Today in Fortnightly

Three Morsels from August’s PUF in Your Mailbox, and Jiminy Cricket

80 pages, 25 authors, 20 articles: must-read, must-keep

You know electricity works hard for you. So don't you take electricity lightly... Without electricity, you'd be in the dark. Like a cave man was, way before man's world was lit up. -Jiminy Cricket, Disney cartoon


1. Interview of former Duke CEO Jim Rogers

[Climate change legislation in 2009] could have passed in the Senate, but the White House was MIA. Because they had just passed health care. They weren't prepared for another major legislative push. There is a lot you can read into the fact that they took a pass. 

Scarface Al Capone Thwarted by Utilities' Sam Insull

Decades later we’ve learned Sam Insull was a member of the courageous Secret Six

February 14, 1929. The day of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Scarface Al Capone eliminated the rival Chicago gang of Bugs Moran.

How did federal agent Eliot Ness and the Untouchables bring down Capone? It turns out the utilities industry, Sam Insull particularly, was the key.

Capone was feared by all. Chicago's mayor and the Illinois attorney general would or could do little. 

But Capone made the mistake of murdering a contractor superintendent. Chicago's Chamber of Commerce was outraged. And so the Secret Six was formed.

Electric Service in Q2 was just 1.38% of Expenditures

And gas service was just 0.38% of expenditures

The Commerce Department published last week the gross domestic product data for the second quarter. Both electric service and natural gas service, as a percent of personal consumption expenditures, were real low. 

In the second quarter, electric service was just 1.38 percent of expenditures. This was below the second quarter of last year, when electric service was 1.45 percent. And below the second quarter of two years ago, when electric service was 1.46 percent. 

Crossword Puzzle Answers, August 2016

Spoiler alert! Here are the answers to the crossword puzzle, Power's History, in the August 2016 issue of Public Utilities Fortnightly:


1. Supremes ok regulation: munn

8. test for utility expense: prudence

12. with Tesla in war of currents: westinghouse 

13. Kilowatt's first name: reddy

15. smartest guys in room: enron

17. father of TVA: lilienthal

20. FERC can regulate intrastate gas: ngpa

23. nuclear accident: tmi

24. Nobel winner led to solar power: millikan

27. developed television: farnsworth

Electric and Natural Gas Service Prices Bottoming Out?

Price soothsaying herein

On August 12, the Labor Department published the Producer Price Index data through July 2016. Price trends are still good for electric and natural gas consumers. And price levels are historically favorable for consumers. 

But the four monthly data series we track, from three federal departments, Labor, Commerce and Energy, are beginning to tell us something new.

But first, what did the Producer Price Index have to say? 

I'm in Love with My Utility Pole

Japan’s audiophiles install their own utility poles to hear Queen better

Did you read August 14's Wall Street Journal article on Japan's audiophiles? They're installing their own utility poles to hear more clearly Queen's "I'm in Love with My Car" and other favorite tunes. (Wall Street Journal, Juro Osawa, "A Gift for Music Lovers Who Have It All: A Personal Utility Pole," August 14, 2016.)

Utility Service Prices Continue to Drop

Overall prices 0.8% higher, while electric prices 1% lower

The Consumer Price Index for July was published Tuesday, August 16. The CPI for all goods and services rose eight tenths of a percent (compared to a year ago). 

But the CPI for electric utility service fell one percent. And the CPI for gas utility service fell four tenths of a percent.

Mamie Eaton, First Woman Commissioner

Commissioner Eaton appointed in 1927, elected to her own term in 1928

Mamie Eaton was celebrated in the lead article of the December 13, 1928 issue of Public Utilities Reports Fortnightly. She was the first woman to serve as a member of any railroad or public service commission.

Mamie was appointed by Florida's Governor in March 1927, after the death of Commissioner R.L. Eaton, her husband. She was elected to her own term in November 1928.

When she wasn't deciding rate cases? She owned and ran one of the largest growers of watermelon seeds in the world.

Second Winner of PUF Cross-Examination Award

We have our second winner of the PUF Cross-Examination Award. The award goes to media and other statements that are so misleading they compel us to cross-examine.

Readers may recall the first winner. It was a July 5th article of the New York Times. The article, "Piles of Dirty Secrets Behind a Model 'Clean Coal' Project," implied a utility project in Mississippi has driven electric rates to unbearable levels.

How Electric/Gas Utility Expenses Vary by Age

As households age, they spend less on electricity in dollars, but more as a percent of all their expenditures

The Labor Department has published Consumer Expenditure Survey data on how Americans of different ages spend differently. The survey shows how age affects expenses for electric and natural gas utility service. 

Twenty-two percent of households were classified as the youngest. Those surveyed averaged twenty-seven years old. 

These households spent $1,125 on electric service, on average, during the twelve months through June 2015.