Let's pretend Progress Energy is in the construction business.
As a builder of high-end homes, the company told customers it was thinking about developing a fancy new neighborhood in Levy County.
The glossy brochures suggest the homes will cost about $200,000 and be ready for occupancy by 2016.
A year later, the company says circumstances have changed. The homes remain the same size with the exact same amenities, but now will cost around $400,000.
Oops, hold on. Let's make that $600,000. And, um, they won't be built until 2018. And that's on the optimistic side.
On the other hand, they're going to start charging customers immediately. You know, just to help folks avoid bigger bills down the road.
Fast forward a few years. Construction still hasn't started. The company is still collecting money from customers. And now the price of the homes is closer to $1-million. And they probably won't be ready until 2021 to 2024. That's if they're built at all.
So here's the question:
Would that construction company still be in business?
Let's pretend Progress Energy runs a restaurant.
Business is thriving, and everyone is happy. The only issue is the oven is getting old.
Don't try to replace it yourself, everyone says. Hire an expert, they suggest. The bosses don't listen and hire subcontractors who have never before installed this type of oven.
Surprise! They screw it up and have caused major damage. So now repair costs are astronomical, and the restaurant is charging higher prices just to compensate.
Meanwhile, the chefs are renting kitchen space in other restaurants.
This has been going on for almost three years, and there is no hope of repairing that oven for at least another couple of years.
So here's the question:
Do you suppose that restaurant would still be open?
Let's pretend Progress Energy exists in any universe other than the monopolistic world of public utilities.
Is it even remotely possible that a company could get away with the major delays, massive price miscalculations, bungled repairs and consumer price gouging that Progress Energy has been perpetrating the past five years?
In a nutshell, these energy executives destroyed the Crystal River nuclear plant, vastly misstated the costs and schedule for a new nuclear plant in Levy County, passed the costs on to citizens and are still making big bucks.
Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, says Progress Energy has no intention of building the Levy County plant and is merely offering higher price tags and delays in order to continue the Legislative-blessed charge of up-front construction fees.
"This is one of the best Ponzi schemes ever created. Bernie Madoff would be proud of Progress Energy,'' said Fasano, who has been calling for Legislative intervention for three years.
"They are charging people every month for nothing. For money that is not being invested anywhere and is just going into Progress Energy pockets.''
This would be comical if it wasn't so expensive.
It would be unbelievable if it wasn't so Florida.
"The Public Service Commission cops out every time there's another rate request,'' Fasano said. "No one is willing to step up and say, 'Hold on, this is a joke.' ''