Dan Popp
Pulling the plug
By Dan Popp
May 3, 2010

An enemy has done this. — Jesus (Matthew 13:28)

Ohio is a state in decline, if not free-fall. The left's War on Reality has made my state an increasingly inhospitable place to work and live. For decades our tax policies have been driving businesses to friendlier regions, and today unemployment in the Buckeye State is even higher than the obscene national average.

But the most nonsensical thing I've heard coming out of Columbus is Senate Bill 221. Signed into law in 2008, this legislation forces electric utilities to reduce the amount of energy its customers use.

Just ponder that for a moment. Beyond the absurdity of an enterprise trying to wean people off its product, and the hypocrisy of this rule coming from the government (which would never dream of curtailing its own services), this law seems to be evidence of mass insanity if the goal of state policies is to encourage economic growth.

Which needs more energy — a vibrant, growing state, or a stagnant, dying state? The answer seems undeniable: A state experiencing an influx of people, whose bustling businesses are making boatloads of new products to sell here and elsewhere, needs electrical power — and lots of it. By throttling the energy utilization in the state, it's as if our "leaders" want to ensure that Ohio cannot be revived.

But we're hardly alone. There are similar laws coming online in Pennsylvania (PA Act 129), New Jersey (The Energy Master Plan), and probably elsewhere.

Aren't these lawmakers some of the same people that weep on camera about the loss of manufacturing jobs in the Midwest? What are we supposed to manufacture things with — gerbil power?

SB 221 requires power companies to reduce the demand for their own services slightly by 2012, and significantly by 2025. Fifteen years from now Ohio's homes, industries, offices, shops and government buildings must use 22% less electricity than they do today. There are mandates for the reduction of both overall consumption, and "peak demand."

How will electric companies do this? How will a supplier reduce demand? If you ask an economist how to reduce demand, he might tell you to raise the price. And there is some of that in the works, aside from the federal Cap-and-Tax scheme. But hiking rates for a kilowatt-hour goes against the grain of politicians; they want to portray themselves as champions of the downtrodden, defenders against the evil Capitalists, slayers of the Goliath utilities. Perennial brownouts on the Left Coast occur precisely because California legislators refuse to allow energy prices to rise to market levels.

How, then? How will suppliers reduce demand?

Well, in the usual anti-market, anti-consumer ways: The government will dangle other people's tax dollars in your face to entice you to buy "energy efficient" appliances; it will simultaneously subsidize inefficient technologies like wind and solar power; and when all else fails, it will reach into your home or business and adjust your power usage for you. Oh, yeah. The Direct Load Control Thermostat is real, and it will be a necessary component of the effort to meet peak-demand-reduction quotas.

Power companies will pay fines if they don't comply with these regulations on time and fully. Any fines must, of course, ultimately come from your pocket. And the fine money will go to fund more government control over energy.

I wish I were making that up.

Why is this being done? To reduce pollution? Ohio does burn a lot of coal for its electricity needs. But there are plenty of other laws already on the books to curb smokestack emissions. And SB 221 itself requires utilities to invest its customers' money in less-efficient, "renewable" energy sources. So why the quixotic quest to slay (or at least cripple) the dragon known as Alternating Current?

If a nation wanted to crush an enemy, it might try to reduce its electrical capacity, perhaps by bombing its generating plants. What the Allies accomplished with many dangerous and costly B-17 sorties in the Second World War can be done today with legislation.

Now, that's progress.

I've never been a conspiracy theorist. I hope someone can come up with more plausible explanation as to why the elected officials of my state seem to want to permanently pull the plug on its prosperity. Perhaps Ohio's Amish are a bigger voting bloc than I realize.

Meanwhile, how about a law that mandates a reduction of government by 22% by 2025? It's not much, but it's a start. Maybe it would set an example for those horrible energy providers.

Will the last one out of Ohio please turn off the CFLs?

And release the gerbils?

© Dan Popp


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)


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