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Know the West

Energy industry is rigged

  In your recent story about Colorado’s renewable energy initiative, representatives of the big utility companies have faithfully called upon the magic of the free market, claiming that the citizens are "artificially picking winners and losers in the energy debate" (HCN, 9/13/04: Colorado voters hold the cards on renewable energy).

Missing from this story, as usual, is a realistic look at how the energy industry is already rigged for the status quo. Consumers can’t demand an energy source if there is no supply. Utility companies obviously have enormous power over demand, and they really don’t have to worry about some plucky entrepreneur starting up a power company with her credit card, offering an alternative in the market place.

Also, government plays a major role in fixing the type of power we currently must consume. From the military’s role in securing Middle East oil supplies, to Dick Cheney’s top-secret meetings on energy policy, the traditional energy industry is not the home of romantic, unbridled free-market capitalism that industry executives would like us to believe.

So, it seems to me that the truest expression of the free market in this case is a group of people selling the population on the idea of responsible renewable energy. Let the marketplace of ideas in the form of an election determine what type of energy the people of Colorado consume. Perhaps then true entrepreneurs will be needed to figure out how to provide them with what they want.

Paul Brookshire
Seattle, Washington