atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#2853: That's a good point!

Brian Dunbar comments on my mystification over my utility bill in the last post:
Not everything is the fault of the government. But if an otherwise straightforward process isn't ... the way to bet is that the government is involved in some way.

Which is to say, I suspect the hand of your utility regulation body is at work.
This state is so f-ed up I don't know where to begin, but I guess I can start with the Citizens' Utility Board.

The CUB ensures we don't pay anything like market rates for power. They insert an extra layer of bureaucracy and regulation between the power company and the consumers, making all price negotiations extra-complex.

The theory goes that the power company effectively has a monopoly, and someone has to protect the citizens from price-gouging and other monopolistic practices, so we need CUB to make sure that those power companies toe the line! In practice, however, all it does is prevent price competition and fix the price of power at a certain (high) rate.

A few years ago there was a big imbroglio over eletricity rates. You see, CUB and ComEd made a deal: ComEd would maintain power rates at a certain level for a set number of years, after which ComEd could raise prices to a higher level. It's easy to see why ComEd would jump at the deal: they could plan how to maximize profits over the course of the agreement and wouldn't have to spend all kinds of money on fighting for a rate increase, the way they usually did. It was a pretty fair compromise.

So Illinois consumers sailed along for several years. The price of power went up, but not in Illinois, because ComEd was hewing to its agreement. I bet you know what happened when the "plateau" period ended and ComEd raised its rates. You can guess, even if you don't, right?

That's right! CUB complained about the rate increase. It was "unfair". It was a "surprise" and a "shock" to many people who saw--gasp!--rate increases on their electric bills for the first time in seven years!

...and so ComEd had to turn around and lower their rates again and do all kinds of other things to keep CUB happy, because CUB--despite its name, "Citizens' Utility Board--is a government regulatory body.

I had CUB pegged for what it is years ago. For a very long time, CUB propaganda was included in license plate renewal envelopes; if you had to put new plates on your car, along with the renewal form you got a letter from CUB asking for donations and support and-and-and. I never really thought about it at the time; my instincts told me it was a bunch of quasi-socialist horseshit and I left it at that.

But what other organizations were allowed to solicit donations in official state mailings? Jack and shit, that's who; and Jack left town.

...and if you think about it, you realize that CUB exists solely to regulate the power company. I mean, when it was formed, there was one telephone company for the entire country, and one state couldn't tell that company what to do. Similarly there were no cable TV companies; nor were there ISPs, because Al Gore hadn't invented the Internet yet. There's the gas company, but there are several regional providers and not everyone buys from one company even within regions; and some rural folks have propane trucked to their houses rather than pay to have a gas line run to their houses. (When you're miles from the nearest supply main? Of course it's cheaper!)

Competition for phone services was impossible, competition for gas supply already existed, and the modern services we take for granted had not yet been invented--what does that leave?

Electricity, of course!

So that's what it comes down to: the stupidly-designed power bill comes right from government intervention in what ought to be a matter between me and the power company. No wonder it doesn't make sense.

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