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Off Peak

Fortnightly Magazine - March 15 1998

THE COMPETITIVE ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE, A FREE market think tank, announced its entry into the electric power market and demanded that utilities open up the power grid to its services.

Says CEI Fellow in Regulatory Studies Wayne Crews: "The pervasive thinking among so-called reformers is that just because somebody spins magnets, they have a right of access to utility wires property. Well, we're tired of fighting that idea. We want in on some of the money."

CEI Digital Electric Co.'s first generation plant, as illustrated here, is a 2-volt generator with an overall customer capacity of 0.025 amp, served by a 60.9m, #30 AWG transmission wire. Four rotating 1 3 2 3 5cm ceramic magnets generate current from the "facility."

Start-up costs totalled $7.91. That's right, seven dollars, ninety-one cents.

Considerable cost savings over conventional generation are expected given the unique digitally powered architecture, however Crews conceded: "My fingers are blistered from spinning the thing. And I miss my family."

Longer term, the Institute's installations may employ rodents in tread-wheel turbines. More immediate CEI generating ventures will incorporate flying kites in thunderstorms with keys attached to the strings. The resulting electricity will be distributed over utility wires, provided nettlesome employee health insurance issues can be worked out.

Says CEI President Fred Smith, "It's a blessed outrage what chumps we've been, I've spent years defending markets and property rights, when we could have been cashing in royally. Well no more.

"And think of the fossil fuel savings if this manual technology is widely adopted. Besides, since idle hands do the Devil's work, we may even cut crime." His voice rising, Smith adds, "The question isn't, 'Can we afford to equip every man, woman and child with this technology?' It's 'Can we afford not to?'"

But Seriously1/4

CEI leads the fight in opposing mandatory open access to the grid, on the principle that the mere act of generating electricity does not create a right to force someone else to deliver it. As CEI details in recent publications, competition can be fully realized without forced open access. Instead, exclusive delivery franchises must be abolished, thereby freeing newcomers to broker their own power delivery deals. If not shut out by protected delivery franchises, newcomers can actively team up with gas, telecom and other network industries that already enjoy rights-of-way to consumers. Such competitive threats will often induce utilities to voluntarily provide open access to existing wires. There is no need for government to administer forced regulated open access "competition" on the entire power grid if real markets are permitted instead.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute is a Washington, D.C., public interest group dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government. Contact Wayne Crews at 202-331-1010.

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