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Thursday December 12th 2019

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Utilities Can Make Huge Business Blunders Too


By

Ralph Shnelvar asks us to imagine a catastrophic business blunder by the City of Boulder.   We don’t have to imagine this, as such a thing actually happened…to a utility.

Montana Power would have been a 100-year-old company if it had survived to 2012.  Bored by by life in a regulated utility, MPC’s CEO, with help from Goldman Sachs, and after some slick lobbying,  sold all of its generation and transmission assets and all of its natural gas infrastructure and got out of the energy business altogether.  It invested the money in a small fiber optic firm called Touch America, which soon was worth pennies on the dollar.  In Butte, the last working copper mine was forced to close when electricity rates increased up to 20 times, and many of those folks in Montana who were faced with skyrocketing electric rates were also MPC shareholders, who now owned worthless Touch America stock.

Regardless of libertarian dogma, mistakes are not solely the province of government.

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