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Fortnightly Magazine - January 15 1999

implicated, it should issue a blanket certificate to any software company that designs, implements and operates an electronic auction mechanism that allows willing parties to transfer the rights to receive transportation service. The certificate could be made contingent on providing the commission with access to the audit trail of all jurisdictional transactions.

This approach gives the commission a valuable role: It is the FERC that takes responsibility for preventing abuse of a dominant position in the market - not the software developers. It also allows auction designers to modify the auction mechanism as necessary as experience is gained, without the need to conduct a formal rulemaking proceeding, while providing the commission with the real-time information that is required to respond to allegations of market abuse.

Some may argue that the commission lacks authority to remove the regulatory obstacles preventing the rapid development of electronic commerce in gas and electricity. But after all, the commission recently ordered a hydroelectric dam barring a small river to be removed; why not remove the regulatory dam across the Amazon? We know that since 1995, new industries worth billions of dollars have emerged from scratch to offer choices to consumers to buy what they want, when they want, for prices they want. Why bar the gas industry from this historic transition?

Philip M. Marston is an attorney and consultant who has written and spoken widely on regulatory issues affecting the natural gas industry. He conducts his energy law practice from Alexandria, Va. Marston's e-mail address is

1 "Http" stands for "hyper text transfer protocol." Http is the set of communications instructions that are used for the bulk of web communication.

2 How about "Make a good book better - gentle light for tired eyes"?

3 See

4 Marketers already have experimented with such bill-consolidation efforts.

5 The marketing slogan might be "Let There be Light."


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