The media have been claiming so for years. And in 2011, their assertion was finally accurate.

Last year’s average gasoline price surpassed the record set, in real dollars, in 1981. And at $3.83 per gallon today, the cost of getting around has gotten grislier. (Sticklers will insist that the peak remains to be reached, given income growth and improvement in fuel economy, but that’s small comfort to motorists facing fill-ups north of 50 bucks.)

Unfortunately, consumers may soon confront another energy atrocity. If dunderheaded policies implemented at the state and federal levels are allowed to continue, electricity will likely mirror petroleum-based fuels’ extraordinary upsurge.

First a little history. In the 1960s, ‘70s and first half of the ‘80s, homeowners’ inflation-adjusted power bills seesawed — falling by 35 percent during the early portion of the period, then reversing course in the Nixon/Ford/Carter years. It was chaotic era, with price fluctuations driven by multiple factors, including pollution regulations, federal market-meddling, OPEC chicanery and the arrival of nuclear reactors.

In the mid-‘80s, though, the average, real cost of a residential kilowatt-hour began a glorious, 15-year fall:

1985: 15.96¢

1990: 13.93¢

1995: 12.81¢

2000: 11.12¢

Rates pulled an about-face in the new century. In 2010, homeowners paid 12.30¢ per kilowatt-hour, up from 11.12¢ in 2000. At 9.3 percent, it wasn’t much of an added burden. But greater hikes are almost certainly on the way.

One of the key causes of pricey electricity, according to a February analysis by energy journalist Robert Bryce, is “renewables” requirements. Twenty-nine states mandate that utilities generate — or purchase — politically correct power. California’s dictate is the worst, at 33 percent by 2020. But many large states aren’t far behind, including New York (29 percent by 2015), Ohio (25 percent by 2025), Texas (5,880 megawatts by 2015) and Pennsylvania (18 percent by 2021).

Ditching coal, nuclear and natural gas for solar, wind and biomass is no bargain. A renewable portfolio standard (RPS), Bryce found, is correlated with rising rates. He conducted an apples-to-apples survey of states that are reliant on coal. Bryce found that in “2001, the average price of residential electricity in the RPS states was 10.9 percent higher than the average price in the non-RPS states. By 2010, that differential had more than tripled, to 37.6 percent.”

And with so many RPS goals far from attained, the pain has only just begun. Bryce cited estimates by the Electric Power Research Institute: “In 2015, generating a megawatt-hour of electricity with natural gas will cost between $49 and $79. That same quantity of energy produced from onshore wind will cost between $75 and $138, while generating it with solar photovoltaic will cost at least $242 and as much as $455.”

Homeowners are free to flee states with RPS mandates. But stay in the U.S., and they’ll be subject to what the American Legislative Exchange Council called “one of the most breathtaking and hostile regulatory assaults on energy affordability and electric reliability in our nation’s history.”

Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency, to put it bluntly, is out of control. It’s concocted a raft of assaults that will dramatically boost the price of juice. The EPA’s crusade against “greenhouse gases,” if not stopped by Congress and/or the federal courts, is sure to bite — in 2010, 96 of the 100 largest climate-change “polluters” were power plants.

The EPA’s “Mercury and Air Toxics Standards” rule, according to the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the U.S. House of Representatives, “has been characterized as the most expensive rule ever imposed by the agency on the power sector.” Along with the “Cross State Air Pollution” rule, another agency overreach, it’s shuttering plants from Oregon to Massachusetts.

The Institute for Energy Research has documented the impending withdrawal of an alarming 33 gigawatts of generating capacity “as a result of EPA’s regulations.” (Rules that were promulgated, it’s worth noting, despite remarkable gains in air quality, with across-the-board drops in the “big six” pollutants during the last few decades.) In addition, new water-intake mandates loom for electricity producers — many could be forced to construct cooling towers with price tags in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

There was a time when the machinations of eco-Luddite activists, bureaucrats and politicians could be ignored. But as the real-world consequences of their economically calamitous schemes become clearer, attention must be paid.

The goal of historically costly gasoline has been accomplished. The next item on radical environmentalists’ to-do list? Raising power bills. A lot.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Assuming, charitably, that it ever had any, the presence of “Occupy New Haven” on the upper Green has by now long outlived its usefulness.

 

This blight on New Haven historic “Common and Undivided Group” first appeared, like mushrooms following a rainstorm, last September. It was a copycat insurgence of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement whose inchoate objectives seemed to have something to do with protesting private-sector success.

 

Initially and superficially sympathetic, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg after two months was pressured by local residents to evict the Occupy folks from lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park in a lightning predawn raid on November 14. Emboldened by the New York example, most other U.S. cities moved quickly in succession to uproot the encampments, which beyond their questionable legal status had become breeding grounds of crime and disease.

 

As far as we can tell, as of March 1 Occupy New Haven was the last such group in the nation to sidestep eviction (Newark, N.J. had rousted the remnants of its own “occupiers” as of February 15, the last known encampment beyond the City of Elms).

 

It will come as little surprise to readers that this business journal is not in philosophical agreement with the “Occupy” movement. Our readers are mainly business owners and managers who have earned success through initiative, drive and risk-taking. They believe in free enterprise and free markets. To be a “capitalist” is a badge of honor, not an invective.

 

We believe in equality of opportunity (which is why for 19 years we have been outspoken advocates for fixing ailing urban public school). We are vigorous opponents of government-mandated equality of outcome.

 

Having said that, we wonder: Why is ONH still permitted to blight our Green when their compadres elsewhere have been rousted from their encampments? One obvious answer is a sympathetic city administration — the same administration that has gone to court in hopes of preventing the federal Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) efforts to crack down on illegal immigration in New Haven. Don’t forget: Mayor John DeStefano Jr. earned national-TV face time thumbing his nose at federal law enforcement when he announced plans to issue city IDs to illegals, earning the Elm City the moniker “Sanctuary City.”

 

But here’s the thing: It’s not entirely clear that city law-enforcement agencies even have jurisdiction over the Green. In 1723, an act of the General Assembly awarded jurisdiction over the Green to a self-perpetuating group of “Proprietors of the Common and Undivided Ground.”

 

The Proprietors are chaired by Drew Days, former U.S. solicitor general in the Clinton administration and a Yale law professor. When BNH asked him to clarify what legal entity would have authority to evict the protesters, Days provided an answer that was more legalistic than definitive.

 

“The Committee of the Proprietors has exercised its jurisdiction [over the Green] on the grounds that it continues to have title and control — presumably because the Green is not and never has been a public square of the City, as are the other parks,” Days wrote.

 

However, he added, the Proprietors “rel[y] upon the resources of the Parks Department of the City of New Haven to issue permits for specified uses and events under rules prescribed by the Committee from time to time.”

 

Our best guess is that the city could evict the protestors if it chose, and would also do the Proprietors’ bidding if asked to do the same.


We wish they would.