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American Electric Power vs First Energy...more rounds

Columbus Dispatch 7/12/12

Do you want your electric bill to just be the lowest cost electrcitiy or to also include a subsidy for jobs?

Just before nature unleashed some of its mighty fury around central Ohio, in late June, American Electric Power (AEP) the electric company for much of central Ohio including Greater Columbus, started another series of ads. The use of such ads, described below, seems a tacit admission that AEPs original series of ads against the invader from the north, First Energy (FE), was having less than the desired result.

How this all started was described by this Examiner in his May 28th column entitled "Power plays." The link to that article is Bascially FE is able to sell some electrcitiy in AEP's turf for less than AEP can. AEP feels threatened as it should. However, instead of finding ways to help its customers save money, as FE can, AEP tried a series of ads featuring adults (FE) picking on children (AEP). FE responded in kind.

Since this didn't seem to be working, AEP started round two by employing that great scare Basically its ads said this battle is about jobs not prices.

It would seem people paying bills shouldn't really care from whom they get electricity, about as generic a product as one can find, as long as they are paying the lowest possible price for it. This assumes support services stay the same, which the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has said must continue to be provided, regardless of whose electrcitiy is sold to whom.

Readers should note that "jobs" is probably the single biggest economic and business scare word used anywhere in this nation (and in many others). That is so because both the possiblity of losing jobs and the prospect of gaining jobs invariably sends politicians scurrying. It worked as a justification for the auto industry baiouts, countless times for justifying helping the private sector to relocate or start-up in in some area, and seems to be a key word in the coming election. In fact, in the U.S. this has been the case since The Great Depression.

During nature's recent fury, which caused the current respite from competing ads, AEP has started advertising by thanking people for their patience as its crews work endlessly to get Central Ohio's power back to "normal."

Soon another round of competing ads will start. This Examiner urges people to think about whether they want the lowest cost electricity or want a jobs premium added. The latter is in effect a welfare payment to AEP to use more expensive production methods, a not insignificant percent of which will almost certainly be used to boost AEP's profits.

To paraphrase the late Dorothy_Parker's famous quote about a novel, AEP's ads should not be tossed aside lightly...they should be thrown with great force.


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