This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 7, 2002 1:05 AM. The previous post in this blog was A rare night at the flicks. The next post in this blog is Ring. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Saturday, December 7, 2002

Free market follies

Oregonians with a taste for the bizarre usually need go no further than their mailboxes to satisfy their cravings. Last week it was a six-page newsletter from the Port of Portland about its highly curious airport noise "study." Yesterday it was a thick packet from the power company inviting us to choose from among no fewer than six different types of electricity contracts.

Under a law passed by the 1999 Oregon Legislature in the midst of the Enron-manufactured phony energy crisis, all of us here in the Beaver State now get the chance to pick from a variety of "energy supply options." You've got your "Basic Service," your "Time of Use" plan, your "Seasonal Flux" plan, or any one of three choices for "renewable power": something called "Fixed Renewable, Blue Sky," your "Renewable Usage, Green Mountain Energy Electricity," and lastly your "Habitat, Green Mountain Energy Salmon-Friendly Plan."

Sound like a lot to digest? Have no fear. The power company includes not only an enrollment form and a dense, small-print explanatory letter, but also not one but two brochures with all the essential details. The enclosure I like the best is "Your Power Options at a Glance for Residential Customers," which folds out into a byzantine 8.5-by-25-inch (not a typo) collection of data, including seven tables, six pie charts, and six bar graphs. And I'm no expert, but the type on this looks like 10 point at most. Some "glance"!

Not only am I insulted at the suggestion that the average resident can, or should have to, actually understand all this crap. What's really aggravating is thinking about how much it all must be costing the consumers and/or taxpayers of our fair state. Not to mention all the time that is being wasted by anyone who takes this seriously.

Fortunately for me, the folks at the power company have done a bit of ciphering on my behalf, and they tell me that "Basic Service" is still likely to be the cheapest for me. And to stick with "Basic," I don't need to respond. But "Time of Use" is a close second, just a dime a month more expensive, and that's just an estimate based on an "average" usage pattern. Who knows whether our household could do better, since we do burn more power than our neighbors in the wee hours of the morning?

You know what? I don't care. Call me a crazy nut, but I'm going to throw all this material in the round file where it belongs, and stick with "Basic Service."

This is the second round of this nonsense we've gotten. The first came with the start of this ludicrous regime last summer. One of my fondest wishes for the new year is that there will be no third round of it.

The Oregon Legislature is such a disgrace. Here we are in a major fiscal crisis, with public schools falling apart, the public employee pension system about the swallow up the state's entire economy, an 11 percent retroactive state income tax increase on the ballot in January, and unemployment virtually leading the nation, and what does the citizenry have to show for the work of our lawmakers? Junk legislation like this.

Now that we've realized that the boys at Enron were jerking everybody's chains and selling us a fake image of the power market, let's go back to the sensible system we had before. You know, the one every sane state still has. Hey, Gov-Elect Kulongoski, are you listening? Please do us all a favor and stop this insanity before we get another one of these atrocities in our mailboxes.

And the rest of you Salem solons, enough with your ham-handed attempts at free market engineering. If you want another thousand bucks a year or so from me in income taxes, please do your jobs and put some elbow grease to something that matters more than knocking a quarter a month off my electric bill.

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