Swamp on the Road: Austin Crony Capitalists Betray Trump’s Energy Agenda
Last time I checked, Texas was a red state.
Sure, they have Beto, but I’ve always thought of Texas as a state that promotes meaningful, conservative policies, especially in the energy sector. Texas has a long history of leading the United States in energy production and its free-market oriented policies are at the foundation of that success.
That’s why I was concerned to hear that Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick recently rushed an energy bill, that is nothing more than a crony-capitalist carve out, through the Texas State Senate.
SB 1938 and its House companion, HB 3995, would prevent competition in the energy transmission space and protect incumbent utility companies from the hassle of operating in a free-market by restricting which companies are allowed to develop facilities to transmit electricity in the Lonestar state. The bills would force any new energy company that might want to open up in the future to have to ask the states permission before it is allowed to operate and deliver its services in Texas.
It’s not hard to imagine how this type of power handed over to government bureaucrats could be abused, especially when there is so much money at stake for those who will benefit from the system this legislation seeks to create.
Not only would this stifle innovation and lead to higher prices for consumers, the legislation at its core is inherently and transparently about enriching certain companies at the expense of others.
It’s unfortunate that Lt. Gov. Patrick and the members of the State Legislature who support it seem to be rejecting the very free market system that has made Texas the economic power house it is today – a system where taxpayers’ electric bills might go down thanks to robust competition and market forces.
But that’s not even the worst of it.
This bill was not drafted to just deal with future transmission projects.
It seems to have been written specifically because Entergy lost a competitive bid to build a transmission line in its service area. It lost the bid to an upstart competitor that could build the transmission line better, cheaper, and with newer technology than they could. Most people would consider this type of competition to be a good thing because, with the exception of Entergy, it benefits everyone.
This bill would actually prevent the better, cheaper, newer technology transmission line from being built. Instead, it would gift the transmission line to Entergy, even though they originally lost the bid fair and square to a competitor willing to provide a better service at a cheaper price to the taxpayers.
This is the very definition of corporate welfare.
And sadly it seems as though no one in the Texas legislature or executive branch care about the fact that if the winning bid was allowed to stand, it would result in lower electricity costs for people who live and pay taxes in Texas.
While we have a President whose Administration has deregulated the energy sector, which has led to an historic energy boom throughout the country, this bill flies in the face of the President’s America first energy agenda.
That’s why I was not surprised to hear that the Trump Administration’s Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice wrote a seven-page letter objecting to the bill. President Trump’s Justice Department flatly stated the bill’s “…restrictions would limit competition…” and they are 100% right about that.
This bill represents the type of anti-market corporatism we normally see from Democrats. The manner in which it has been rushed through the State Legislature, without anyone having the chance to properly study it, should concern everyone.
In short, this bill sounds like it was literally written by the swamp to benefit the swamp.
Currently its companion bill, HB 3995, is being considered in the Texas House of Representatives.
If the House does not make any changes, it goes directly to Governor Abbott’s desk where he, barring a public backlash, will sign it into law.
For the sake of Texas taxpayers, let’s hope that the Texas House rejects cronyism and corporate welfare and seeks to either stop, delay, or improve this bill in a meaningful way before it reaches the Governor’s desk.