Daily Archives: August 19, 2004

They Never Quit

Two summers ago, California’s deregulated electricity market proved to the whole country how unscrupulous corporate operators could–and were perfectly prepared to–take advantage of the lack of govt oversight to extort $$$Billions$$$ by manipulating that market. And what is the CA state govt’s response? Ahnud wants more deregulation, of course. Not surprisingly, there is opposition.

SACRAMENTO — Consumer groups said Wednesday that they might push for a ballot initiative that could close the door on attempts to deregulate California’s electricity market should Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger veto a key power bill making its way through the Legislature.The initiative would ask voters to permanently prohibit manufacturers, big-box stores and other major energy consumers from buying electricity at unregulated prices — a key feature of deregulation scenarios favored by the Schwarzenegger administration, which has said consumers should be allowed to “choose their energy providers.”

“If we can figure out a way to bring this directly to the people of California, I think the response would be overwhelmingly favorable,” said Bob Finkelstein, executive director of the Utility Reform Network, a San Francisco ratepayers advocacy group also known as TURN. “After the [deregulation] experiment blew up in their faces in 2001, they’ll say, ‘Yeah, we’re not going to do that again.’ ”

TURN’s threat to try to decide the future of the state’s electricity market in the voting booth came after a news conference on the statehouse steps aimed at increasing pressure on Schwarzenegger to support a bill by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles).

Nuñez’s bill, AB 2006, represents the first major attempt by lawmakers to revamp California’s electricity generation, transmission and marketing system since a 1996 deregulation law led to rolling blackouts and spiking prices in 2000 and 2001.

Nuñez and his allies say AB 2006 would protect against shortages by requiring that utilities have more than enough electricity on hand to handle demand on the hottest days — either from their own power plants or through long-term contracts with private generating companies. The bill would ensure that utilities such as Southern California Edison Co. could charge their customers rates that were high enough to pay for the cost of building power plants.

The now-rescinded 1996 deregulation took utilities largely out of the power-generating business and forced them to obtain all their electricity on a daily spot market that turned out to be prone to manipulation by traders and private generating companies.

In its current form, the Nuñez bill contains no provisions for a free market for electricity, and Schwarzenegger has telegraphed that he would veto it if it made it to his desk before the Legislature adjourns this month.

The governor has said that he wants lawmakers to pass a deregulation bill and leave other restructuring of the state’s electricity market to the California Public Utilities Commission, whose members are appointed by the governor. Nuñez counters that the issue is so important that it must be fully vetted by elected legislators, not the governor’s appointees, to ensure that small-business and residential customers aren’t hit with sky-high utility bills.

You gotta admire the way these guys can turn their backs on reality, no matter how stark the lesson. What kind of a jackass could live through the deregulation fiasco of 2001 and come out of it proclaiming the need for more deregulation? A Republican, that’s what kind.

Flexibility is not a Republican value. Neither, it would appear, is the most basic recognition of fact. Explains a few things, doesn’t it?