Friday, February 02, 2007


Giving the People What They Want

Ms. Dray has been good enough to respond to my earlier posting below: Blame and Responsibility in Maryland's Energy Debacle Jousting for Justice

She makes a valid point about differentiating between assigning blame and assigning responsibility. Fair enough – I’m not sure the Dems were that eager to make that distinction during the election but there is a difference and I’ll accept that. She also states:

“[T]he GOP loves deregulation and the free market so much, that if they had been in power, they would have deregulated the industry too. That the GOP certainly has not and is not making a compelling case for regulation, and would, therefore, be unable or unwilling to do anything about it at the state level.” (correction: to be fair, she does make clear that these are her impressions of what voters felt last election)

Well, I am an unabashed free marketer and I certainly hope the GOPers would have also deregulated the industry. Deregulation made and continues to make sense because I believe generally that competition has provided, is providing and will provide for our greater good.

But you have to allow for real competition for it to work – not this poseur competitive scheme concocted back in 1999 that would have made any former Soviet planner proud.

Ms. Dray also documents her understanding of what the people wanted vis-à-vis the BGE matter. Apparently, they were not happy with the Public Service Commission which Ms. Dray took to be a “Throw de bums out” sentiment.

Well, the Chairman just resigned and with another vacancy already in place, Governor O’Malley just has to wait on the expiration of Commissioner Williams’ term to have his own majority-appointed commission.

(Fun fact: The Commissioner with the closest ties to the industry would probably be Governor Glendening appointee, Harold Williams who spent 20 years in the employ of BGE.)

Not often harped on amidst the posturings and sound-bites is the pesky fact that EVERY SINGLE MEMBER of that commission is and was confirmed by the Maryland State Senate – usually unanimously. Removal of a commissioner can only be by the Governor for incompetence or misconduct. (The Court of Appeals had to “gently” remind the legislature of that last year.) Ask Bob Ehrlich how easy it is to fire someone from the employ of Maryland – he was investigated for firing a few people who supposedly served at his pleasure. You’d think the bar would be a bit higher to firing those who needed (and received) Senate confirmation.

Overall though I don’t think the BGE matter was that big a deal in the election. Certainly the PEPCO customers I talked weren’t particularly outraged at the prospect of BGE customers paying market rates. If this is what the people want though; fine. But bad policy isn’t leadership, it’s at best a campaign tactic. New commissioners and new below-market rate structures may garner approving stories in the Baltimore Sun but they don’t stoke the marketplace for producers. And somewhere along the line, you’re going to need them.

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