Financial pinch becoming a tight squeeze

Published 9:41 pm Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The problem Americans are having right now is that the cost of everything is going up – everything except salaries, that is. Well, your salary might be improving if you’re an oil company executive, but we’ll assume most of our readers are not.

Case in point of the ever-rising cost of living is the news that Alabama Power Co. wants to make a historic increase in its rates. How historic? The company, which is part of Atlanta-based Southern Co., would hike rates for homes by more than 14 percent and rates for industries by almost 25 percent, according to the Associated Press.

So, if you use 1,000 kilowatt hours a month, you would pay $16.45 more – from $112.90 to $129.35. That’s easy enough to understand, but there’s more to it. Did you simply glance over that increase for industries earlier? Twenty-five percent was the figure. Like all business expenses, much of that increase will passed on to consumers. That’s a gloomy proposition.

But never fear because the state Public Service Commission is here. Utility regulators told AP they plan to fight the huge increases.

“I’m not going to let it go in without every opportunity to try to decrease it or eliminate it,” commission President Jim Sullivan said after a board meeting.

Alabama Power is not just trying to stick it to consumers. The company was $239 million short of recovering its costs through July. That shortfall is a direct result of escalating fuel costs, such as that for natural gas and coal, which generates 70 percent of the utility’s electricity.

The attempt to increase rates should come as no surprise. The Tennessee Valley Authority, which serves northern one-third of the state, hiked its prices by 20 percent last month. That was TVA’s largest increase in 30 years.

Despite PSC’s noble effort, the other two-thirds of the state will have something else to worry about before long.