My Word for May 14, 2001

Now it's time for My Word...

And today it's about the other thing going up in smoke in California. Not pot, but household budgets burned by energy prices.

California Gov. Gray Davis was on Fox News practically begging Washington for federal price controls on energy, which would make it possible to avoid raising rates for the consumer through the sky ... and might keep Davis from losing the next election by a landslide.

A disclaimer at the start: I am a market forces loud mouth. I expect that competition will provide the controls on prices that consumers need on ... let's say ... avocados grown in Mexico, or shirts made in Honduras, or electronic gadgets made in China.

But that does not mean I believe that an organized cartel masquerading as free market competitors counts as a true free market. I thought that when OPEC was the cartel, and I think it now when a limited number of power-generating companies in California can charge whatever they want.

The prices of natural gas and oil have not risen as fast as wholesale prices of electricity in California. Somebody is making so much money that even a Conservative Republican can detect the odor of profiteering in the air.

We don't have to reinvent big government to — at least — get a temporary fix. There is a sleepy government office already in existence in Washington called the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

FERC should stop working the night shift, and check out what's going on in the clear light of day. What's happening in California will also happen elsewhere in the country if they can get away with it.

And FERC should stop it. I'm all for energy companies making bundles of money off consumers. That's business, and if you don't like it you should buy stock in those companies so you can reap the benefits too.

But, I don't think these guys should be able to throw our entire economy out of whack by making electricity and energy the thing that determines the price of everything else.

Click here for more of John Gibson's My Word ...

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