Waiting For PUC to Freeze Over - Tire Review Magazine

Waiting For PUC to Freeze Over

I’ve said before that I LOVE reading state tire dealer association newsletters.

There are always things I pick up, and more than once an interesting take on everyday struggles.

Here is a column by Ron Brutt, president of the Tire Dealers Association of Western Pennsylvania, a group that despite their sworn allegiance to the hated Pittsburgh Steelers, is one of the nation’s best dealer associations. Ron had a few bones to pick with utility companies and pubic officials:

If the saying March comes “in like a lion out like a lamb” holds true, it should be quite nice going out as coming in was way too cold for me. Wind chill at 10 below zero when I came out this morning.

This brings me to one of my complaints this month: Natural gas costs, the suppliers and the Public Utility Commission.

Like I would imagine most are doing right now, we are looking at all aspects of our expenses and doing what is possible to reduce them. In that vein, I received a letter from my natural gas company that it was urgent I call them about my service. When I called, the representative said they had noticed a big drop in our consumption from the previous year. “Can you explain that?” the rep asked.

Of course, I said. “And I am very proud of us for doing it, as it not only is helping me cut my expenses during these tough economic times but it is also reducing the amount of natural gas being extracted from the supply. I have heard from the environmental protectors of the world that is also a good thing. However, what basically we are doing is freezing to death,” I told him.

“We have totally cut off a furnace and reduced the other to just enough to keep our pipes from freezing. We wear long underwear under our clothes and heavy jackets. We heat our office with electric, which is cheaper and more efficient than the furnace. That is how we are doing it.”

“Great,” the young man said, “but to verify that, we are going to send a crew out at our expense and replace your meter to make sure nothing is wrong with it.”

I said, “that seems silly to spend money on a meter and a crew. Surely one man could do it and even that seems like a big waste of productivity and profit when I just told you how we are being frugal and efficient at our own expense and comfort.”

“No, they cannot do this alone,” he said, “and they get paid whether they change meters or not. And we have plenty of meters, so we will be out to change it.”

The crew comes to change the meter. They announce they are there to change it but are wondering why. I tell them, "because your company does not believe I am controlling my consumption. They think the meter must be bad.”

It was a cold day when they came. The guy comes in our shop and says, “It’s cold in here!”

“Yes, that’s how we are doing it,” I replied.

Then he says, “So where is your thermostat?" I take him to it and he goes, “It’s set on 50 degrees.”

"Now you understand," I said. He tells me do him a favor while he goes out to the meter, turn it up to 65 degrees so the furnace will kick on. I give him time to go out to it then crank it up. A few minutes go by and here he comes back in. "Nothing wrong with that meter. It does not need to be replaced. You’re fine.”

Away he goes. About a half hour later I went out to my car and guess what? The truck and two-man crew are still sitting in my parking lot. Draw your own conclusion.

That very afternoon I saw that my supplier was granted a rate increase by the state Public Utilities Commission. I thought to myself, “I wonder why? I know the price of natural gas is way down right now at the wellhead. How can the rates go up?” So, I decided to ask.

Well, folks, here is the explanation. The suppliers can go to the PUC and present a case. “Here is what our cost of doing business is and here is the profit margin we are guaranteed, and we need more.” And, in my supplier’s case, they received it!

Do any of you think, like me, that their profits are down because their volume is down and they waste money doing things like replacing my meter?

How would you like to have a guaranteed amount of profit, no matter how much you waste or what kind of volume you do?

I don’t know about you all, but I know I’m fed up with working hard for my money and doing what is smart and prudent to make a profit so I can pay my vendors, employees, taxes and be a responsible citizen and maybe just save a little to live on when I can’t work any longer.

All the while, bankrupt, corrupt, poorly run bad businesses are getting our tax money in a so-called bailout plan. This is not a plan in my book; it is a strategy to bankrupt us all and cover up the shame of rotten leadership and oversight in Washington, D.C.

If you have comments to share, send to me at [email protected].

– Jim Smith

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