Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Georgia Power and the Power of Paying in Advance
by Hollis Gillespie
Georgia Online News Service

My neighbor Dolly doesn't use electricity except for her refrigerator and television, and whenever I go over there I'm always afraid I'll find her frozen on the floor, illuminated by the glow of a game show. Lately I've been voicing my concerns to her, especially since the temperatures have been below 30 degrees, but Dolly keeps insisting she can't afford to pay her electric bill. So even if I give her a portable electric heater, as I've offered, she won't use it. "Until something happens," she says, "I'm gonna sit here in the dark."

Well, recently something happened. In fact, I'm afraid to tell her that the Georgia State Senate approved a bill that would allow Georgia Power to charge us for two nuclear power plants that have yet to be built. Dolly is depressed enough, what with the fact that she needs a new tooth because the money she should have been using to pay her dental insurance went to care for her 85-year-old Alzheimer's-demented mother instead. Dolly's mother is recently gone – which means that Dolly no longer has to worry about her escaping down the street in her Lucille-Ball ruffle-neck negligee to flirt with the construction workers at the cement plant down the street -- but Dolly's bills certainly are not gone. Not by a long shot. Now she keeps threatening she'll have to live in her car, except that her car needs gas and gas costs money, too. Not as much as it used to but still it's money and everyone claims to be in scant possession of it lately.

Take Georgia Power. Traditionally businesses, even power plants, build the said business first and then charge the customer for its services. To do otherwise would be like me when I was 7 and decided to go door-to-door selling greeting cards. Only I didn't have any actual greeting cards to sell. All I had was a brochure featuring all different types of greeting cards – from the Morning Mountainscape to the Audubon Bird Collection themes – and one or two greeting-card samples that were as big as books and made from what appeared to be sofa upholstery. I would dutifully present the greeting cards to them the minute they came in the mail after I sent the payment was, of course, fronted by my naïve neighbors.

But I was 7 and my word meant crap. My intensions were good – they seriously were -- but I was an addict. My pusher was the penny candy aisle at the liquor store next door to my Dad's favorite bar. The second I received a payment for a greeting-card order, I'd immediately spend the money on jawbreakers and Bazooka bubble gum. I didn't even understand that I was stealing. I thought I was just "borrowing." I would cover the one greeting-card order with the next greeting-card order, and so on, until we moved away or the customers died or both. The flaw, though, was that I only had two orders, and the money for both went straight to my habit, because, though bubble gum might last forever, it's the flavor we addicts crave, and that fades quickly.

Maybe Georgia Power's intentions are good, but it is a big corporation and lately the word of a big corporation means less than mine did as a 7-year-old. After all we are talking about a nuclear power plant that is not slated to go into service until 2016. By then many of us may be moved away or dead or both. Georgia Power insists that by charging us billions of dollars ahead of time it will save us customers a collective $300 million in the long run -- which probably equals a whopping buck and a half per household. These days you can't even get a good candy fix for that. Maybe Dolly can buy herself a new lightbulb with those savings, not that she'll need one because I doubt she will have used up any that she already has, especially if she's living in her car.

Hollis Gillespie is one of Atlanta's best known literary personalities. She has published three books, and a fourth is on the way. Gillespie for years was a columnist for Creative Loafing. She now writes for the Georgia Online News Service and Atlanta magazine, giving readers her unorthodox and often-hilarious point of view on life in Georgia. She also runs a writing academy.   [full bio]

Editor's note: Hello, Georgia.

Two of our stories today offer perspectives into the quandary that's created when government, morality, money, and hard times collide.

But, it's not all about sin today.

Consider a story about farmers who have expanded into Africa just to stay in business. In the tough world of agriculture, sometimes it's all about survival.

Columnist Hollis Gillespie has 'fessed up to a sin, too. Hey, it's from childhood, but it's still a confession.

As always, we'd like to hear from you. GONSO is an enterprise founded and staffed by more than two dozen leading journalists and media executives in Georgia. We're providing content free -- for a limited period. Newspapers, broadcasters, bloggers and websites are welcome to use our articles -- please credit the writers and the Georgia Online News Service.

Send your comments and any story ideas to executive editor John Sugg at john.sugg@georgiaonlinenews.org. You can also call us at 800-891-3459.

Today's GONSO

Puff the Magic Drag Lived by a Sea (of Red Ink)

by K. Patrick Jensen
Some caution against relying on sin taxes to fund state government too much since the point of such a tax is to reduce use of the product. But others note that more money is raised in tough times by smoking and drinking than when times are good.

Full Story

Some Georgia Farmers Look to Africa for their Future

by Nadirah Z. Sabir
Once a cornerstone of national and community economic growth, black American farming today is in a "miserable" state, said Georgia-based organic farmer Rasheed Nuri, one of hundreds of U.S. black farmers who have tried to expand into Africa. To stay in the ag game, many are looking to commercial production: soybeans and cattle as opposed to family farming.

Full Story

Georgia Power and the Power of Paying in Advance

by Hollis Gillespie
If the utility is anything like our columnist in her youth, we should ask to pay for these new nuclear power plants when they’re finished, not before construction has begun.

Full Story


The Reality is Outpacing the Distortions About Sunday Liquor Sales

by Jim Tudor
The president of the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores outlines a bill that would empower voters to decide when and where alcohol is sold.

Full Story

Tomorrow's Budget
How will the housing bust affect a renaissance in downtown living in cities across Georgia?
by Jeanne Bonner
Bill Overhauling State's Transportation Lands in Senate Committee
by Maggie Lee
Straight out of Georgia: Madea is a deserved hit
by Eleanor Ringel Cater
Again, the "frivolous lawsuit" card is played
by Jay Cook

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