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The News Hole

Your Electric Bills

Posted 3/29/2006

In what’s becoming a routine scene in Annapolis, the Senate Finance Committee heard six bills relating to the electricity-deregulation panic on March 22, before an audience of lobbyists. Since learning of a planned 72 percent increase in electric rates for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers, legislators have introduced so many bills seeking to salve the pain that even sponsors can’t always keep them straight.

A short compendium of statistics relevant to the energy debate:

Number of bills and resolutions relating to electric power or deregulation this session: 39

Number of those drafted since Feb. 22 (the day BGE locked in a 72 percent price increase at auction): 18

Number of the seven energy bills introduced in the House of Delegates since Feb. 22 marked “emergency”: 4

Number of power companies, co-ops, and associations with lobbyists registered at the Maryland State Ethics Commission: 24

Number of power company, co-op, and association lobbyists registered: 60

Number of those who lobby on behalf of multiple energy companies or associations: 24

Number of power-company lobbyists in 2005: 50

Percent increase in energy-sector lobbyists from 2005 to ’06: 20

Number of BGE-Constellation Energy Group lobbyists in 2005: 8

Number in 2006: 11

Percent increase in number of Constellation-related lobbyists from 2005 to ’06: 50


What a Wonderful World

News From Elsewhere That’s Probably News To You

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the announcement of perestroika, the radical Cold War thaw and reassessment of Communism that ultimately transformed the former Soviet Union, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev opined that “America needs its own perestroika. . . . The United States has not found its role after it became the only superpower. Until it gets rid of the victor’s complex, it will make more mistakes” (The Guardian)

A Philadelphia developer’s plans to erect the world’s tallest “green” skyscraper in the city are being held up by objections from the local plumbers’ union. It seems the waterless “no-flush” urinals called for by the conservation-minded designers require less labor to install, and therefore fewer hours for the rank and file of Local 690. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds resigned as a result of a controversy over the government shutting down a Swedish web site that was planning to republish the infamous Danish Mohammed cartoons. After Freivalds told the Swedish press that she played no role in the site’s shut-down, it was revealed by the Foreign Ministry that, in fact, she had. (Associated Press)

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has called for “all . . . concerned parties” to provide “massive support” for the African nation of Burundi. The country has been wracked by civil war for 13 years, with a cost of an estimated 300,000 lives. (News24.com/South Africa)

Despite ongoing strife involving fundamentalist Muslim factions, Egypt plans to stop its practice of detaining ostensible threats to national security without charges and lift its ban against public demonstrations. The detentions and the ban were made legal by a repressive temporary “emergency law” that was passed 25 years ago and will be allowed to expire in May. (News24.com/South Africa)

Theatergoers in Seoul, South Korea, recently saw the opening of a new musical, Yoduk Story. Based on life in North Korea’s infamous prison camps, the story features executions and mutilations; in one scene, the prisoners sing a number called “All I Want Is Rice.” (International Herald Tribune)

One-third of French people who responded to a recent national survey acknowledged that they were, to some degree, racist. (BBC)

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