Fenger Pointing

Becky Fenger | October 7, 2009

General Electric's wattage

Becky FengerYears ago, I met my next-door neighbor when we were in a cage fight with the city of Phoenix over a proposed sewer district.

It seems a pair of wealthy developers had built some "spec" homes high on the mountain and wanted to force those of us who had dwelled for decades with our septic tanks to spend up to $30,000 per household to run a sewer line up the mountain. Not an easy task, since the steep terrain was composed of caliche. Some of us would have had to install pumps to run our lines to the street.

This got our attention, and we "oldtimers" in the canyon met in my living room and formed the "Sewer Roach Committee" to fight the backroom deal that was in the works. We discovered a crew of scallywags drew up a district, gerrymandered to the hilt, to get the "yes" votes of the spec homes and then force us all to pay.

Our battle took us downtown to Phoenix Mayor Skip Rimsza's office where he stared at the gerrymandered map for a minute or two. Hizzoner then raised his head and pronounced the crooked lines looked just fine to him. That he could do this with a straight face is a marvel, but politicians are capable of mighty feats for the benefit of their friends and cronies.

The good news is we neighbors became better friends. The bad news is I learned from one of them, an executive with Dial Corporation, just how far his company was prepared to go to appease rabid environmentalists. Dial actually allowed the activists to call the shots on some of their products, even though the science showed the manufacture of them to be perfectly safe. That's scary, and things are only getting worse.

With the hysteria over the sham of man-made global warming, politicians are turning to our personal consumption. Congressman John Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan, tried to get a bill passed that would increase our gasoline taxes and remove the mortgage tax deduction from homes larger than 3,000 square feet in order to reduce our carbon footprints. "We do that by making consumption more expensive," Dingell explained.

Not to be outdone, California attempted to use its Energy Commission two years ago to require the installation in all homes of so-called "programmable control thermostats." As reported by author Steve Milloy, the state would be able to control citizens' thermostats remotely as well as other electrical appliances such as your water heater, refrigerator, pool pump and even your lights! One of the energy commissioners called it "sharing the pain." The greenies call the devices "smart thermostats."

Across the pond, the British government is experimenting with "smart metering" where a meter placed in your home by Big Brother not only reports how much electricity you are using but has an alarm that sounds when you use more than a preset limit! One frazzled housewife tells how she will take a pan off the stove just to make the loud noise stop.

Then there's this latest double outrage, closer to home, as reported by the Free Enterprise Project. General Electric announced last Thursday that utility giant American Electric Power (AEP) will purchase 110,000 smart meters from GE. President Barack Obama and Congress are making you and me pay for them.

Here's how the chips came down. AEP applied on Sept. 1 to the Department of Energy for $75 million in federal stimulus money to buy the smart meters. General Electric's CEO Jeff Immelt sits on Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Voila! GE got the cash. This is a drop in the bucket of the almost $4 billion that DOE has earmarked for smart meter projects.

Here's an interesting side note from Milloy: American Electric Power brags that the $75 million for GE will create about 500 jobs over a three-year period. That cost us taxpayers only $150,000 per job in Ohio where the average income is slightly less than $48,000. Whatta bargain.

GE is really swinging under the leadership of Immelt. In August, GE was forced to pay a paltry $50 million to settle charges with the Securities and Exchange Commission for "cooking the books" to meet Wall Street earnings expectations, even listing a fake sale of locomotives to boost their profits on paper. Yet Obama keeps Immelt on his advisory board, the better to get stimulus money.

It makes me think of the Sewer Roaches all over again.