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Monday, November 08, 2004

Red Voters Will Be Red-Faced Over Electric Increase

Although the rural vote went largely for President Bush, many such voters in rural Alachua County will soon be seeing what they actually voted for. And they won't be happy.

The spate of hurricanes this year has obviously caused a significant amount of damage to the state's utility infrastructure. Since Hurricane Andrew, investor-owned utility companies have been required to maintain a reserve fund to pay for hurricane damage, and that fund is maintained by additional fees added to customers' bills each month.

As if often the case with private utility companies (see Enron, MCI Worldcom, etc.), the companies are more interested in profits and its investors than making sure its customers are care for. So big surprise when post-hurricane season, FP&L, Progress Energy and others are asking the state to allow them to increase electric rates to pay for the hurricane clean-up.

Yes, that's right, although their customers have faithfully been paying into this hurricane reserve fund for more than a decade, and despite the fact that these utility companies post annual profits totalling hundreds of millions of dollars, these companies want the customers to pay for the cleanup through higher bills.

President Bush and his puppet master, Vice President Dick Cheney, smile on such behavior, as they did with Enron and other utility companies as they bilked Californians during their energy crisis and as they did when they wrote the nation's energy policy in secret with a committee comprised of only utility company representatives. The concept of governments requiring private utility companies to prepare for disasters is not part of the Bush agenda.

Here in Gainesville, most of us will not see an increase related to the hurricane clean-up, because Gainesville Regional Utilities is a municipal power company that will receive money from FEMA's hurricane reserve fund to cover such costs.

Rural areas of the county, however, are less likely to be serviced by GRU, and in fact most of Florida is served by investor-owned companies and will certainly be paying more. Brother Jeb's appointments to the Public Service Commission, which regulates the industry and decides on all rate increase proposals, has already hinted that it expects the companies to do as much.

Ah well, at least gays won't be able to have legal weddings!

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