August 17, 2003  ·  admin

With and estimated 50 million Americans and Canadians left without power and in some cases water, common sense requires us to reflect on the absurdity of deregulation of public utilities. In the first case, the right of utility franchise is vested in the people. We give utilities permission to operate, and enable them to set up a profit making business in exchange for the promise of affordable and reliable service. In 1992, investor owned utilities pushed the Democratic House to pass HR776 which granted electric utilities broad powers. The bill was supposed to restructure the electric utility industry to spur competition.

Utilities used deregulation to effect a series of mergers limiting competition. In order to accelerate profits, cost cutting ensued, involving the layoff of thousands of utility company employees, including some who were responsible for maintenance of generation, transmission, and distribution systems. A number of investor-owned utilities stopped investing in the maintenance and repair of their own equipment, and, instead, cut costs to enhance the value of their stock rather than spending money to enhance the value of their service.

A prime case in point is FirstEnergy Corp, late of Ohio. FirstEnergy formed through a merger of utility companies which owned nuclear power plants which often were neither used nor useful, and as a result incurred huge debt. FirstEnergy’s predecessor, The Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company (CEI) in the 1950s and 60s was a high performing blue chip stock until they invested in nuclear power. FirstEnergy has tried without success to keep online a very troublesome nuclear power facility at Port Clinton, Ohio, the Davis-Besse plant. Davis-Besse is currently shut down and has been for some time. FirstEnergy and federal regulators failed to properly monitor the operations of the plant, resulting in conditions where the plant’s reactor vessel was threatened with a breach when boric acid ate into the head of the reactor.

Millions of people in the Midwest and the water supply of our entire Great Lakes region were at risk because of First Energy’s negligence, improper maintenance, and actual cover-up of the degradation of the reactor. Furthermore, federal regulators determined that notwithstanding the peril which was presented to one of the largest populated areas of the United States, FirstEnergy’s financial condition necessitated the continued operation of the flawed reactor. The regulators put profit ahead of public interest.

If there was ever an example of an unholy alliance between government and industry, this is it. If there was ever an example of the failure of necessary regulation by the government of an investor-owned utility, it is found in the government’s failure to regulate FirstEnergy, because now, according to published reports by the Associated Press, CNN, and ABC News, the blackout which affected an estimated 50 million people began in the FirstEnergy system.

I’ve been familiar with First Energy and the challenge of utility monopolies for over 30 years. Early in my career, in the 1970s, I watched FirstEnergy’s predecessor, CEI, as they were hard at work trying to undermine the ability of the City of Cleveland to operate its own municipal electric system. CEI conducted a tireless crusade to attempt to put the city’s publicly owned system, Muny Light, out of business. Muny Light competed against CEI in a third of the city and provided municipal power customers with savings on their electric bill of 20-30 percent. It also provided cheaper electricity for 76 city facilities and thousands of Cleveland street lights, saving taxpayers millions of dollars each year. In the 1970s, CEI applied for a license to operate a nuclear power plant. The license application triggered an antitrust review. The antitrust review revealed that CEI had committed numerous violations of federal antitrust law in its attempt to put Muny Light out of business. The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in an extensive investigation, determined that CEI blocked Muny Light from making repairs to its generator by lobbying the Cleveland City Council to place special conditions on Muny Light Bonds which made the bonds more difficult to sell, thereby depriving the city of revenue it needed to repair its generators in order to provide its own power. The delay in repairs to the generators caused Muny Light to have to purchase power. CEI then worked behind the scenes to block Muny Light from purchasing power from other power companies. CEI became the only power company Muny Light could buy from. At that point, CEI sharply increased and sometimes tripled the cost of purchase power to Muny Light. And, as a result, Muny Light began to lose money. CEI used Muny Light’s weakened operational and financial condition (which they created) as evidence of the public system’s lack of viability and as proof that the only way the people of Cleveland could have reliable power was for the city to sell its electric system to CEI. The antitrust review cited one incident when during a period of inclement weather, Muny Light asked CEI for a special transfer of emergency power. The transfer of power was conducted in such a way so as to cause an outage on the Muny Light system. CEI used the incident as further proof of the city’s inability to operate a municipal electric system. Throughout this period, the Cleveland media, which received substantial advertising revenues from CEI, crusaded against the city’s ownership of a municipal electric system. When the federal government came to review CEI’s practices, CEI executives appeared at a city council committee meeting to declare that they had no interest in the acquisition of Muny Light even as they worked behind the scenes to put Muny Light out of business.

