No Laughing Matter

The Burlington Free Press carried a recent article which details House Natural Resources Chairman Rep. Joe Klein’s back peddling on his suggestion couple of weeks back that “perhaps IBM should have the exclusive right to the cheapest electrical power in the state”.  Of course this was the panicked reaction of those in political leadership when the possibility that IBM may not be in business much longer if Vermont Yankee shuts down.  Of course this suggestion was not well received among Vermont’s business leaders:

Anyway, the reaction from the state’s manufacturing community to Klein’s remark was swift and disapproving. William Driscoll, vice president of Associated Industries of Vermont, told me, “My reaction is if you’re going to do it for IBM you have to do it for all other Vermont-based manufacturers. You can’t draw the line and say, ’We’re going to throw you a lifeline, the others, you’re not big enough, you can sink or swim on your own.’”

Of course Vermont’s manufacturing community need not worry, as Rep. Klein assures us now that he was only kidding:

In fact, what Klein was really doing was making a point that he was tired of IBM opposing him every time he tries to advance the cause of alternative energy, like solar. “No matter what it is they pretty much opposed every renewable program we’ve ever developed,” Klein said. Apparently, IBM’s perspective is that expensive alternative energy programs do little to advance the state’s need to provide relatively inexpensive, reliable power for its manufacturers.

So when he suggested that IBM — and only IBM — should have the cheapest power available in the state, Klein said he did have his tongue firmly in his cheek. “We can’t just stop marching forward on our policies every time IBM says ‘This hurts us,’” Klein said. “Otherwise we’ll get absolutely nothing done.”

So basically this was his way of thumbing his nose at the state’s largest private employer.  It was all a big joke, much like the state’s feckless energy policy.  Unfortunately for Vermont, such jokes are no laughing matter.