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Enron II: Nevada's Battle-Born Toxic Event
by Andrew Barbano
Jun 05, 2013 | 1174 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
You just bought the best investment advice in the world for which Warren Buffet will make you pay for the rest of your life.

Last week came word that the legendary billionaire investor is buying NVEnergy for about $10 billion. Thanks to last-minute legislative skulduggery, he will get the closest thing to a deregulated monopoly outside of major league baseball and insurance.

NVE's hit men did a braggy half-hour with TV commentator Jon Ralston.

Lobbyist Peter "Snidely Whiplash" Ernaut asserted that lawmakers and voters are too stupid to understand the nuances of utility legislation.

"Utility issues are very complex," Ernaut said, adding that it takes many years to become an expert.

Having served an apprenticeship under Dr. David Schwartz, the best utility economist in the United States, I know first-hand that he's wrong.

Which is not to say that Senate Bill 123 doesn't require serious reading between the lines.

My biggest objection lies in its whoring of green energy. Abusing the name of alternative fuels, these lowlifes not only engineered a huge transfer of money from ratepayers, but also took a giant leap down the slippery slope of deregulation.

Call it Enron, Part Deux.

Before SB123, the Public Utilities Commission had two often-conflicting roles: Regulating the industry and balancing stockholder profit against ratepayer fairness.

In the name of green energy, SB123 has added new competing interests: Nevada jobs and general state economic benefit. Seems reasonable but in reality it means ratepayers are now one-quarter instead of half the equation. Divide and conquer.

Worse, environmental issues will be mostly removed from PUC purview. Nevada's never much cared about pollution anyway. Look at all the abandoned mines and our two nuclear test sites.

The principal criticism of SB123 came from Assembly Republicans, notably my former Tribune colleague in columny Ira Hansen, R-Sparks. We have always disagreed on most issues with the notable exception of corporate welfare.

The uberconservative Nevada Policy Research Institute issued a couple of detailed criticisms of the measure. Dr. Schwartz would have given them an A.

The Nevada State AFL-CIO, representing workers desperate for jobs, supported the bill. But the union representing NVE employees did not.

"IBEW Local 1245's initial reaction to this news is negative. We know the great damage that MidAmerican (Buffet's company) has inflicted on the workers and utility customers of Iowa, Utah, Illinois and Oregon," the union stated.

Warren Buffet has done us one favor: He served notice that the U.S. economy will be in a sideways slide at best for the next decade.

One of the first things you learn in college investment class is that when times get tough, put your money in basics that people must buy: food, gasoline, electricity.

Look where Mr. Dairy Queen of Omaha is placing his bets.

Much more at the Energy War Room.

Esté bien. Haga infierno.

Be well. Raise hell.

Andrew Barbano is a 44-year Nevadan and editor of  E-mail Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.
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