In 1976, after years of work to undermine Muny Light, CEI finally succeeded in getting the mayor and the council of Cleveland to agree to sell Muny Light, giving CEI a monopoly on electric power in the Cleveland area and enabling CEI to greatly expand its rate base to get more revenue to pay for its rapidly mounting expenses associated with building nuclear power plants. At that time, I was clerk of the Cleveland Municipal Court, a citywide elected office. I organized a civic campaign to save Muny Light. People gathered signatures in freezing rain to block the sale. I ran for mayor of Cleveland on a promise that if elected, my first act would be to cancel the sale of Muny Light. I won the election. I cancelled the sale. CEI immediately went to court to demand that the city pay 15 million dollars for power which it had purchased while CEI was running up charges to the city. The previous mayor had intended to pay that light bill by selling the light system and simultaneously disposing of a 325 million dollar antitrust damage suit. My election not only stopped the sale, but kept the lawsuit alive. CEI went to federal court to get an order attaching city equipment as a means of trying to destabilize city services as still another desperate effort to try to try to create a political climate to force the sale. I moved quickly to pay the bill by cutting city spending. The Muny Light issue came to a head on December 15, 1978, when Ohio’s largest bank, Cleveland Trust, the 33rd largest bank in America at that time, told me that they would not renew the city’s credit on 15 million dollars worth of loans taken out by the previous administration unless I would agree to sell Cleveland’s municipally owned utility to CEI.

On that day, by that time, the sale of Muny Light was being promoted by both Cleveland newspapers, virtually all of the radio and TV stations in town, the entire business community, all the banks, both political parties, and several unions, as well as a majority of the Cleveland City Council. All I had to do was to sign my name to legislation and the system would have sold and the city credit “protected.” The chairman of Cleveland Trust even offered 50 million dollars of new credit if I would agree to sell Muny Light.

Where I come from it matters how much people pay for electricity. I grew up in the inner city of Cleveland. The oldest of 7 children. My parents never owned a home, they lived in 21 different places by the time I was 17, including a couple of cars. I remember when there were 5 children and my parents living in a 3 room upstairs apartment on Cleveland’s east side. My parents would sometimes sit in the kitchen at one of those old white enamel top tables, which, when the surface was chipped, was black underneath. When they counted their pennies, I could hear them clicking on the enamel top table. Click, Click, Click.

When I was in the board room with the Chairman of Cleveland Trust Bank, I was thinking about my parents counting their pennies and I could hear those pennies hitting the enamel top table. So, I said no to the sale of Muny Light to CEI. At Midnight, Cleveland Trust put the City of Cleveland into default. Later, it was revealed, that Cleveland Trust and CEI had four interlocking directors. Cleveland Trust was CEI’s bank. Together with another bank, Cleveland Trust owned a substantial share of CEI stock and had numerous other mutual interests. Public power was saved in Cleveland. I lost the election in 1979 with default as the major issue. Cleveland Trust changed it name to AmeriTrust. The new mayor changed the name of Muny Light to Cleveland Public Power.

In 1993, the City of Cleveland announced that it was expanding Muny Light. It was the largest expansion of any municipal electric system in America. I had been long gone from major elected office. In fact, after the default, most political analysts considered my career over. I had been asked many times by other politicians why I just didn’t make the deal and sell the light system, especially when my career was on the line. I believe that there are, in fact, some things more important than the next election.

When a reporter from the Cleveland Plain Dealer reached me to tell me about the expansion, I was on a beach in Malibu watching the dolphins play. Cleveland was the farthest thing from my mind. After I left City Hall, I couldn’t get a job in Cleveland, I almost lost my home, and my marriage fell apart. But I had no real complaints, because, according to a US Senate Subcommittee studying organized crime in the Mid-Atlantic states, I had survived, through sheer luck, an assassination plot. There was something comforting looking out on the Pacific and watching the waves glisten in the sun.

So when a reporter told me that people were saying that the expansion could not have happened without my making a decision to save the system, I thought “that’s nice.” People in Cleveland began to say that I was right not to sell Muny Light and they asked me to come back. So I did. I ran for State Senate in 1994 on a slogan “because he was right” with little rays of yellow light shining behind my name on my campaign signs. I was one of the few Democrats to unseat a Republican incumbent that year in a state election.

Two years later, I was one of the few Democrats to unseat a Republican incumbent to gain election to Congress. My campaign signs had a light bulb behind my name with the words “Light up Congress.” Today, I’m running for President of the United States and I want to light up America, and a good place to start will be to shed light on a deregulation process that has abandoned the public interest.

Dennis J. Kucinich
On the road to Davenport, Iowa

This entry and my personal blog are licensed under a Creative Commons License.

