The appropriations portion of the House stimulus bill is not the only legislation with bad ideas. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has also marked up their portion of the stimulus package. During the Committee markup, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) inserted a provision that would “decouple” utility rates from the amount of electricity or natural gas that the utilities sell. According to the “decoupling” provision, states that accept federal energy efficiency grants from the economic stimulus package will have to ensure that utilities recover the revenue lost when consumers use less energy.
In other words, in states that accept the energy efficiency grants, utilities that use the grants to help consumers lower the energy consumption will be able to raise their rates to compensation for the loss in revenue. Consumers who participate in the programs may see their energy use go down, but may not see any change in the size of their utility bills. This is the legislative equivalent of a giant wet kiss to utility and environmental lobbyists but a giant kiss off to consumers.