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Opinion >  Column

Doug Clark: After all we spent on efficiency, it’s still gonna cost us

The Spokesman-Review’s most oft-repeated headline reappeared the other day on our Business page.

“Avista seeks hike in rates.”

This time it’s our North Idaho friends who are getting the treatment. But it doesn’t matter where you live in this great Ingrown Empire.

Avista love is spread around pretty much equally.

In fact, in the last 100 or so years, a small forest has been chopped down just to make the newsprint needed to carry this headline and variations like it, including …

“Soaring Avista rates beat Rover to Mars.”

And …

“Avista CEO salary hits new record; any guesses who’s gonna pay?”

No research has been done to calculate how many gallons of ink have gone into printing these rate hike headlines.

Enough to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool is the closest I can come up with.

Now I would never suggest that anything sinister or malevolent is going on at Avista.

Mainly, I would never suggest this out of fear of being found electrocuted under mysterious circumstances.

COP 1 – “Hmm. Wonder how Clark got his nose stuffed so far into that light socket.”

COP 2 – “Yeah. Smart aleck musta really ticked somebody off this time.”

Self-preservation aside, I am troubled by how much my last Avista bill looked like a ransom note.

Instead of the normal rows of charges, etc., there was just one message on a sheet of paper:

“PaY mOre or eLSe!”

Adding to my suspicions, the words were arranged crudely in letters of various sizes and fonts. They were obviously cut out of several different magazines and then stuck crookedly to my bill with tape.

The cosmic irony is starting to get to me.

I mean, remember when Avista launched that campaign about how consumers need to cut back on their energy-wasting ways?

And what did we do?

We crammed insulation into our attics like stuffing in a Thanksgiving turkey.

We had our furnaces flossed and cleaned. We caulked our windowsills and installed highly efficient hot water tanks.

Some eco-warriors actually started using those annoying squiggly poisonous light bulbs that Avista gave away without anyone asking.

I went a step further and weather-stripped all the gaps between my toes.

The point is that we the public did everything Avista asked.

And where did this responsible behavior get us?

Let me refer you to the headline that started all this.

Yes, we customers conserved so much energy that we’ve threatened the stockholder revenue stream.

Up go the rates.

Now imagine for a moment if we – the docile consumers – had done none of the above.

No insulating. No caulking.

No weather-stripping our little piggies.


I don’t have to tell you what would have happened.

That’s right. Rates would still rise this time because we’re USING TOO MUCH ENERGY!

The game is rigged, people, much like the new parking meters in downtown Spokane.

Of course, anyone who can’t afford the rising power rates can always apply for an Avista Customer Emergency Warmth Kit.

A match with instructions on how to build a fire.

The whole thing makes my head hurt.

I’m going to do what I always do when I think about the power rates.

I’m going to roll over and play dead like a mugging victim.

Or the Wazzu football team.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at

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