  • http://ebw-edu.poliblog.com Eric Brunner-Williams

    That is a nice piece of writing. I’m glad I checked Lessig’s blog again.

  • http://ecumene.org Ingrid Shafer

    Your message represents a rare balance of head and heart! Your feet are firmly grounded on the foundation of facts, but your vision includes ideals most pragmatists are too cynical to admit. Is it possible that an honorable man, a man who speaks the truth no matter what the cost, a man who is not for sale, a man who cares, truly cares, for the people, a man who is both flexible and unwilling to compromise beyond a certain point � is it possible that such a man could be our next President? I believe it is. Thank you for giving voice to our calling as Americans and members of the human community. Thank you for remembering the Click-Click-Click of those pennies on the old kitchen table with the chipped white enamel top. The image brought tears to my eyes. I remembered the time almost forty years ago when the utilities had been turned off and my children were hungry and I was desperately searching for pennies under couch cushions. Thank you for being you and reminding us of who we can be!

    Ingrid

  • http://www.muhajabah.com/muslims4kucinich Laura

    This incident seems to illustrate everything that is wrong with the current system, all rolled into one. God bless you for having the courage to keep standing up for the truth and for the interests of consumers.

  • http://www.dennisforamerica.org David Christopher

    Dennis is speaking good sense here – thank goodness he survived that assassination plot. I have a feeling that fate shines upon this guy. He is dancing in the arms of the great spirits that be, and challenging all of us to live up to our higher selves.

    A good friend of mine lives in New York and was travelling on the subway at the time the blackout hit. He said that all the passengers were convinced this was another terrorist attack. For me, it was almost spooky watching the pictures of people in New York coping with this – really reminiscent of 9/11.

    I’m thankful this attack turns out not to be the work of terrorists, but is rather a predictable consequence of the disastrous policy of energy deregulation. It’s a reminder once again that, while there are areas of the economy in which a free-market policy is the best, there are plenty of other areas best managed by the people and by the government, rather than by unaccountable profit-seeking corporations.

    Finally, Greg Palast has some interesting things to say about the blackout on his website at http://www.gregpalast.com

  • Dave C.

    First a lightning storm knocks out the CSPAN signal during Dennis’ closing remarks at the AFL-CIO after he quoted, “The last shall be first”. And then a surge of power thru Ohio so strong it knocks out cities for hundreds of miles during the healthcare debate. Call me a dreamer, but I think Dennis is the conduit for the power of the people to affect change in this nation and our system.

  • http://www.bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    Pennsylvania is the only state in the east with meaningful deregulation of electric power, and also the only one that was not affected by the blackout.

    If there’s a lesson on deregulation to be learned from the blackout it’s that dergulation means reliable, cheap, and clean power, and massive regulation means flakey, expensive, and dirty power but lots of cool sound bites for politicians willing to exploit human suffering for the sake of a few votes.

    By the way, we also need more nukes.

  • http://ecumene.org Ingrid Shafer

    Richard,

    We need MORE nukes????

    What makes you think that we can build safe nuclear power plants if we can’t even set up a reliable energy grid?

    What we need is ALTERNATVE, SUSTAINABLE, and RENEWABLE energy sources — solar, wind, water, tides, geothermal, whatever (at least until someone develops a way to use nuclear FUSION effectively).

    Ingrid

  • Ed Lyons

    Thanks for that story, Congressman. I feel as if I understand who you are now. I wish you luck.

    And thank you, Professor Lessig – for having the Congressman guest blog. This time it really worked.

    Ed

  • http://www.unbendable.org Matthew Smillie

    Pennsylvania is the only state in the east with meaningful deregulation of electric power, and also the only one that was not affected by the blackout.

    You neglect to mention Quebec, which has perhaps the single most-regulated (in the sense of “government-controlled”) power system in North America. Given that Quebec supplies both Ontario and the eastern USA with a substantial amount of power, it’s quite impressive that all their lights not only stayed on, but that they’ve been providing a tremendous amount of power to the blacked-out areas.

    And besides – there were blackouts in Pennsylvania.

  • http://www.bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    What makes you think that we can build safe nuclear power plants if we can�t even set up a reliable energy grid?

    France.

  • James Day

    That diagram entitled breach is not the largest of the breaches. The largest one was adjacent to nozzle 3 and some six inches deep by 7 inches long, extending the full depth from the outside of the standard steel outer layer to the outer side of the stainless steel liner, leaving only the 3/8 inch liner to support the internal presure. As a result the liner had bulged upwards by 1/8 inch for a 4 inch length. March 15,02 preliminary report (PDF) and the full docket.

