Why Did Power Costs Skyrocket?

West Virginia, with mountains of coal and huge reserves of natural gas, is the eighth most energy-expensive state in the nation, according to a WalletHub study.

How on earth did that happen?

WalletHub puts out scores of comparison studies each year, on everything from “neediest cities” to “most gambling-addicted states.” I usually take their reports with a grain of salt.

But if we’re anywhere near being the eighth most energy-expensive state, it ought to be cause for wonder in energy-rich West Virginia.

WalletHub used four criteria: electricity prices, electricity use per consumer, price of motor fuel and motor-fuel consumption per driver.

On gasoline and diesel fuel, WalletHub may be off a bit. They rank us with the 31st-highest prices in the nation. AAA, at least for regular-grade gasoline, puts us tied for 28th, with Maryland. Given the amount of fuel our hilly terrain forces us to use, WalletHub probably is close to the mark, however.

What about electricity prices? Again, WalletHub is close, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration statistics. The average price of electricity for residential consumers here is the 33rd highest in the nation.

Just 10 years ago, Mountain State homeowners paid the lowest electric bills in the nation, at 6.62 cents per kilowatt hour.

Now, it’s 11.47 cents.

That’s an increase of more than 73 percent in just a decade. Compare it to the average increase for the nation as a whole: 25 percent.

Is it just coincidence, I wonder, that the massive increase occurred during former President Barack Obama’s administration?

I don’t think so. Electric utilities have been busy shutting down coal-fired power plants and going to more costly, less reliable, generating methods largely as a result of Obama-era action.

West Virginia’s Public Service Commission can’t do much about it. Federal regulations prevent that.

Occasionally, however, the PSC scores a win. It did a few weeks ago in rejecting an Appalachian Power proposal to buy two wind farms and have West Virginia consumers foot much of the bill.

Unless federal policy changes — as may be in the process of occurring — look for electric bills here to continue going up.


I was on my way out of town for a week when a co-worker let me know Hal O’Leary had died on June 29.

Hal was liked and respected, not just here in his community. There were any number of excellent reasons he was held in high regard.

Here’s mine: I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times Hal and I found ourselves in complete agreement. But though I often disagreed with him, his guest columns and letters to the editor not only made his thoughts clear — but they explained persuasively, if not to my entire satisfaction, why he felt that way.

Yet Hal never accused me of being a racist, a male chauvinist pig, a religious nut, a fascist or any of the other things I’ve been called.

He was willing to consider my viewpoints — and I his, because of his intellectual force, honesty and his willingness to accept that while I might be wrong in his eyes, that didn’t mean I was evil.

That’s becoming rarer. I’ll miss Hal greatly. So, whether you recognize that or not, will you, dear reader.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.


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