With an idea this good, what can possibly go wrong?

It's a few decades back, and this big steel company decides to modernize one of its furnace operations with the latest technology, according to an IT pilot fish in the know.

"In this case, that was an electric arc furnace, where steel is continually made and fed right into the destination mill, such as a rolling mill or wire mill," fish says.

"They picked a particular existing plant in a part of the state with some of the highest electric rates in the country. Since another state with a much lower electric rate is just across the river, they decided to run power lines over to that electricity provider."

IT's part in the modernization project is pretty straightforward, but fish and his cohorts are pretty excited about the (literally) hot steel-making tech -- and the clever idea of running high-tension lines across a river to make the renovated plant much more economical.

But as the go-live date for the new works approaches, one tiny problem rears its head: Turns out the local electric utility has a state-mandated monopoly to provide electric power in the area. You can generate your own, but you're not allowed to get electricity from elsewhere.

The local electric utility finds out about the steelmaker's plans and goes to court. The judge prohibits the steelmaker from getting electricity from anyone but the local electric utility.

And so on go-live day, the company starts up the big new electric arc furnace, runs one batch of steel through it using the expensive electricity from the local utility -- then shuts it down.

And an order goes out to the plant: "If you remove any equipment from the electric arc mill, you will be fired."

Sighs fish, "Apparently if the furnace was 'operational' -- which they proved by running one batch -- and remained so, they could depreciate it over time. If it was not 'operational,' then it had to be written off completely. So it sat until the entire facility was eventually shut down.

"I wonder who the genius was that didn't bother to check the rules about utilities and chose to build where electric rates were so high. This stuff doesn't happen just in IT."

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