Thursday, February 12, 2009

Power to the People

There is a furious discussion going on among activists right now in Louisville about the foreign-owned, for-profit electric utility that operates LG&E, known as E.ON (E.OFF to activists). The prevailing idea among the group is to bury the power lines to protect them as well as protect the public from the damage and stupidity that comes with major weather events like Windstorm 2008, Ice Storm 2009 and last night's February Thunderstorm. These storms rip down power lines and leave "customers" with no recourse but to flock to shelters or sit and wait for the lines to be strung up again. The victims of the storm are then required to pay handsomely to protect the profits for the shareholders of E.ON. That is an idea that is losing favor quickly around here, and rightly so.

Publicly owned utilities have historically had lower costs and better local control through locally-elected boards. Investor-owned utilities, particularly those foreign-owned such as E.ON exist only as a cash register for stock holders who have no concern for the community in which the utility operates. Enriching the investors is the goal. Profit is job one.

Public Service Commissions, as in Kentucky, set rates for investor owned utilities. The commissions are unaccountable, appointed (unelected) boards that serve only the company wishes for profit, and do not exist to promote the well-being of the power grid, transmission system or customer.

It is my opinion a publicly owned utility would serve the community's interest in future power generation technologies such as wind, water and solar. As it currently stands in Louisville with E.ON, one can expect to rely on filthy coal-fired power plants until the end of time. Or the end of coal. And with all the power being transferred via exposed, overhead lines that are vulnerable to the crazy weather patterns we are experiencing.

A government-owned utility isn't the answer. Neither is what we have now.

Leo Weekly's Stephen George has written an excellent article on the idea of a municipally-owned electric utility that should get your attention. Read it HERE.

If you aren't angry about this situation, wait until you get your next bill.

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