still recklessly promote moving the electric utility industry away from state regulation and its inherent consumer protections. They choose to ignore the importance of utility responsibility as it relates to a reliable energy supply.

Californians didn't find out about the term and the obligation to build new generation plants until it was too late. Having discovered its importance, they now find they cannot retrieve what they gave away. As they now desperately scramble for short-term fixes that sound good they will probably wind up making things worse.

Many who pushed states into deregulation because it sounded good are now behaving like Punxsutawney Phil. What Phil saw in the bright sunlight scared him so he quickly retreated.

Those who recklessly pushed for deregulation in California are now seeing their flawed deregulation theories exposed to the light of day. The resulting high electric rates and blackouts cast a shadow of suspicion over them. They quickly retreated and are now digging themselves into a deeper hole.

There is no pill that Phil can take to cure his fear of shadows. The cure for flawed law and electric utility deregulation is very expensive. One of my mother's pearls of wisdom, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," fits this situation very well.

The preventative medicine we recommend for those exposed to the "if it sounds good, lets do it" virus, is a strong dose of awareness and common sense. We further suggest that the preventative medicine be taken daily for as long as the debate on this critical issue continues.

Stork was executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives and a member of Three Rivers Electric Co-op.

 

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Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives

Rural Missouri
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P.O. Box 1645 • Jefferson City, Mo. 65102
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