Because nothing screams "serious policy disagreement" quite like green pigtails and an a capella parody of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

The Asheville Citizen-Times posted this video from yesterday's NC Utilities Commission public hearing into whether Progress Energy should be allowed to raise rates on customers.

This hearing was at the Buncombe County courthouse, but the Commission has been holding hearings all over the state.

I've always found these rate hike requests to be interesting case studies in free enterprise vs. command and control economic models.

Take these Baez Buskers, who sing:

"Listen to the people and just turn the rate hike down.

We don't want their toxic power plants polluting all our towns.

We demand that you listen to the citizen today,

No rate hike - no way!"

Okay.  They don't like the toxic power plants.

I don't know many people who belong to the Pro-Toxic Caucus, but I'll assume that the singers don't like coal plants (too dirty) and nuclear plants (too nuclear-y).

Those tend to be the primary targets of environmentalist groups.

But coal and nuclear are what powers North Carolina.

  • North Carolina ranked fifth in the Nation in net electricity generation from nuclear power in 2011, producing 5.1 percent of the Nation's total.
  • The majority of North Carolina's net electricity generation–51 percent in 2011—came from coal shipped by rail and truck from West Virginia and Kentucky.
  • In 2011, 5.3 percent of North Carolina’s net electricity generation came from renewable energy resources, almost all from conventional hydroelectric power and biomass.

About 95% of our generation comes from the two sources usually targeted by environmentalists.  Take a look at how much North Carolina relies on coal and nuclear.

So, by all means, let's get rid of these "toxic" power plants WHILE we demand energy rate cuts!  I'm sure this makes sense in some parallel utopian universe.

Demanding the free lunch

From the AC-T:

Under an agreement reached with the Utilities Commission Public Staff, Progress would get a 5.7 percent increase across customer classes over two years. It’s not clear yet what the rate hike will be for residential customers.

The Utilities Commission still must approve the proposed increase. The board could make a decision this spring.

Progress initially asked for a rate increase that averaged about 11 percent across all customer classes. Residential customers would have seen their rates go up by about 14.2 percent.

So, it's less than a 3% increase each year for two years.  That's hardly an example of price gouging.

Progress Energy (which recently merged into Duke Energy) says it needs the increased rates to pay for modernization or replacement of some of its coal-fired power plants.  Progress says it turned some of these coal plants into natural gas plants.

So, the Joni Mitchell Minstrels are demanding no more "toxic power plants" (ie: coal) but are also demanding the "toxic power plants" be replaced with cleaner alternatives at no cost to the customers who will derive the benefit.

Either they don't recognize the cognitive dissonance of their message, or they think you won't care.

They're not really "protesters" at this point.  They are "demanders." They demand clean energy. They demand they not be charged for the cost of that demand.  And they demand that their demands be considered.

Viva la power generation!

But before we jump on the "Those Protesters Are Socialists" bandwagon, I need to point out that we're all, by default, socialists on energy production in this state. Just like car insurance rates, we have government-appointed regulators who decide whether energy companies can increase rates, and by how much. 

That's hardly a model of economic freedom.

But it's the model we have.

Add in the growing regulations imposed on energy companies at the federal level, and the trend of higher rates is inescapable.

The sooner North Carolina is able to generate greater quantities of cleaner energy, we should all expect to see our power bills increase. 

And because I'm not a monster, I offer you this version of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" to cleanse the mental palate...