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End of the road?

MBJ Editorial

“The guy at the end of the road.”

He’s the nameless, faceless fellow Mississippi’s three Public Service Commissioners must have had on their minds last Tuesday when announcing the commission’s latest position on electric power deregulation.

Quite simply, this issue has taken Mississippi business and industry on a long, complex and, at times, confusing, journey since initial hearings were held in 1997.

The Public Service Commission, charged with protecting utilities consumers, has concluded that while large, commercial energy users in the state might benefit from competition, “this Commission is not convinced by the evidence presented that the ultimate price for electric service for all customers will be reduced by retail competition. On the contrary, the evidence presented seemed to indicate that certain classes of customers, residential and some some small commercial, might receive an increase in their total costs of electric service.”

In the past, the PSC has been accused of being too cozy with large power companies. However, advocates of deregulation also have their own agendas, so this great debate boils down to who you believe, doesn’t it? Or, in the very least, who’s agenda best matches your own.

Both sides in the deregulation debate make convincing arguments for their positions. However, if we consider every power consumer in Mississippi, including the guy at the end of the long, gravel road, perhaps the status quo isn’t such a bad deal.

The “public interest,” which the PSC must use as its guiding light, is about as long, complex and confusing as the deregulation process. Considering what is at stake, we think it prudent that the PSC has maintained a cautious stance. Our present system may not be perfect for everyone, but neither is, necessarily, deregulation.

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