The Republican House Commerce Committee's guide to Utility Deregulation.
Representative Dan Schaefer's Homepage.
Representative John Dingell's Homepage.
Resources for the Future question the impact of electricity deregulation.
General information, schedules and past Freshmen Forums.
Return to @the Capitol.
Scrutinize the work of several major Congressional committees in online forums with the chairs and ranking members.
Follow the first year in Congress of Freshmen Reps. Kay Granger (R-TX) and Jay Johnson (D-WI)
The United States is the original land of the free market - with a few notable exceptions. One resource that almost every American uses, electricity, remains highly regulated and partially state-owned. In most areas, prices are set by monopolies and monitored by the states. Congress is now considering historic legislation to change that, with significant consequences for this $200 billion a year industry.
In February, Representative Dan Schaefer (R-CO) introduced a bill, H.R. 655, designed to open the electricity industry to competition. This spring, the House of Representatives Committee on Commerce held public hearings on the issue of power industry deregulation in Texas, Virginia, Illinois and Georgia. In a Congressional "road show", the Committee explored the benefits and problems associated with introducing more competition into the electricity industry.
Those favoring deregulation argue that freeing up the industry will encourage technological and service innovation as companies compete for the electricity market. In a competitive environment, they argue, prices will drop, benefiting the average consumer and enabling school districts and communities to band together and buy electricity in large quantities, as large industries already do. Opponents of deregulation fear that rural consumers, traditionally difficult to supply, will lose out as utility companies find it more profitable to serve concentrated clusters of consumers in urban areas. Some utilities fear that they will lose their customer base if deregulation goes forward.
The nuclear power industry is particularly opposed to deregulation. Shareholders in nuclear power plant investments worry that deregulation will stick the plants with "stranded costs" - the initial investment that most nuclear plants are still trying to recover. One alternative is a taxpayer 'bailout' of the nuclear industry. Organizations such as the Nuclear Energy Institute worry that otherwise deregulation will put the country's nuclear industry out of business.
Limited deregulation has taken place in New Hampshire, New York, California and several other states. Proponents of deregulation hope to pass the landmark legislation by the end of the 105th Congress.
Our forum features Representative Dan Schaefer (R-CO), chair of the Subcommittee on Energy and Power, and Representative John D. Dingell (D-MI), ranking Democrat on the Commerce Committee.
The forum will address the following: Who really wins, and who really loses if the power industry is deregulated? Will the average household notice a significant difference in its utility bills?