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Against type, Campbell suggests good policy

Like a blind hog stumbling upon an acorn, Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell got something right about how to lower energy costs in Louisiana.

It wasn’t from his usual hot air, on display at last month’s PSC meeting when commissioners sharply queried power company officials over noticeably higher prices consumers have endured this summer. With his typical bluster amplifying his economic worldview that there’s no rising tide that lifts all boats but instead a pie that never changes in size so it’s all in how you carve it up, he criticized utility profits and executive salaries which have nothing to do with the crisis caused by the hostile signals sent and actions initiated by the Democrat Pres. Joe Biden Administration that have depressed potential fossil fuel supply, a subject about which Campbell never issues a peep.

It wasn’t from his displaying a product of his superstitious catastrophic anthropogenic global warming faith, by launching into an evidence-free rant about how too much reliance on fossil fuels rather than renewable sources supposedly drove up consumer costs – completely ignorant of or unwilling to acknowledge the facts that not only are typical natural gas prices lower than those of wind or solar, even with wasteful government subsidies attached to these, but also that the infrastructure required such as in building windmills or arrays that don’t typically last even 30 years with scare materials and the transmission lines needed to transport it, and not even considering the incredibly expensive battery capacity required, makes this form of energy far more expensive.

Yet it was from wrapping up his screed, by him delivering an unexpected bullseye like an archer who regularly sends arrows into the crowd suddenly without warning actually hitting the target for once. Basically, he said that the way things were going that deregulation and opening up power provision to competition might be the way to go.

It’s probably the most intelligent thing he has suggested in his two decades on the PSC as north Louisiana’s representative, whether he genuinely meant it or just as another way to try to jawbone what he wants out of regulated entities. Unfortunately, in 1999 Louisiana rejected deregulation as an approach, which also marks when Texas began legislating the most significant power deregulation of the other nearly 20 states that have tried it. Since then, in truly deregulated areas of Texas (not all of it is), both residential and commercial prices have fallen over time despite the vagaries of energy markets.

But Texas, as well as the other states that to some degree have deregulated their power markets, carry aspects of continued government regulation that can cause pricing problems. In the winter of 2021 because of the state’s regulators goading providers – including Louisiana’s two largest providers who also serve Texas – into using renewable sources and shying away from fossil fuels, when abnormally cold weather hit the overreliance on those sources caused a shortage and blackouts. This idea of a portfolio requiring a certain proportion of renewable energy used – thankfully not on the PSC’s agenda – defeats the purpose of deregulation by preventing providers from seeking out and delivering the lowest-cost energy possible.

It's past time that the PSC come up with a plan to deregulate energy provision, even if Louisiana has among the lowest rates the nation (typically the lowest for residential use). With a quarter-century of data and an understanding of known potential pitfalls, it can come up with a structure even better than in Texas that the Legislature can enact into law in the next few years. And if it’s Campbell’s remark that sets this off, while that may not make up for the abundance of policy mistakes he’s made in office, at least it would cause some rehabilitation of his legacy.

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