Back in 2006, AEP used comparison between the grid and the interstate system as a marketing gimmick so it could turn electricity into an interstate commodity and transmission into a profit center.
AEP's interstate transmission highway gimmick was even better using an Eisenhower, so it hired one. And it pretended that a new "interstate highway" of transmission lines would provide reliable, efficient, affordable, and secure sources of power for everyone.
But it just never ends.
Here's why the electric grid is unlike an interstate highway:
- The highway system was built using public money, for the benefit of the public. The highways are operated by governments, and tolls for use are poured back into the highway system for the benefit of the public. However, the electric transmission system is built using private money, for the benefit of investors. The grid is operated by utilities, and tolls for use go into the utility's pockets for the benefit of stockholders. Highways are not-for-profit enterprises. Electric transmission is a for-profit enterprise.
- The highway system "binds the massive country together into a single, integrated network" so that we may travel anywhere. However, it is inefficient, costly and wasteful to "bind the massive country together into a single, integrated electric market." Electricity is unlike other commodities because it must be used the instant it is made. It cannot be stored for later sale or use. Transporting it long distances is like transporting water through a leaky pipe -- much is lost along the way, simply wasted. The longer the distance, the more electricity wasted. While it may be useful to travel long distances via highways, it is not useful to transmit electricity long distances. The most cost effective, efficient, safe and reliable electrical system is one where electricity is generated at or close to its point of use.
- People were willing to make way for highways on their land because they could use these highways, and the government wasn't making a profit by operating the highway. How come the media never compares transmission lines to highways with no on or off ramps for local use? People are NOT willing to make way for long-distance electric transmission lines because they may not directly use the transmission line, and the transmission line is a profit center for its owner. If a profit is to be made, the landowner should be paid appropriately in line with the continued profits, not tossed a one-time "market value" pittance for the use of his land in perpetuity.
- Eminent domain was used to build the interstate highway system because it was for "public use." Eminent domain was also used to build the transmission and distribution system that electrified our country because it was for "public use." The key here is that both were for "public use." But now transmission is proposed for other reasons such as economics, public policy, or simply as a way to make money shipping electricity to new markets. Is this really a "public use," or is it a slide down a slippery slope? Where does "public use" stop and "private profit" begin?
Just say "no" to electric "highways" and uninspired journalism.