Big business

Scale of EFH/Luminant bankruptcy makes impact hard to gauge for us

The late Everett Dirksen of Illinois, minority leader of the U. S. Senate in the 1960s, had a quotable line which he’d use whenever Congress debated the federal budget.

“You spend a billion dollars here and a billion dollars there and pretty soon you’re talking about some real money.”

If that’s the way Rockdale area residents feel—scratching their heads, no doubt—about the bankruptcy of Energy Futures Holdings, the parent company of Luminant (Sandow Power Plant and Three Oaks Mine), we can be excused.

When you read that something is $40 billion in debt, as EFH is, and then also read company officials saying it’s all just a bookkeeping maneuver—that’s paraphrasing, of course—that’s certainly not part of financial experiences in our own lives.

Luminant is our area’s largest employer and a major player in the tax base of both Milam County and Rockdale ISD. That part could be affected at some point by whatever is dictated in bankruptcy, nobody really knows yet.

But, the very fact that all of this is so big argues conclusively that no matter who ends up owning them, the components of EFH are just simply too big and too vital to just “rub them out and start over.” Consider:

• Luminant supplies 18 percent of the Texas power grid.

• TXU Energy is the retailer for 1.7 million customers.

• Oncor transmits energy to 3.3 million customers.

The bottom line. The EFH gurus horned in to control all this necessary stuff, risked deep debt on a bet that energy prices would rise.

They lost their bet. Now they’re losing their companies.

The bankruptcy means it’s time to fire the coaches, not the players.

We hope.—M.B.

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2014-05-15 digital edition

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