Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Why not private utilities?

Okay, this is something I was planning to blog about in more detail in the coming months, but this story in this morning's Tulsa World makes my motivation for doing so all too vivid. A major winter storm is headed towards Oklahoma - again (hey, this is winter after all) - and the National Weather Service is saying, basically, "duck and cover". They are claiming that sustained winds and ice could knock out power lines and power outages may last several days.

I hope this turns out not to be the case and I can't help but wonder what the electric utilities are thinking about the NWS's proclamations. Unfortunately, it does seem sometimes that every time the wind blows, the power goes out, and I can't help but wonder if the situation would be much better managed by private companies competing with each other on a free market, motivated solely by profit and unfettered by all the government regulations from every direction and every penny-ante power luster who wants a piece of the action. After all, they would have to answer directly to customers, not a plethora of government agencies looking to cover their asses: customers who would be perfectly free to take their business elsewhere if they didn't like the product. And by product, I mean the whole shebang: the electricity, the price, the customer service, the prevention of outages and the handling of emergencies that arise, etc.

For starters, such companies might have buried power lines where the weather can't get to them long ago. Considering the damage caused by prolonged outages due to exposed lines in recent years, the failure of utilities to do so is criminal.

But the blame for that does not rest with the utilities, it rests with the goevernment, which created the utilities in the first place, protecting them by giving them monopoly control of their market and controlling them by regulating their every possible move. That this situation has been allowed to remain is a threat to public safety, at the very least.

Set the utility companies free and let them learn how to stand on their own two feet on a free and open market.

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