    The issue was discovered and reported during testing to see if an issue which had been found at other plants was present, when a tube moved unexpectedly. The fix proposed is to completely replace the whole steel top of the reactor with an unused one from an uncompleted plant of similar design.

    One reason that this is significant is that the automatic safety regulation of a pressurised water reactor (PWR) depends in part on what happens if there’s a sudden surge in power output. The water moderates (slows down) the neutrons to a level where they can continue the chain reaction. Remove the water and the neutrons stay fast and the reaction dies down. In a sudden power surge, the dramatic increase in heat production causes the water to become steam, automatically removing the moderator and cutting off the reaction. The pressure vessel has to be able to contain the rise in pressure from the steam production. No need for any human or mechanical intervention; the normal physics of hot water boiling takes care of it automatically. The mechanical systems follow later, dampening things further.

    For more on this, see the Borax experiments and other incidents decribed at the Criticality safety Information Resource Center, notably the Borax experiments, which tested this to destruction with a boiling water reactor. A subsequent accident in a test portable PWR bounced the reactor pressure vessel out of it’s holding structure and off the ceiling of the containment building as a result of the pressure wave from the steam hitting the top of the pressure vessel. That design was abandoned as insufficiently safe: the safety method worked and the pressure vessel was fine but it should have been impossible to cause it to happen with just the accidental single control rod movement by a human operator doing maintenence work which caused it. No US power reactor has a design like that one. These examples aren’t intended to worry you but to give you some idea of just how much extreme abuse US reactor designs can take and still take care of themselves. Unlike a certain inherently unsafe Russian design we’ve all heard of.

    Note that I’m no expert in this. I just like to know a little bit about how things work before trying to have an opinion on whether they are safe or not. I’ve concluded that they are more than safe enough and support building many more of them.

  • http://www.bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    I don’t think it’s reasonable to describe the power grid as “unreliable”, given that it operates more or less perfectly, 24/7, for 25 years between failures. By the standards that are normally applied to any mechanical system, that’s outstanding.

  • http://www3.telus.net/samuel Stephen Samuel

    Yep. Quebec was pretty much untouched by the blackout. I did a differential image between the pre-blackout and post-blackout images of the area, and Quebec is pretty much untouched.
    (blacked out areas are in red)

  • http://www.crc32.com Colin Crossman

    I’m going to have to agree with Richard. We need more nuclear power in this country, and lots more of it. France and Canada have shown that nuclear power can be produced safely and cheaply. With new nuclear technologies such as pebble bed, and water quenching techniques adding significantly to the safety, they are the safest and most efficient and most environmentally friendly source of power available.

    Of the sources of power mentioned above, solar and wind are just not feasible over the vast majority of the planet. It is also not possible to make the claim that we could generate the power in the desert and ship it everywhere else… Power generation doesn’t work well that way (even in overly large grids, such as Niagra, the genaration must be spaced out; long distance transmission is only used in emergencies, it’s just too inefficient).

    Two other technologies touted, hydro and tides, will potentially wreak more environemntal harm in setting them up. Hydro plants (read: dams) must eliminate rivers… and we’ve already dammed up most of the useful rivers in north america and used them for power generation (TVA, etc). Now people want to remove those dams (Eastern WA). And tital power? What happens to the tidal pools and beaches that become eradicated when those power systems are put into place?

    I’m afraid I know precious little about geothermal, but what I do know leads me to believe that it would be prohibitively expensive to generate enough power to supply large scale consumption.

    No, nuclear is the way to go, at least for now. Power generation is an evolutionary process, and nuclear is the best choice for the near term. Over the long term, we will assuredly develop better technologies, but that will take time. Canada, which recieves 14% of it’s power from nuclear sources, prevents 5,000,000 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide from entering the air, each month. These are improvements we can see now.

  • Joe

    I’m from Clevleand, and remember when that all went down. The above piece is entirely accurate. The public utilities were not run for the benifit of the public at all. Dennis Kucinich was right in what he did, and one of the VERY few politicians I actually respect. Weather I agree with his opinions on everything or not, I always know he’s doing what he thinks is right. He’s not just doing what he thinks will make his cronies rich like some other politicians we all know.

  • Cleveland Reader

    More ego-stroking on the part of Dennis Kucinich. This guy occaisionally serves a useful purpose in Ohio politics by either raising pragmatic arguments against stupid right-wing politics; or, more often, lending credence to moderate and conservative viewpoints by being so off his rocker, people assume he’s a nutter.

