Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

April 01, 2006

Don't blame BGE for the rising costs

When did it become shameful for a company to make a profit ("Power politics in play," March 30)?

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and Constellation Energy Group are not to blame for the prices in today's market for energy. Nor should they be portrayed as snake-oil salesmen who sold deregulation to the local rubes.

Lawmakers such as Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch can shoulder a lot of the blame for our current mess.

And now just watch them scrambling around trying to put the pin back in the hand grenade that they tossed themselves - all the while trying to lay the blame on the Ehrlich administration.

Listening to them, along with The Sun's usual one-sided reporting, you would think that they didn't even know how to spell BGE when the deregulation bill was signed.

But Constellation Energy and BGE and their employees are good citizens and neighbors to the local community. And who would benefit if BGE were forced to operate at a loss the way utilities in California were forced to do a few years ago?

The only ones who would benefit, in the short term, are the state lawmakers who are saying and doing anything they can right now in their shortsighted attempt to save face, save their necks and save their jobs.

Michael Ziegler

Monkton

BGE doesn't need huge rate increase

As profit-making entities responsible to their stockholders, electric utilities constantly search for reasons to jack up rates and make excess profits. And with the increase in oil and natural gas prices, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. thinks it has found an excuse for higher electricity rates. However, a cursory investigation of the company's claims shows them to be misleading.

Consider the following. In a period of rising oil and gas prices, BGE's earnings improved, rising from $150 million in 2003 to $176 million in 2005. Return on investment was a healthy 11 percent, and BGE paid $319 million in cash dividends to its parent over that three-year period.

Is this a firm that needs a 72 percent rate increase to survive?

Over the last 12 months, wholesale "off-peak" electricity prices in the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland grid showed, on average, no change, despite higher fuel prices. "On-peak" prices rose 50 percent during the unusually hot summer months but then reverted to prior levels.

Indeed, with all the changes in energy prices over the last 25 years, the average electric utility rate increase has been about 8 percent annually.

Limiting electricity price increases to this level must be the goal of our elected officials.

Anything more would have to be seen as a capitulation to the moneyed interests at BGE, Constellation Energy and Florida's FPL Group, who seek to put a stranglehold on the everyday electricity consumer.

Jeff Hooke

Chevy Chase

The writer is chairman of the Maryland Tax Education Foundation.

`Progress' in Iraq takes terrible toll

Recently, President Bush urged us all to look past the bloodshed to see the signs of progress in Iraq.

So, apparently, we are to avert our eyes when we see the dead and dying and wounded who are guilty only of living in the wrong place during Mr. Bush's reign. We are to close our ears every time we hear another news report about innocent children killed in the name of progress.

We are to ignore the hypocrisy of a president who says that abortion is murder but the loss of thousands of innocent souls is justified in the name of progress. We are to ignore the swelling ranks of the terrorists who now feel justified in their fight against our evil empire.

But terrorists come in all kinds of disguises, and waging terror in the name of democracy is still terrorism.

We will not achieve peace by killing more people or perfecting our methods of torture.

Indeed, the most dishonest terrorist comes in sheep's clothing - offering democracy and freedom.

Life is sacred. Yet this administration urges us to look past that sacredness in the name of progress.

Nancy Arnold

Union Bridge

A distorted account of student loan woes

Alan Collinge's column "Student borrowers over a barrel" (Opinion

Commentary, March 22) omitted far more facts than it contained.

Put aside Mr. Collinge's outrageous and false claims about our employees' salaries, which should strike even a lay person as preposterous. Let us also dismiss his delusional notions, laced with incorrect data, that we have somehow "bought" Congress - after it just cut $12 billion from the student loan program. Instead, let's take a look at just a few facts that Mr. Collinge conveniently omitted.

Mr. Collinge borrowed more than $40,000 in government-backed loans to help finance a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in engineering.

Despite being offered many options to help pay his loans back, Mr. Collinge has never paid back more than a small fraction of that debt.

At the same time, he lashes out at my company over his refusal to repay his student loans.

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