Aren’t a priority, in the grander scheme of things.  Analysis | With new charge, saving electricity could end up costing Missourians

Some Missouri residents and businesses soon could see a new charge on their electric bills — a fee for using less energy.

Though it might seem illogical, the new energy efficiency charge has support from utilities, most lawmakers, the governor, environmentalists and even the state’s official utility consumer advocate. The charge covers the cost of utilities’ efforts to promote energy efficiency and cut power use.

Oh, well, if the environmentalists are on board with the political apparatus and the politically-controlled, case closed, game over.  It must be a good idea.  It’s counter-intuitive only if you assume the goal is simply to save energy consumers money.  Once you realize the goal is much bigger than that, it begins to make sense.  Read on.

The assumption is that charging consumers for those initiatives ultimately will cost less than charging them to build the new power plants that will be needed if electricity use isn’t curtailed.

The article mentions no analysis of the savings this kind of program actually generates.   We are to take a positive result on faith, then? And why is it a given that construction of new power plants is a bad thing?

It’s going on already:

For example, the commission last week approved a program in which St. Louis-based AmerenUE can offer credits to businesses that voluntarily shut down or scale back their electricity use during peak demand. AmerenUE will be able to recoup the cost for the program that starts Thursday by increasing the rates it charges business customers.

Kansas City Power & Light Co. already has 19 energy efficiency and demand-reduction programs, said Chuck Caisley, the company’s senior director of public affairs. He said the Public Service Commission is allowing the company to recoup up to $50 million of the programs’ costs under a rate plan in effect through 2010.

One of the company’s more popular energy-saving initiatives has provided free programmable thermostats to about 34,000 residential customers in Missouri and Kansas. KCP&L can remotely control the devices to reduce the frequency at which air conditioners run during peak demand times. The power company overrode customers’ air conditioners four times last year and twice so far this summer, Caisley said.

Just for fun, I searched for programmable thermostats to find the retail cost of the “free” ones mentioned above.  Home Depot offers one for $47.47.
Honeywell has one for $53.95.  I realize that’s retail, and no doubt the electric company gets them more cheaply.  But they’re not “free.”  Somebody paid for them, and that somebody is that company’s customers.  And the part about overriding home thermostats sounds more like remote-control rationing than saving energy.

To me, this is the same thinking that’s behind one proposed healthcare reform, increasing preventive care coverage to save taxpayer money, the idea being that government paying up front reduces costs to it down the road.  But how?  Preventive care isn’t cheap, definitely not “free”–and a study indicates the impact of preventive care on costs is a mixed bag.    We are to take Congress’s word on that, too, I guess.

Cap and tax as blackmail:

Public Service Commission Chairman Robert M. Clayton III said he feared that Missouri’s heavily coal-dependent electric customers will see a sharp spike in rates if federal climate legislation limiting carbon emissions becomes law. That makes it even more important for Missourians to reduce their collective energy use, he said.

And to let essentially government-controlled power companies ration energy use.

On the surface, this sort of program sounds reasonable.  You control the demand of the (relatively) few, for the good of the many, to avoid brownouts and blackouts.  It also furthers the junk science global warming agenda by reducing the number of power plants that would need to be built, avoiding the resulting defacement of the planet.  But are you convinced that kind of power, to control the temperature of the air in your house, won’t be put into the service of some other noble-sounding but freedom-killing public goal, for our own good?  Given the track record of  history, I am not.

Because, you see, as in every other case in which that maxim has been followed, that of allowing the needs of the many to override the needs of the few, or the one, the result will be more government control over everyone.  It is as inevitable as death and taxes.  It’s not, ultimately, about the good of the many.  It’s about the power of the bureaucrats.