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The high cost of saving money on full display


Everybody loves deregulation, until their kid gets sick from drinking the water.

And for good reason. Deregulation is always good for business, at least in the short term. Dumping toxic chemicals into the river or onto the ground is always going to be better for the bottom line than safe treatment and disposal.

And it’s not just business. Government has found deregulation is a surefire way to increase its own “efficiency.” The superfund site at Griggs and Walnut was the result of cleaning solvent used by the National Guard being dumped on the ground.

A 2013 email from an official in the Michigan Treasurer's Department predicted that switching the Flint water supply off the Detroit system would save as much as $300 million in the next 25 years.

No state has embraced deregulation as tightly as Texas, and no person has extolled its virtues as loudly as its former governor, Rick Perry, who for a precarious two years and nine months was in charge of protecting the environment for our entire nation.

Which is why Texas is the only state in the nation with its own energy grid. If they were connected to the national grid, they would have to abide by the national regulations. Their way has been a lot more profitable for the energy companies and cheaper for the consumers, until it got cold.

A winter storm swept across the country last week, causing traffic problems and icy sidewalks in other states, but it knocked out the Texas power grid.

Gov. Greg Abbott responded by going on Fox News and blaming the Green New Deal. He is now calling for an investigation of the ironically named Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees the power grid, to determine what went wrong and ensure it never happens again.

Here’s my prediction. They’ll discover what went wrong is they didn’t winterize the system, even after a similar storm 10 years ago provided ample warning they needed to. And the way to prevent it from ever happening again is by winterizing the system.

But, here’s the hard part, that’s going to take government mandates, not recommendations.

Like all issues involving government, regulation requires a balance. I’m not saying more is always better. John Stossel has made a cottage industry of exposing ridiculous government dictates.

City and county managers have to always be vigilant for both corruption and arrogance within their inspections and regulations divisions. Bribes to government inspectors are a hallmark of corrupt regimes.

Beyond outright corruption, the regulatory process is often more adversarial than need be for those wanting to invest in a new business.

Business interests should be considered in any regulatory decisions, but they can't take priority over health and safety.

Getting the balance right requires having different voices at the table. That clearly is not happening in Texas, where the last Democrat to win a statewide election was former Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock in 1994. I’m not sure if it’s happening in New Mexico either, where Democrats hold all statewide offices.

There is a heavy cost when we get it wrong. As I write this, at least 58 people have died in the storm. It is expected to cost as much as $50 billion to rebuild. President Joe Biden has declared an emergency, releasing federal funds to help pay for recovery in the Lone Star state.

Walter Rubel can be reached at waltrubel@gmail.com.

Walt Rubel