When I was a kid, Bell Telephone (or Ma Bell), had a near total monopoly on telephone service and equipment. You could have any kind of phone you wanted, as long as it was a rotary dial black number, and you had to rent, not buy, it from Ma Bell. The phone company was a convenient and reviled villain.
In 1967, The President’s Analyst was released. It was a sci-fi satire/comedy movie starring James Coburn as a psychiatrist called in to treat an impaired President. Coburn is caught in battles between various elements of the intelligence community and a technologically imperious dark corporate force, The Phone Company, or TPC. Funny (or scary) how fiction from the 6o’s foreshadows reality with a twist or three some fifty plus years later.
The modern Maine version of evil reviled corporate villain monopolists would be our two major power companies, Central Maine Power and Versant. They are held in extremely low regard as a consequence of their high and seemingly constantly escalating prices, poor and undependable service and imperious attitude. Most of those affronts are a consequence of policies the climate alarmists have foisted on Maine and the nation. The war on fossil fuels and mandates for alternate energy and greenhouse gas emission reductions have steadily raised energy prices and made the grid less reliable. The more accurate name for alternative energy is more expensive and unreliable energy.
The climate alarmists have really played this well. First they pushed policies that made Mainers really detest CMP and Versant. Then they engineered legislation and now a referendum to borrow $13.5 Billion dollars to buy out CMP and Versant to create Pine Tree Power, which would be led and controlled by politicians and would do the bidding of the climate alarmists. The takeover push was led by former Representative Seth Berry, one of the leading climate alarmists. The climate alarmists are allied with the Democratic Party, the environmental left, the legacy media and academia. They have an excellent chance of using other people’s (ratepayers and taxpayers) money to convert CMP and Versant into a government owned and controlled climate Stasi that will monitor energy use and carbon footprints and take remedial action as necessary to save the planet. The climate alarmists in charge of Pine Tree Power will almost certainly have remote control of thermostats, hot water usage, total power usage allowed and probably that illegal gas stove as well.
In a sign of the epic stakes, mid-June brought a push poll on the upcoming referenda (there are two- one on establishing Pine Tree Power and one on borrowing $13.5 Billion to put in the climate alarmist collection plate). The twenty-minute telephone poll asked about voting position and attitudes towards Pine Tree Power, public power, debt, Gov. Mills, CMP, Avangrid and Versant. Then a series of statements/arguments being advanced by both sides was read, with each statement followed by an inquiry into whether and to what degree the argument had effected your position. Both sides of this fight are motivated and well financed. That’s good news for those poised to benefit from advertising expenditures, but bad news for political truth. The climate cultist proponents point to evil foreign corporate for-profit villains and omit their role in raising energy prices and destabilizing the grid; the opponents have so far ignored the climate cultists’ culpability, preferring not to poke that green hornet’s nest.
Almost 25 years ago, I stood in the Hall of Flags and opposed Chellie Pingree’s $50 million public lands bond as green on the outside and red on the inside by slicing a watermelon with a machete. Pine Tree Power is an even bigger and more insidious watermelon, calling for almost 30 times more conversion of privately owned means of production to government ownership and control. The climate alarmist effort attacking freedom and prosperity and turning Maine and the nation into a third world socialist hellhole continues apace.
Jon Reisman is an economist and policy analyst who retired from the University of Maine at Machias after 38 years. He resides on Cathance Lake in Cooper, where he is a Selectman and a Statler and Waldorf intern. Mr. Reisman’s views are his own and he welcomes comments as letters to the editor here, or to him directly via email at [email protected].