Some things just need to be said...

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A sleeping "Energy" giant

Montana, what a place, the land where men are men and the sheep are scared! A land where people can discuss guns and hunting and not feel ashamed, a place that has strongly supported George W Bush and reelected a senator named Burns that kind of reminds you of Ralph Klein on steroids.

Five cities have embarked on a crusade to nationalize Northwestern Energy. In Montana!

The five cities have formed a non-profit company, called it Montana Public Power and if that is shocking, then consider that they have the support of the Governor and a bank to do what just doesn't seem right south of the border. We in Canada are use to the idea of Governments owning things, we even grudgingly admit its cheaper and maybe better if they do.

In the wake of the Enron scandal and rising energy costs these folks have come to the understanding that if you remove the profit aspect from energy, you can deliver power cheaper, more reliably, and safer.

Their business case has been approved by Citicorp willing to underwrite the deal. Now NorthWestern Energy is not taking this lying down, they are fighting. Of course they want the best deal for shareholders.

So far MPPI has made an offer that has been refused. The deal worth 2.1 billion US dollars would be financed through bonds, continue to provide energy at the same cost or lower, protect and respect union contracts, improve maitenance of energy delivery lines and reinvest in the companies infrastructure.

Years of experience with private ownership has shown these folks that a public utility would better serve customers and citizens. That is a trend some Canadian governments are bucking. In BC the government is slowly dismantling BC Hydro, starving it of opportunity, splitting its transmission delivery from its power production and contracting out all the administration. They allowed for the sale of Terasen Gas.

Alberta in recent times ran into a series of power shortages and sky rocketing energy costs when they deregulated the industry and the Premier rode in to bail out the companies and his government with energy cheques mailed to citizens. Saskatchewan has maintained its power company and continues to provide cheap reliable power and energy to its citizens as well as a return to taxpayers. Quebec as we all know has a very successful power company with huge export returns.

With the exception of Saskatchewan, why are Canadian provinces looking at selling off our energy production and delivery? Do the people in Montana have it all backwards? While increasing number of American governments are looking at protecting vital national interests like energy, Canadians are working to sell it of the biggest bidder.

I was surprised by the effort being made in Montana by Montana Public Power. I was even happier in that my visit to see friends and the offer to enjoy that great state went beyond the absolute beauty of the location and the friendly people. They are a beacon of hope for many Americans currently under the tyranny of large energy companies. Something Canadians should consider before its too late.

The sleeping giant in Montana is stirring...

The Sleeping Giant, just outside and east of Helena MT