Denver Direct: Goodstein’s Naysayer

Monday, March 29, 2010

Goodstein’s Naysayer

by Phil Goodstein

The government claims that, in face of the epic recession, prices are stagnant. Simultaneously, Xcel is again raising its rates. Along with RTD bus fares and the cost of Denver Water, its charges have drastically escalated over the past decade. The more Xcel hikes its prices, the more its primary apologists, goody-goody environmentalists, herald it.

In 2006, Xcel’s 20-year franchise with the city expired. Far from calling it to account for its constantly soaring charges, with the assistance of the Sierra Club, John Hickenlooper actually managed to raise taxes on ratepayers while giving Xcel free reign in exchange for a few feeble “green” gestures. Recently, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), under reform chairman Ron Binz, has authorized a two-tier rate schedule for Xcel. This will permit it to build more generating plants to provide more electricity to permit greater growth and sprawl. (The more environmentalists have projected themselves as partners with Xcel, the more energy-consuming houses have become.)

While the environmentalists celebrate the PUC’s measure as a breakthrough and a fairer means of charging customers, they failed to observe the obvious: it is a rate hike amidst supposed zero inflation. It does nothing to challenge the monopoly of Xcel or ask why there is an ever greater demand for electricity amidst the endless promises of “green” builders. The rate hike shows the utter hollowness of the environmentalists in confronting utilities and the existing system. As such, the environmentalist apologists for Xcel are the associate Naysayer of the Month.