Power Hungry: California in Crisis

One of the top news stories recently has been the California electrical power “crisis”. Information regarding increasing electrical power consumption vs. the lack of new supply or generating capacity has been readily available to anyone who cared to check for many years now.

Why is it suddenly in the forefront as a “crisis”? The growing population of the United States is also no big surprise and should lead anyone who has been keeping tabs on electrical power consumption to conclude that increased electrical generation supply (capacity) will continue to be needed.

News reports on TV about the recent “rolling blackouts” in central and northern California have featured executives of companies bemoaning the fact that a blackout costs them thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars for each hour that they have no electricity.

If that is truly the case why don’t they have emergency generators?

Many companies depend on computers, computer networks, just-in-time delivery and many other key (electricity dependent) business models. Power blackouts happen all the time (usually unexpected) due mostly to weather conditions.

Why wait for a major problem to crop up before some constructive action is taken?

These companies need to have in place contingency plans for an uninterrupted supply of electrical power.

Who is behind the current woes facing California?

It all depends on who you ask. People have been pointing fingers at the power companies, the electrical power generating companies, OPEC, the oil companies, the state regulators, the politicians and just about anyone else involved in the energy business. So who is the real culprit?

Media coverage of the situation has contributed to the crisis by not disclosing relevant facts to the public thus leading people to incorrect assumptions.
Here is just one example:

A recent ABC News Nightline TV program hosted by Ted Koppel (1/24/2001) was discussing the California power crisis with three guests. Ted Koppel asked Dan Morain (deputy Sacramento bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times) “why did they (the utilities) give up their generating capacity? Isn’t that what the power suppliers are supposed to have?” Dan Morain replied “Well it’s a point of no small debate, but the fact is that the utilities made a ton of money by selling off a lot of their generators.

They sold them for more than they thought they were going to get.” No other follow up question was asked and there was no other mention of why the utilities sold their generating capacity during the rest of the program. This leaves the viewer of this Nightline program thinking (incorrectly) that the only reason that the California utilities sold their generating capacity was pure greed.

The truth is that the utilities were required by California law (AB1890 – the main bill deregulating the utilities passed by the California state assembly) to sell at least 50% of their generating capacity.

The current power crisis in California is being portrayed as a shortage of electricity supply. According to Edison International (Parent Company of Southern California …

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  • A new anti-corruption agency should be established.
  • University charges should be capped at €2,000 per year.
  • We should build a unified National Health Service that is free to all.
  • We should establish a new National Housing Agency and build 10,000 new homes.
  • Primary education should be fully free, including books and transport.
  • We should create a community banking sector with credit unions and post offices.
  • Smaller companies should pay lower commercial rates.
  • There should be no tax cuts at this point, but there should be more investment in public services.
  • Water charges and the water conservation grant should be abolished.
  • Public transport should be subsidised more to make it cheaper for the traveller.


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