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Winter energy emergency brought legal price gouging
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To the editor:

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has decided to investigate whether or not there was price gouging during the February winter energy emergency. That is like looking out the window at a downpour flooding the streets and deciding to investigate whether or not the sky is cloudy. 

Charging $300 for a BTU of gas that normally costs $3 and $4 for a KWh of electricity that normally costs 4 cents is price gouging. The energy production/delivery/marketing industry did not hire 100 times more employees or increase operating activities by 100 times. The industry simply took the opportunity to take the cash. Attorney General Schmidt is not determining whether or not there was price gouging. He is just checking to see if any of it was illegal. 

We live in the physical world where physical devices like pipelines and power lines move energy from place to place. Cold weather in the physical world affected pipelines, power lines and the energy use of our homes. 

Our wealth lives in the commercial world where financial devices move money from one person to another person. The other thing financial devices move is liability, from one person to another person. It was the financial devices in the commercial world that created the price gouging by moving the liability for frigid weather consequences from the energy production/delivery/marketing industry to energy using customers. 

The reason we have unimaginable energy bills is because our laws and regulations allow the liability for the failure of the energy supply system to be moved from the energy industry to us energy customers. These laws and regulations are determined by our elected government officials. 

As public servants, our elected representatives should be lined up six deep apologizing for ever letting these high bills happen and swearing on their political careers to correct this misassignment of liability to ensure it never occurs again. But we don’t hear any of that. 

The April 9 Great Bend Tribune column by U.S. Senator Roger Marshall is a good example of this. Marshall notes the American Rescue Plan, which he voted against because it provided funds to state governments, provides funds that state governments may be able to use to help pay bills. He then omitted that the Southwest Power Pool and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas both stated that natural gas generation failures were the main problem and instead propagandized against wind generation which was a smaller part of the problem. (Wind turbines in places like Texas do not have protections against extreme cold and stopped operating. Wind turbines in places like Iowa and Kansas do have protections and continued operating.) In Marshall’s narrative, laws to prevent price gouging are unmentioned and unthinkable. 

There will be decisions made about physical changes to reduce the likelihood of future rolling blackouts like those that occurred during the February winter energy emergency. These decisions would have been the same with normal energy bills. The price gouging that is extracting billions of dollars from Kansas customers is simply a bonus to the energy industry provided by our laws and legislators.

John Sturn