Five credible Corporation Commission candidates make their case for your vote

Among the five legitimate candidates for two seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission, Libertarian Rick Fowlkes is decidedly different.

He believes in market-based programs and incentives—instead of regulatory requirements—to lower electrical rates and encourage more power generation using renewable energy.

"My major thrust is to do what I can to end the monopoly system (of electrical distribution)," Fowlkes says. "Up to 17 other states have done that, and Arizona's method is outdated and rewards inefficiencies."

If elected, Fowlkes insists: "I'll fight for competition in the electric-power industry."

Fowlkes believes electrical utilities should be able to sell power outside of their designated service boundaries—and that if customers had three or four electricity providers to choose from, the competition would decrease rates.

This market-based approach was contemplated in Arizona about a decade ago, but Fowlkes says it disappeared after problems arose with the policy in California. Despite that, he thinks it's time to revisit the idea.

He also wants to revisit the ACC mandate that 15 percent of electricity be generated from renewable sources by 2025.

"I'm a big fan of renewables," Fowlkes says, "but the standard leaves out nuclear." Plus, he continues, tax incentives passed by the state Legislature, not ACC-approved mandates, should encourage utility companies to shift toward renewable energy.

On his website, Fowlkes says about the existing renewable-energy standard: "(It) will likely result in much higher costs than would have occurred in a normal market without government intervention."

Democratic candidate David Bradley disagrees and notes that government subsidies to the oil and gas industries have been "enormous."

"Rate shock is important," Bradley says about renewable-energy sources that are presently more expensive, "but that can be offset by efficiencies such as turning lights off when appropriate.

"The focus," Bradley continues, "is that Arizona should be at the forefront of renewable energy for electricity. We're a perfect fit for solar energy, and should be a main provider (of the technology) to the rest of the world." Accomplishing that would create "jobs, jobs, jobs," he says.

If elected, Bradley will figure out how increasing the use of renewable energy in the state can help stimulate Arizona's economy even further, he says.

Bradley claims the chief difference between himself and the two Republicans on the ballot is his commitment to renewable energy. "They don't believe global warming is an issue," he states.

Acknowledging she's not a scientist, Republican Brenda Burns replies: "What really resonates with me are scientists who say global warming (is an issue), but that (federal) cap-and-trade legislation is the wrong way to go. Instead, we should learn to adapt."

Burns says she has a strong work ethic "and will work very hard for ratepayers."

Adding that these are "very exciting" times for energy issues, if economically "uncomfortable" ones, Burns notes that ACC decisions will have an impact on the state's economy.

"I want to make sure that impact is positive," she says, "and I will keep my word."

Burns thinks her past leadership positions in the Arizona Legislature set her apart from her Democratic rivals. She claims that she and the other Republican in the race, Gary Pierce, "will protect the ratepayers."

Democratic candidate Jorge Luis Garcia responds: "If the ratepayers are wealthy people, they'll do extremely well (under the Republicans). But for the average person, they'll do a lousy job."

Garcia says that if elected, he'll give the benefit of the doubt to consumers in ACC cases.

Garcia wants to become part of a "solar majority" on the commission. This group of Democrats, in his view, would withstand the Republican Legislature's potential challenge to ACC authority to set renewable-energy standards.

Arizona should be an international leader in alternative energy, Garcia says, particularly solar power. He also hopes the Phoenix-area, nonregulated Salt River Project could be convinced to voluntarily subscribe to the renewable-energy standards.

On his webpage, Garcia declares of the five-member ACC board, which now has three Republicans: "A Democratic majority on the Corporation Commission is vital for keeping electricity rates down and expanding clean energy in Arizona."

Republican Pierce is seeking re-election and calls that statement "a pretty amazing claim."

"It was five Republicans who created the renewable-energy standard," he says of the commission's action in October 2006. "Republicans are the only ones you can trust to make renewables affordable to ratepayers."

Pierce says Democrats want to tax carbon dioxide emissions through cap-and-trade legislation at the national level. Pierce says that step could increase Tucson Electric Power rates up to 260 percent, because the utility burns coal to generate electricity.

Saying he will work to ensure future supplies of electricity, water and natural gas for the state, Pierce concludes: "I want to be remembered as reasonable, fair and just to ratepayers and utility companies, just as the state Constitution necessitates I be. The Arizona Constitution dictates how I conduct myself."

Two other names—Benjamin Pearcy and Theodore Gomez—will be on the ballot, but they are not creditable candidates, having been recruited as "sham" Green Party candidates by Republican operatives.

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