Friday, August 2, 2013


On the surface the discussion is whether or not local government action to take collective action to lower the price of natural gas (a prime source of fuel for cooking and heating in Stark County) is a good thing or a bad thing.

Most Stark Countians would likely say it is a "no-brainer." What could be possibly bad about saving consumers money?

However, if one changes the topic and phrase the question of government action in terms of Obamacare (the proponents of which say over the longer haul will save health care consumers money), the matter of government involvement in private sector financial/economic activity becomes much more controversial.

What if it became absolutely clear that Obamacare saved Americans money?

Would Obamacare be seen in a more positive light?


Right now, it is open to debate whether or not - when one considers all aspects of the legislation - there is a net savings of money to Joe and Mary Americas and beyond that to business/corporate America.

Unlike some doctrinaire types (e.g. Libertarians and Tea Partiers), most Americans are highly pragmatic and if government action benefits the hoi polloi then it is a good thing.

And given the numbers of participation in Ohio's Natural Gas Aggregation authorized program for local governments to participate in, it is clear that most Stark Countians think government action is just fine.

The Stark County Political Report examined the Ohio statutory authorized (Ohio Revised Code Section 4929.20) natural gas aggregation programs of Stark's cities, villages and (for the unincorporated townships) Stark County government itself and has leaned that by virtue of local governments collecting their citizens into volume bargaining units, participants likely save about $150 annually.

So says Mark Burns of Independent Energy Consultants.

Burns is a consultant with many Stark County governments in setting up and administering their natural gas aggregation programs.

Here is Burns in an appearance before Stark County commissioners on July 17th explaining the county natural gas program.

The particulars of the program are spelled out with precision in this LINK to an Ohio Consumers Counsel website.

It does make a difference as to whether an aggregation program is an opt-out or an opt-in one in terms of participation.

Opt-in, which requires affirmative action on the part of consumers, has only about a 20% participation rate The Report is told whereas opt-out (residents are automatically included and have to take themselves out) come in at a substantially higher rate.

For those Stark Countians who choose not to participate in aggregation, they either accept a default rate or select their own providers.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, headed up by Stark Countian and former Republican state Representative Todd Snitchler, provides what it calls an "Apples to Apples" website from which Ohioians/Stark Countians can pick from as an alternative to the local government aggregation program.

Focusing on the current (7/15/2013 - 08/12/2013) Dominion East Ohio (DEO/EOG - East Ohio Gas) "fixed-rate" plan which most Stark County local governments have (see chart above), one can readily see that participating in the local government plan is a financial advantage.

Ohio does have an electric aggregation program in which it appears all Stark County local governments participate in. However, it is an opt-in program that does not require voter approval.

The lesson to be learned from the matter of government participation in what is normally private enterprise activity as far as the general public is concerned, is not so much whether or not government action is acceptable as a matter of political philosophy.

The bottom line question seems to be:  Does government involvement/action save me money?

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