Md. Lawmakers Yawn Over Altering Energy Policy

Really, though, they all just want to go home

The Maryland General Assembly has only a few days remaining in its turbulent 2009 legislative session. Lawmakers are finally relaxing, waiting out the clock, sipping margaritas by 3 p.m., and maybe -- if they care enough -- debating a few tiny leftover measures like, say, re-regulating and fundamentally altering the entire state energy policy.

So who's the wiseguy here, making everyone do "important legislation" and junk at the finish line?

It's mostly Sen. Thomas M. Middleton, who has some fancy notion in his head that the major energy corporations are "greedy." Middleton wants to reverse heroic energy deregulation policies that the state adopted in 1999 -- at the behest of Enron lobbyists -- which have resulted in 70 percent higher energy rates for residential consumers.

Is this Thomas Middleton a Marxist Communist?

Energy deregulation has not proven affordable for residential consumers as energy suppliers are not bound by the state-regulated price caps, and can sell to utilities at whatever price the market will bear. And if these prices are high (artificially inflated?), utilities pass the cost to residential consumers in their monthly rates. For the average homeowner or renter, there are not many alternatives to utilities like Pepco and Baltimore Gas & Electric, so the cost-lowering theoretical "competition" aspect of deregulation is non-existent.

Middleton's bill, therefore, would order the utilities to construct new power plants mostly for residential consumers that would exact a surcharge from large commercial and industrial customers -- who, as professional shoppers, have reaped the only benefits of deregulation -- that buy power from them. The state would cap rates at the new plants.

The overall attitude in the General Assembly toward this bill seems to be, "Can we just freaking deal with this next year?"

Jim Newell works at the power plants Wonkette and IvyGate.

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