Monday, July 27, 2009

Free the Power Companies

Advocates of statism often resort to irrelevant facts to support their position. The Chronicle demonstrates this in Sunday's editorial regarding a petition to the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to prohibit power companies from disconnecting service to customers who do not pay their bill:
According to the National Weather Service meteorologists here, June's average temperatures were the hottest in a century, and July's average of 87.7 degrees is on track to rank as the hottest of any month on record in Houston.
According to the Chronicle the fact that it has been hot is justification to use government coercion against power companies. Losing air conditioning during such hot periods can be life threatening for the elderly and the ill, and their need trumps the rights of power companies. In truth, the need of one man is not a claim on the property of another, no matter how dire his situation.

Morally, this is an outrage. The power companies are expected to provide service and not be compensated for it. And it they don't do so "voluntarily", then the government should force them to do so. I wonder how many of the members of the Chronicle's editorial staff would be willing to provide their services for free.

PUC commissioners rejected a previous petition to prohibit disconnects because there is already a program to help low-income consumers with their electric bills. But even this isn't good enough for the Chronicle:
As Chronicle columnist Lisa Falkenberg pointed out, the Lite-Up Texas program has been poorly promoted and is utilized by fewer than half those eligible.
State Sen. Sylvester Turner, the driving force behind the petition, wants to force power companies to advertise the program and encourage participation. It isn't enough to offer assistance--the companies must also spend additional money trying to increase participation.

If Texans wonder why their power bills are high, this is one clue as to why. Texas does not have a free market in electricity, despite "deregulation". The electric market remains regulated, and regulations by their very nature are arbitrary and immoral. The force businesses to engage in activities that are contrary to their own judgment, increase costs to consumers, and stifle innovation.

But such facts are lost on power lusting politicians and their media cheerleaders. They would prefer to cite such compelling facts as the temperature. Here is a news flash--it is summer in Houston. It is going to be hot. And here is a news flash for consumers--our electric bills are going to go up in the summer.

The Chronicle's solution to every problem, large and small, real and imagined, is the same. No matter the issue, more controls and regulations are the answer. More prescriptions and proscriptions on the actions of businesses and individuals will cure whatever ills might face us.

The fact is, such controls are the cause of many of the issues the Chronicle seeks to remedy. It is readily evident to any honest student of history or economics that government interventions invariably lead to distortions in the market. And those distortions invariably lead to renewed calls for more government intervention. This is true in every area--housing, banking, agriculture, and electricity.

The solution is not more government intervention, but a true free market. The solution is not tweaking existing regulations, but the repeal of those regulations. The solution is to allow power companies to use their property as they judge best and to offer their product without interference or mandates from government. Freedom--the absence of coercion--benefits both consumers and producers.

Government has created the current problems with electricity providers. It is time for government to "solve" those problems by getting out of the way. Then, and only then, will Texans have an abundance of inexpensive power.


Rational Education said...

Texans, nor any other state residents in the country, 'ain't seen nothing yet' in terms of skyrocketing electricity and gas prices if 'Cap & Trade' (euphemism for Strangulate, capture and trade slaves' comforts)takes effect.

We will then head to become a country like the one I escaped from (India), where nobody except a miniscule .001% of people perhaps can afford the high costs of electricity and have air-conditioning.
I guess at that point, the then President will order "Universal Airconditioning" as a solution to producing more electricity.

Brian Phillips said...

Or, Obama will blame the power companies for high prices, set price limits, and drive the utilities into bankruptcy.