Thursday, September 15, 2005

The invisible fist

Ill-equipped to cope with the economics of supply and demand, the Ontario Liberal government is responding to a shortage of supply by trying to curtail demand through a combination of requisition and a facsimile of market forces. Never mind that the ideas of requisition and market forces cancel each other out ideologically, they cancel each other out effectively. And guess who's paying for the Liberals' optics? From the London Free Press:

London Hydro customers likely will be on the hook for the $34-million cost of buying and installing energy-conserving smart meters.

[…]The province considers smart meters to be an integral part of its energy conservation strategy and wants all households to have one by Dec. 31, 2010. The meters would allow customers to track hourly consumption and allow the government to set premium prices for peak-use periods and lower prices for off-peak periods. The province has said consumers would be able to use the meters to determine when they'd get the best rate to operate household appliances.
Some customers may use the smart meters to override their convenience and lower their bills, but the net effect of these so-called conservation measures will be likely be negligible, especially in the face of increasing demand from an increasing population and, one hopes, an expanding economy. There's nothing wrong with correlating price with demand, but the province is proffering the invisible hand with a fist of artificial shortages behind its back. To amend slightly what I've written before: the altar on which we lay ourselves is not dedicated to the celebrated red herring of conservation but to the preservation of a public monopoly on power generation and distribution — in other words, the retention of power in the hands of bureaucrats and union workers to determine the methods, structures and protocols of energy production — despite the fact that this monopoly has been responsible for the vicissitudes of Ontario's energy supply. If you can't make it, stop people from using it.