Cap & Trade and Green Energy production will drive energy costs up?

But when utility companies spend money greasing the palms of our PUC officials that has nothing to do with our energy costs going up?

Public Utilities Commissioner Gary Hanson solicited money for an energy conference from many of the Midwest utility companies that the PUC regulates.

If this is the kind of thing that Gary thinks is okay, I would prefer he does not run for Mayor of Sioux Falls next year. We already have enough of that shit going on in City Hall.

Otter Tail Power Co., a $2,500 sponsor of last week’s conference, has a 15.3 percent rate increase, or $3.8 million, pending before the South Dakota PUC.

Kind of like Sioux Falls developers funding the campaigns of the City Councilors who voted for an unecessary tax increase last year that benefits them. But hey, there is no connection, just look the other way.

“The simple answer is, they should have never done this,” said David Schultz, a professor of business at Hamline University in St. Paul and a frequent lecturer on political ethics. “I question the motive, the conflict of interest is there. Customers, going forward, will question whether their next rate increase is on merit, or based on a trivial, but important, sponsorship as the utilities came through for these commissioners when they needed it.”

I have questioned utility sponsorship for years. This story is way overdue. For instance one of the biggest sponsors of SculptureYawn is Excel Energy, with it’s state director being the key founder, who probably spends countless hours of company time and resources to organize the event. I even talked to the VP of Excel about it once on the phone, wondering how the SD director can be critical of SculptureWalk dissenters (myself) on company time? Of course he defended him, basically saying he has to freewill to do what he wants. How do I get a job like that? While I am all for corporations sponsoring public art, I question our rates going up every year while service gets poorer. How about finding ways to save customers money on utilities instead throwing thousands of dollars around for din-dins and gigantic welded metal geese and turtles?

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Once again, pay to play is alive and well in South Dakota and it’s time the State Legislature ponied up and made this practice illegal. Yeah right, who am I kidding?



13 comments ↓

#1 Ghost of Dude on 05.18.09 at 7:49 am

In the short term, yes it will drive energy prices up. The alternatives to CO2 emitting power plants are currently under-powered and relatively expensive. Once that infrastructure is in place, it will get cheaper.
The other alternative is to build nuke plants, but that takes time too.

#2 l3wis on 05.18.09 at 8:22 am

I know that, that’s why I tell people we have to bite the bullet. Ironically we should have started this process in the late 70’s but Reagan got elected and took a big crap on that idea.

I also find it funny that the SD PUC delegation is against Cap and Trade right at the same time the Utility companies are buying them a free dinner.

#3 Ghost of Dude on 05.18.09 at 8:54 am

The utility companies probably don’t give a shit either way about it. If they have to jack their prices up, they will.
Meanwhile, people living just out of reach of help on their utility bills will be the ones who really bite the bullet. They don’t get to pass on costs.

#4 Costner on 05.18.09 at 9:12 am

Anytime I see adds paid for by the huge energy conglomerates complaining about new taxes on the oil and gasoline industry it makes me think it might just be a good idea.

After all…when is the last time an oil company actually did something in the best interests of the public rather than their shareholders?

#5 Ghost of Dude on 05.18.09 at 9:17 am

Their shareholders happen to be a very large number of people who I would consider “the public”. Pension funds, mutual funds, college savings plans, and other institutional investors make up a large percentage of their investors. Despite the huge dollar amounts their executives’ stock options go for, the vast majority of earnings help keep old folks’ retirement portfolios solvent.
If you tax a utility company that basically has a monopoly, will you still be mad when they pass on those costs to their customers?

#6 Costner on 05.18.09 at 9:37 am

When I speak of shareholders I’m not so much concerned with myself who happens to own some mutual funds with oil stocks, so my total ownershiop stake in Exxon might be 8 or 12 shares.

I’m talking about the guy who owns 20 or 30 million shares or the CEO who was granted 4 million stock options last year. Those are the guys who the board of directors is looking to protect….they could give a rats ass about me or anyone else with fewer than a million or so shares of stock.

As far as taxing them and being made when they raise rates, no I wouldn’t be mad because I know the tax structure would spur development of alternatives. If you don’t impact people in the pocketbook they don’t have any incentive to change…so if I pay an extra $10 a month for electricity but it spurs development of new renewable options or helps solar panels beomce affordable for home use or convinces people to build nuclear reactors instead of yet another coal plant….it will be worth it.

