2, 4, 6, 8'Hey, Let’s Deregulate! 

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Ever feel like you’re getting screwed by the utilities? It’s one thing when OPEC reduces its production so oil and gasoline prices skyrocket. It’s quite another when Questar and Utah Power put the screws to us under the sacrosanct guise of the free market.

Sure, we can unload our gas-guzzling SUVs for more fuel-efficient cars and cut back on those lavish driving vacations to Wendover and Moab, but what are we supposed to do, turn off the heat? Turn off the lights? Turn off the TV? There are certain things in this world that need regulating and utilities are among them.

The 45 percent increase in natural gas over the last year is a little hard to take unless you’re an Eskimo. And that was before the Legislature did away with the Committee of Consumer Services, which allegedly looks out for ratepayers. But the Legislature and the Public Service Commission apparently believe a 45 percent increase is not that big of a deal. After all, consumers could just stock up on long underwear if they don’t like low temperatures.

The huge natural gas increase foisted upon us by Questar, with a little help from its friends at the Public Service Commission, is so bad that it has some legislators embarrassed. That’s no small notice, given Utah lawmakers’ ability to keep a straight face while cutting the big boys slack. It’s so bad, in fact, that a red-faced Rep. David Ure, R-Kamas, has decided to help repeal his own legislation passed a year ago—HB 320, which did away with the Committee of Consumer Services.

The reason HB 320 passed so easily last year is because Questar officials argued that it’s presently too difficult for utilities to raise their rates. Yeah, right.

The electricity blackouts in California have added to the frowns of Utah legislators, who had planned to further deregulate Utah utilities this year. With factories being closed, workers laid off, and traffic signals not even working, Californians are up the proverbial creek (or crick, as we say here in Zion) without a paddle. But Utah lawmakers have an idea: They’ll wait for the California crisis to pass before deregulating any more. It’s a timing thing. They’re a bright bunch up there on Capitol Hill.

Like tax cuts for the wealthy, government “deregulation” is the mantra of the Republican Party. Everything works better after it’s deregulated, they believe. That’s so ingrained in their psyches that they just can’t get it out of their minds: Two, four, six, eight—come on, let’s deregulate. Two, four, six, eight—come on, let’s deregulate …

In Utah that’s true for all things except beer, wine, booze, cigarettes, private clubs and adult movies. And it’s not true for car dealerships that must close on Sundays, because … well, just because. For reasons that aren’t quite clear, deregulation does not work in those areas, according to the conservative wizards who run things in Utah, anyway.

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