The quickest way out of California’s energy crisis is to turn on every single electrical device in the state. I know, it sounds like ass-backward logic, but in these foul days the only way to fight feces is with feces.
The numbers are in, the Golden Dookie Award for the “Crappiest Idea of the Decade” goes to our 1996 legislature and its decision to deregulate our power. This poo-poo logic went something like, “Let’s make the electric companies sell off all their electric plants to some cutthroat Houston oil barons. Then, let’s see if the oil barons charge us less than what we’re charged now.”
Four years, $15 billion and eight days of blackouts later, the answer is no. No, they won’t charge us less. They are Texans, and they will hoard every penny they can swindle. Enron Corp., Duke Energy, Reliant Energy and others are watching their stocks jump more than 30 percent. Enron’s fourth-quarter profits are four times larger than last year and in excess of $30 billion.
Meanwhile, unpaid Edison employees have started doing amphetamines to stay alert during long nights of power shuffling. Gov. Davis has appealed to the federal government, but he might as well be asking for sympathy from the Devil.
President-reject Bush has turned a deaf ear to the seventh largest economy in the world and then decided to gut punch us with an outspoken deregulation fan named Curt Herbert – soon-to-be head of the only government agency with any power to stop this nonsense.
The fix is in. The head of FERC will be a Southern boy and a true believer in what the boys in Houston like to call “fair market price.” Edison can’t charge its customers more than seven cents an hour, Davis wants five cents, and the boys in Houston want about 40.
There is nothing fair, there is no market, and the price is more like a ransom. This is nothing new. Electricity has always been a growth industry for pimps, swindlers and those of light conscience. Thomas Edison – beloved marketer of direct current – would throw dead animals over the fence of Nicolai Tesla’s alternating current power plants and tell local newspapers that Tesla’s AC was dangerous and unreliable.
Of course, it wasn’t – this computer and everything else runs on AC – but Tesla’s AC power plants still went out of business. Edison bought the brilliant Russian scientist’s AC patent and Tesla died penniless. God bless America.
Many journalists are confused as to why most of the public cares little about the energy problem. On a bad day my answer is simply, “the masses are asses.” But today is a good day, and I truly believe it goes deeper than that. The reality is, you have to hurt people to engage them in an issue. Our electricity problems don’t really hurt, yet.
Sure, rolling blackouts are sweeping through Central and Northern California, but big deal. Electrically and politically, L.A. has plenty of its power. Many couldn’t care less about Davis getting flogged in the dark by large heavies with a thick Texan accent asking, “where’s the 12 billion, Dave? You said you could cover it, Dave. Down in the heartland we don’t take kindly to liars, Dave.”
On a local level, smoking light sockets, surges, brownouts and the occasional exploding transformer is the norm for Isla Vistans. The town was wired by a couple of acid-tripping roadies from Jefferson Airplane, and we’re lucky it has held up this long.
Until the defibrillator pads stop working, until old ladies start dying of heat exhaustion and little children have to drink sour milk from dirty dishes, nothing will change. The power barons will eventually get their swindled billions. Hence, my solution at the beginning of the column.
If everyone in California suddenly turns on everything electric, two things will happen:
1) Chaos will descend upon the Golden State as blackouts repeatedly cripple business and government. Working TVs will show CNN footage of useless traffic lights and clogged intersections. Fires will rage, stores will be looted and hundreds will perish.
2) On the flip side, we’ll collectively hold the power barons responsible. Enron and others will be smacked with a class-action lawsuit a la tobacco, and the families of the victims plus the state will get every penny back. California is a democratic state. Democrats are lawyers, and we need to beat the power barons on our own turf.
Also, we’ll know exactly how much power this state needs and can begin emergency production on some new generators. And I mean build the bastards quick, right on that wasteland of a border with Mexico. Hire thousands of immigrants and pay them with citizenship to the great Mall of America. They’ll work harder and faster than any fat-assed unionized American, and I bet it could be done in two months.
Welcome to 2001. Let the triumph of ass-backward logic begin. End our power crisis by turning everything on.
David Downs is the Daily Friday editor and a reverend in the Universal Life Church. His columns appear every Wednesday.