Who To Blame When Your Lights Go Out

Iíve warned you all before about the major problems that this nation will soon face when your lights go out and donít come back on for a long, long time or, even worse, when the voltage and frequency become so unstable as to destroy your expensive electronic equipment, refrigerator motors, computers, security systems and on and on. The deregulation that your representatives have so gleefully inflicted upon you in order to please their masters in Corporate America is already being shown to be the stupidity that I told you it would be years ago.

Now, even Energy Secretary Bill Richardson has taken up the cry, warning that Congress must enact legislation mandating reliability standards for wholesale power producers. His department released a report that concluded that the transition to electricity competition has resulted in a situation of utilities focusing only on competing for markets , cutting costs and maximizing profits and ignoring those factors such as regular maintenance and repairs that would assure a constant flow of usable power.

Citing long power outages last year during the peak power loads of summer in Long Island, Chicago, New York City, New Jersey, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana and not outage grid disturbances in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states, Richardson warned that the nation will experience even more problems unless action comes very soon.

Naturally, one of the major stumbling blocks to any legislation mandating a regular power system maintenance program is the Republicans who donít want the federal government to have any power over Corporate Americaís profit driven destruction of Americaís utilities. Instead, they want the states to retain control, creating a patchwork of control within a power grid that crosses state lines everywhere. Weak links would become the rule rather than the exception and power outages covering larger and larger areas will be assured.

Gentle readers, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the availability of the reliable electrical system that you have come to expect is soon to be gone forever. As in every other industry that has been able to weasel out from under much needed federal regulation, your power system is in the process of degrading past the point that half measures and spot repairs can achieve any acceptable results.

Everywhere, in all areas of this nation, profits are again the only issue that holds sway. Delaying much needed maintenance, deferring up-grades where desperately needed and simply not repairing equipment may make the bottom line appear huge today but, in a far shorter time than you may be comfortable with, the costs are going to exceed the ability of the utility industry to be financially able to afford and then what, gentle readers? You will be asked to hand over your taxes to these profit mills in order to restore some small level of service. You will pay either through taxes or vastly increased rates to make up for the lunacy that is deregulation.

Once again, Corporate America will slither away from their responsibilities to maintain the electrical (and S&Ls and banking and airlines and communication and trucking) systems and, be honest with yourself, how many Americans will even remember warnings like these when the executives go crying to Congress that they just canít afford to fix the system so they just have to have a few hundreds of billions of dollars more in Corporate Welfare to tide them over? How many Americans will have the courage at that late date to take a stand and demand that the utilities pay for their own mistakes without being allowed to wallow in the public trough? We both know that the utilities and their slaves in Congress will either cry and moan that it really isnít anyoneís fault, you know. These things happen in an uncontrolled economy, right!?! And if this style of begging fails, then the Congressional peons will just add some riders to educational bills or transportation bills or something and just hide the welfare there. Believe me, you will pay for the errors of the utilities one way or the other and, even then, over and over and over. ( 1, 2)

Okay, Iím done. Just donít ever say I havenít warned you about this. Okay?

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Copyright 3/30/2000