Members of the legislative press corps are busy today. They’re trying to learn details of some of the last-minute legislation making its way through the House and Senate.

Among the items they’ll find in their e-mail inboxes is the following:

RALEIGH ? A John Locke Foundation research analyst is raising questions about possible state regulation of gasoline, home heating oil and other products.

The N.C. House voted 70-40 Tuesday to order a study of possible regulation. Supporters say they want to know whether it makes sense for the N.C. Utilities Commission to add new regulations for petroleum products and profits. The state already regulates electricity and natural gas.

You may attribute the following quote to Dr. Roy Cordato, JLF Vice President for Research and Resident Scholar:

?The idea that the General Assembly may be considering regulating the distribution of oil
and gasoline in North Carolina as a public utility is equivalent to announcing that the state is going to consider transforming your local gas station into the electric company or the post office. In other words, it would transform a competitive industry that serves the public efficiently and promptly into a state-run monopoly.

?The hallmark of a public utility is that pricing, production, and distribution decisions are taken out of the competitive marketplace and transferred to a public utility commission established by the state. The closest this country has had to such a regime for oil and
gasoline was during the 1970s, when pricing and distribution programs established by the Nixon and Carter administrations were operated by the federal government.

?The outcome was massive shortages, long gasoline lines, the elimination of nearly all domestic exploration, and what is commonly referred to as the ?energy crisis.? Those who believe that a public utility commission established by politicians and bureaucrats in Raleigh can somehow manage the local impact of global supply and demand conditions, the primary cause of the current run up in energy prices, must be still wondering why
the Soviet economic system didn?t work.? 

This amendment is part of a bill that still requires one more vote this afternoon in the House. Then state senators must decide whether to accept or reject this idea.