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The Nonpolitical Columnist Takes on the Guv-elect’s Energy Program

     Okay. We’re talking energy policy. Nothing to do with jogging or heat exhaustion or bars - we’re talking heating our homes and running our refrigerators. I had so much fun not being a political columnist last week, I decided to try it again. Plus I read this article in the paper and I couldn’t resist. Besides, the Cubs lost and the Red Sox lost and what else is there for a gal to do?

     So here, with a little unsolicited commentary, is the way I understand the article, “Schwarzenegger ready to power up his energy policy,” by Craig D. Rose, published last Friday in the San Diego Union-Tribune:

     The big guys won’t invest in power plants any more because the market is still part regulated and part not-regulated. Too confusing, I guess.  So the guv-elect says on account of this, we might have, it’s possible we’ll have, we could have, power outages by the year 2006.

     In order to not have power outages that might or might not happen three years from now or maybe sooner or possibly later, the guv-elect plans to mandate investment in power reserves. The chosen investors? That would be you ’n me. Unless you own a power plant.

     To make it easy for us, Arnie’s gonna let us pay a whole bunch extra with our monthly utility bills - for all that gas and electricity that we don’t need now but might need later when the shortage comes. If it comes.

     Now the big boys - the commercial and industrial power users - don’t get to pay. Guv-elect Arnie’s beholden to no one. So the big guys don’t get to pay a penny for all those reserves they’ll prob’ly use the most of when the power goes out. Plus they have to agree to let the state shut off their electricity whenever the power runs out.

     Hmmmm. Mine just shuts off automatically.

     Where was I? Oh yeah, deregulate, mandate investments in reserves, develop lots of renewable power generation sources (another Great Investment Opportunity for “small ratepayers”). And then there are the rates.

     Not to worry. Could you believe it? Rates are gonna be tied to the actual cost of power. Logical. ’Course that’s only for industrial and commercial users.

     Not for you ’n me. We get deregulated rates. Remember? The ones we loved so much a coupl’a years ago. Speaking of which, the FERC’s gonna give us a refund for those inflated rates we paid. ’Bout nine billion dollars. However, Arnie hasn’t decided yet whether or not to play the role of The Enforcer – in case the FERC forgets to pay us back.

     Well, you know how noncommittal Arnie is. I think he’s waiting ’til he can figure out how to charge it to our utility bills. Prob’ly call it the Refund Fee.

     So you won’t be surprised to hear that the executive officer of the National Energy Marketers Association is quoted as saying “The feedback… from the industry is that the Schwarzenegger energy program was received quite favorably.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any quotes from Sherry McPierce or John Smith or that guy who runs the car wash. But then, maybe those weren’t printable.

     I guess we could all give Guv-elect Arnie and the Energy Marketers our refunds from Sempra Energy. Hear about those? We got ours yesterday. Well, not the refund exactly – a notification letter. Seems the costs in the Department of Water Resources (Water? Don’t ask me…) weren’t as high as expected last year, so as you’d expect, our Electricity Provider is sending us a refund.

     Per the instructions, my housemate verified our mailing address, signed the enclosed postcard and mailed it off. When we get the check, we plan to forward it to Arnie.

     I’m sure the dollar and eleven cents will give him a powerful start on those energy reserves.

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