Following former Premier Tom Marshall’s recent appearance on CBC “Cross Talk”, I received an email from a quite astute listener; one seeking clarification on a point raised by the former Premier that really bothered him. I have reprinted the letter here together with my reply:
chaotic CBC “Cross Talk” today with Tom Marshall, and I could
hardly believe my ears. I actually phoned in, but was on the tail end of the
show and was left hanging with a number of other callers on the waiting list.
letter to the Telegram to ask the burning question that was on my mind. But I
held off, because of my total incompetence in the field of economics. I really
don’t want to make a fool of myself in print, because it distracts from
the substance of the debate!
on the point he kept hammering:
“Profits”. The “profits” from Muskrat Falls would
come back to the people of NL, he said, so it was a good deal. What
“profits”, I asked myself? Simple economics tells me
that if I am a widget-maker, and I only sell my widgets to
myself, for my own use, I CANNOT make a “profit”.
widgets all I like, especially if the government has legislated that I
have to buy my own widgets and not some others that might be cheaper; I will have
to pay the increased costs, which means I can go bankrupt selling my own
widgets to myself! There’s no real money being made.
problem: Nalcor has only one customer, the people of Newfoundland. There are no
other customers in sight. The province of Nova Scotia will get the power FOR
FREE for the next 35 years. Moreover, a Google search can prove that the New
England states are paying a pittance for surplus power.
keep paying exorbitant rates (BY LAW, thank you Dunderdale and Marshall, for removing Muskrat from
the authority of the PUB) so that NS can enjoy their freebie and reap
whatever “profits” there might be.
Marshall try to defend this insane concept, the “biggest giveaway” in
our history? But then I kept thinking that Mr. Marshall is an eminent lawyer, a
former Finance Minister and even pro tem Premier, so he MUST know more
about economics than I do.
help. If I’m out to lunch in my concerns, please tell me so.
Of course, the profits that Marshall talks about are
of Island ratepayers; power rates will have to pushed skyward just to cover interest on the debt being borrowed for the project.
That is the case even after revenue from power exports, which the Liberals said will
be applied to lower Island power rates, are used to lower Island power rates. At most those exports will represent a savings of just 5 cents per KWh.
upon JM’s research, in a piece entitled “Stable Rates: Eleven Myth Of Muskrat”, published on this Blog, your cost of Muskrat power, even after offset by exports, will be at least 25
cents per KWh.
It is 4 times the power rate paid in New England, where some of the surplus
power will go. And, our rates will be 2.5 times the cost Nova Scotians pay.
of revenue to cover Muskrat’s interest and operating costs, annually. In business, we frequently use the expression “cash flow is not profit”. It’s one of those “duh” comments. Marshall has not learned to differentiate the two.
rate of return on the money you invested in the project, your power rates will
be even higher. If cost overruns grow, as they are expected to, 25 cents per
KWh will begin to look like a good deal.
(via Newfoundland Power).
of yours and attempt to use less power. It won’t work; you’ll just drive your power
rate higher! I am not kidding. That’s the effect of the “take
or pay” model which Tom Marshall and co. used to assure that the Federal Loan
Guarantee would be repaid. Tom Marshall
omitted that little detail, too, didn’t he?
have one more look.
of Muskrat power, so there’s ZERO revenue there. The 40% surplus power will net 5 cents per
KWh, if you are lucky. But, it’s the last 40% that’s the money maker. It is
here you have to make all the profit, because there isn’t any other customer to
pay and no more power to sell.
25 cents per KWh, it could start t to make a profit if construction costs don’t go higher. But, as you note, in the case of your
widgets, why stop there? Why not let Nalcor charge you 35 or 40 cents per KWh and let them make even more money! Don’t you see how easy it is! Aren’t you feeling richer already?
course, you know the difference, even if Tom Marshall does not. Newfoundlanders are essentially the only ratepayers. You can mark up widgets, or Muskrat power, all you want; you will not get one cent richer.
Falls right away; even before we receive a single KWh of power. How ingenious is that! Pure profit!