All the increased cost really does is make the payback period of alternatives more attractive. If I show a 25 year payback for solar panels on my roof with today’s rates, it isn’t so attractive. On the other hand if they jack up rates and all of the sudden that payback period is only 12 years… well I might just be ordering up some panels.

#7 l3wis on 05.18.09 at 11:10 am

“As far as taxing them and being made when they raise rates, no I wouldn’t be mad because I know the tax structure would spur development of alternatives.”

That’s why I support it. Besides, it’s not me who is going to take it in the shorts when energy prices go up. Sure I may have to pay $30 bucks more a month but a manufacturing place just might find ways to be more efficient when their bills go up. That’s really it’s intention. It’s like what a friend said to me last year when gas was at about $4 a gallon, he said, “I wish it was at $12 a gallon, it would get people thinking about being more efficient.” That is the real intention of cap and trade.

#8 Ghost of Dude on 05.18.09 at 12:23 pm

When I speak of shareholders I’m not so much concerned with myself who happens to own some mutual funds with oil stocks, so my total ownership stake in Exxon might be 8 or 12 shares.

You actually don’t own any shares directly. The mutual fund owns them, and you own shares in the fund. The fund probably owns thousands of shares of different energy companies ranging from Exxon to oilfield supply and drilling companies.

I’m talking about the guy who owns 20 or 30 million shares or the CEO who was granted 4 million stock options last year. Those are the guys who the board of directors is looking to protect….they could give a rats ass about me or anyone else with fewer than a million or so shares of stock.

They don’t give a rat’s ass about you. But they do give a rat’s ass about any mutual funds (or pension funds, or institutional endowments) with a crapload of their stock. If one of those intstitutional shareholders starts moving stock, they take notice. Their CEO’s – even with their hundreds of millions in stock options – own a paltry percentage of their total common stock.

Also, why is paying an extra $10-$30 on your electric bill every month OK, but paying an additional eight cents per $100 in sales tax not okay?

#9 l3wis on 05.18.09 at 12:38 pm

If the extra money is being spent on making America energy independent while creating green energy and jobs I’m all for it. Spending $5 million dollars on roads that developers should be paying for themselves is a waste. There is a difference.

#10 Ghost of Dude on 05.18.09 at 12:45 pm

The goal is admirable, but I really hope there’s some sort of plan in place to help people who can’t afford to write a check for an extra $10-$30/ month for electricity.
I also don’t trust the utilities to actually follow through and start investing in cleaner methods of power generation when they can just pass on the costs until a new president and congress come into power and reverse cap and trade.

#11 Costner on 05.18.09 at 12:59 pm

You actually don’t own any shares directly.

I undestand that – I’m speaking figuratively. If you looked at the mutual fund and their percentage held in ExxonMobil for instance, and then compared that to how many shares of the mutual fund I own – the equivalent wouldn’t be more than a few shares.

I do own an energy fund however so maybe my guesstimate is off, but the bottom line is it is a small portion of my overall portfolio and I still am of no concern to those sitting on the board when they take action on behalf of their shareholders.

Also, why is paying an extra $10-$30 on your electric bill every month OK, but paying an additional eight cents per $100 in sales tax not okay?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I think the additional eight cents per $100 is just fine. It is the way they spend that eight cents per $100 I have a problem with. I’d be more than happy to pay it if it meant they were paying down debt at a rate faster than they accumulate it or if they put that money in a fund designed to help supplement education, but during a time they are bragging about putting millions into reserve and while they rack up over $320 Million in city debt doesn’t seem like a fine time to raise sales taxes.

But thats just me.

#12 l3wis on 05.18.09 at 1:16 pm

Exactly, that’s what it has always been about, the spending priorities of the city. Think about it. By the time Munson leaves office he will have racked up almost $300 million dollars in debt by himself. And during that time period, we still don’t have the Lewis and Clark pipeline, our sewer system infrastructure collapsed and the city is $80 million behind on road repairs, NOT new roads. I wouldn’t have a problem with a tax increase and that much debt if he had actual infrastructure improvements to show for it.

#13 redhatterb on 05.18.09 at 10:09 pm

13wis, I agree with your last point.