Martin Melaver  @  ChelseaGreen

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I'll Have What They're Having

Posted on Friday, February 6th, 2009 at 6:58 am by Martin Melaver

OK, I’ll admit it: I have a streak of local jingoism in me. There are times when I’ll crow to anyone who’ll listen that, believe it or not, there’s a lot of cutting-edge sustainable thinking going on in my neck of the woods. But this week took the cake.

Georgia Senate Bill 31 (SB 31) has made it out of committee and is being pushed for a Senate vote imminently. It’s a doozy. For starters, the bill ─ which is all about the funding for additional nuclear capacity at Plant Vogtle ─ does a nifty end-run around democracy, calling for a state law that would enable capital projects such as this to sidestep decades-long oversight by the Public Service Commission. In addition, the bill calls for all Georgians to pay for the darn thing now, through $1.6 billion in additional taxes, almost 10 years ahead of when the project is projected to be completed.

Can I have some of what Georgia Power is having?

As a business person, I would love nothing better than to have my customers pre-pay for my products 10 years ahead of when I have to deliver them. Talk about free use of money. I thought the federal bailout of the banks after the fact of fiduciary irresponsibility was controversial enough. But this is taking corporate lobbyist sleight-of-hand to a new level entirely.

And as a business person, if I were running a publicly-regulated company such as Georgia Power, how sweet if I could figure out a way just to go around the whole awkward democracy thing and just get the legislature to green-light funding for my project.

And as a business person, if I were running a company with public shareholders, how cool would it be if I could force a whole market to invest in my wares without even giving them the say-so of their own purse strings. Such would be the result of such a bill, by compelling current ratepayers to invest in energy they may never see on a project that is not even expected to break even for at least 16 years. How would you like to be forced into such an investment? Probably not much. But as a business person, that’s an offer I just simply couldn’t refuse.

But perhaps the most brilliant bit of all is that this bill distracts attention from where things really matter: public consideration of ways to create better efficiencies with current energy systems and investment in alternative energy solutions. But hey, gotta love that razzle-dazzle.

One of my most favorite business book is called All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, . by Robert Fulghum. I went back to my dog-eared copy recently to re-check. Hope. Not there. Didn’t think so. Nowhere could I find as part of my kindergarten rules the lesson that “Rules are made to be broken.” Nor could I find the statement, made famous in George Orwell’s Animal Farm: “All men are created equal. Some are created more equal than others.”

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