Only The Poor Will Freeze
In The Dark
Stephen M. Lawton
decisions. Do I turn on the laser printer now, when I'm just walking into
my office, or do I wait, turn it on when I need it, then turn it off again?
Maybe I should get rid of it altogether and get one of those new-fangled
"color output devices" multicolor pens and blank paper.
After all, I already edit in red what's a few more colors?
The energy crisis,
like so many other crises we face here in California, is a reality more
because of political decisions that deregulated the energy industry, than
because of a power shortage. Other states have deregulated the power industry
without having daily rolling blackouts.
It appears that the crisis will only
be fixed by more political intervention. Gov. Gray Davis has asked Californians
to cut back on their consumption by 7 percent, but Davis gave no guidelines
on just how his 7 percent solution will work.
If I'm a small business executive
and turn off half of my interior lights, eliminate the music-on-hold feature
from my phones and unplug my coffee pot, will that reduce my usage by
7 percent? If I turn off all of my exterior lighting at night, will that
make the grade? I don't know and neither does anyone else.
Apparently, turning off exterior lighting
will do nothing at all, if you use the San Francisco skyline at night
as a representative indicator. Driving home over the Bay Bridge, I see
San Francisco lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree.
The Bank of America colors blaze brightly
over its sponsored clock tower, and Pac Bell Park is clearly identified
to all who gaze in that direction, despite the fact that nothing is going
on at the park in the evening. Hotels and other companies with fat wallets
continue to light up the sky with advertising, not to mention the ubiquitous
billboards that line every street.
Conservation, it seems, is only for
those who can least afford to pay huge power bills: the small and midsize
businesses. Pacific Gas & Electric, which contracts with some industrial
users to allow it to shut off their power a given amount of time during
the year in exchange for lower rates, used up virtually all those minutes
in the first three weeks of 2001.
Oh, and just how are PG&E and
other utilities saving their money?It certainly isn't by cutting back
on political donations. News reports say donations are still funneling
One edict that helps but is late in
coming: Gov. "Punxsutawney" Davis' law that puts California
in the energy business also requires companies to reduce outdoor lighting
during nonbusiness hours. Problem is, they don't have to comply until
March 15, six weeks from the date the law was signed. If they don't comply,
the law only calls for a $1,000-per-day fine.
How appropriate the news should hit
on Groundhog Day it looks like we're in for six more weeks of rolling
blackouts and Stage 3 alerts. Now, governor, how about the natural gas?