The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Maryland:
Utilities on the attack

Jun 3, 2007

On June 1, electricity rates went up 50% for more than a million customers of Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) throughout Maryland. Added to last year’s rate increase, this totals 72% more that customers are paying.

BGE claims it must raise rates because in 1999 it agreed to a rate cap as part of deregulation. It pretends that it lacked sufficient money, thanks to the rate cap, to increase its capacity.

We can’t see BGE’s real account books. But we do know that deregulation has, in every city and state, been used to hit customers over the head with rate increases. Companies always claim their expenses are up and profits are down.

Lies, nothing but lies! Over the seven years of the rate cap, the parent company of BGE – Constellation Energy – collected more than 500 million extra dollars from customers. They gave it a fancy name and claimed they needed it to invest in plants to provide more capacity – plants they have yet to build or renovate.

The division of the utility into a company that produces energy – Constellation – and one that delivers it – BGE – was a fantastic scam, allowing both companies to place their costs and income anywhere they chose. It is hardly an accident that BGE claims it needs more money while Constellation’s profits were up 94% in the last 12 months.

Deregulation hasn’t changed this basic fact of capitalist life: markets are monopolized by big companies, which determine how much we pay and how little we get.

We see what capitalism gives us in the utility industry: the likelihood of poor people dying from too much heat or too much cold.

Push these thieves out of our pockets and out of our lives!