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Half the Energy Costs, Twice the Monthly Bills?

Local residents irate over high utility bills

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It's been a cold winter in the Washington metropolitan area, duh. But this has happened before, and since the prices of oil, natural gas and other forms of raw energy nosedived in the second half of 2008, home energy bills shouldn't be too high. So why are they so high?

High-volume local energy utilities, including Pepco and Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. (BGE), have admitted to receiving an unusually high number of customer complaints about rates this winter. Lawmakers have heard the same thing, and they're looking into it.

So can we just blame this on the Arabs and call it a day?

Well if you try hard enough, you can probably blame anything on the Arabs, but the problem in large part stems from the deregulation of the Maryland electricity markets in 1999. This lovely piece of legislation made utility companies buy power from generation companies in the open market. These suppliers aren't bound by caps and often sell at prices well above the cost of production. The ulitities then pass these costs to you, the proud homeowner. Imagine.

And this winter, customers find themselves paying for power purchased in 2007 and 2008, before the energy bubble burst, as utilities pay off those debts.

Do not bother calling your utility company to complain about this. They will just tell you to turn your thermostat down from a boiling 62 degrees.

Let us be thankful that outside of energy, no other domestic markets have been hurt by deregulation measures taken in the last decade.

Jim Newell writes for Wonkette and IvyGate from the comfort of his 42-degree home.

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