    The facts he presents are incomplete and one-sided, and his implication that the blackout occurred because of high debt on the part of First Energy, which in turn has been caused by nuke plants and de-regulation, is nothing more than leftist spin.

  • http://www.crc32.com Colin Crossman

    I’d agree with Chris. Fusion is great, if it can work. I’ve no problems with any of these technologies in general, it’s just that none of them approach the efficiency of nuclear. As efficiency determines the net total environmental impact, which is the only metric that matters, that is the metric that must be looked at when rating plants. And yes, I do take into account plant failures and accidents into that measure of efficiency. If fusion passes muster, then great.

  • Steve

    The problems that Dennis misses are two fold.
    Muny Light’s managers did not play hard ball.
    CEI’s managers were going beyond the legal.
    Deregulation does not have much to do with it.
    The interesting solution finally came in 92,
    expand MUNY!
    We (all of the planet and esp the US) need to expand
    nuclear power. Adding more regulations and crap to the
    process, just makes it more costly and slower.
    We need to hold CEOs feet to the fire when faults occur.
    Ken Lay should be picking up trash in an orange jump suit
    on wall street! New company perk, build a neighborhood of
    fine homes for the board of directors, just down wind of the
    new nuclear power plant.

  • Glenn Lasher

    Two comments.

    To Mr. Kucinich: Had Ohio been deregulated when the Muny Light issue occurred, Muny Light would have been able to purchase from sources other than CEI.

    To Colin Crossman, I quote your text: We need more nuclear power . . . they are the safest and most efficient and most environmentally friendly source of power available.

    Disagreed.

    Efficient, they may be. I don’t have anything to go by. The fuel for solar panels is cheaper, regardless of efficiency, because you don’t have to dig it out of the ground and enrich it.

    Safest? No. When was the last time you saw a solar panel melt down? How about a leaking radiation? The only safety device a solar panel needs is a fuse or breaker, something that all electric-generating devices need. You don’t need to worry about reactor breaches.

    Environmentally friendly? Don’t make me laugh. Again, solar vs. nuclear, solar produces no waste, and you therefore dont have to cook up cockamamie schemes to drill deep holes in the side of a mountain to bury this waste so it won’t affect anyone for the first 10,000 years of its multi-million year toxic/radioactive lifespan.

    Of the sources of power mentioned above, solar and wind are just not feasible over the vast majority of the planet.

    Again, disagreed. There are viable domestic solar power installations in Maine, New York and other northeast locations, places where it was deemed infeasible due to the cold weather and long winters. Home Power magazine spotlights a number of these systems every other month.

    I am currently in the planning stages of a solar power system for my home. The system cost will be around $64,000 and its projected production is 24kWh/day in the winter and 40kWh/day in the summer. This will meet my household needs (20kWh/day) and provide a surplus that can be sold to Niagara Mohawk. While I grant that this option is not viable to all, and to me it is only viable by buying the system a little at a time, I am gambling that there will be an increase in the price of electricity and fully expect to recoup my costs.

    More projects like this are what are needed, not more nukes. I agree that putting solar power in the desert to feed to civilization is probably a bad idea, but if more people were to invest in their own personal energy independence, the nation, as a whole, would benefit.

  • http://www.unbendable.org Matthew Smillie

    I don’t think calling nuclear power the most environmentally sound source of electricity is even close to the truth; you only need to look at the Hanford nuclear site in Washington state to realise that the problem is with long-term disposal and storage of the waste fuel.

    And speaking of Canada, it’s nuclear generation peaked in 1994, and is down something like 50% since then. It was the largest single producer of hydro-electric power in the world in 1999, with the substantial majority of that coming from Quebec. Canada’s reactors aren’t quite as creaky and old as the cooling-tower monstrosities in the USA, but they’re getting close. The recently-reactivated Barrie reactor has had a spate of deactivations for safety and maintenance, and an overinvestment in nuclear power is partly what drove Ontario Hydro so far into debt.

    So, if that’s your sterling example of safe and reliable nuclear power, it might be time for a re-think.

  • Canadian Reader

    Solar produces no waste? You’ve never seen solar panels made, have you. Look it up. They create nasty, dirty by-products….not unlike nukes.

    That aside, I agree that more solar power would be good, if only that more economical solar panels would make it affordable for more home owners to install their own panels — reducing (if not eliminating) their dependance on the grid. I, for one, will be looking into it with an eye towards installing on my own roof within the year.

  • Dave

    Bwahaha. What a bunch of whining. Why don’t you move to a nice, de-regulated state with plenty of power, like Illinois? Sounds like someone got his panties in a bunch.

    Oh, and a message for the solar power fruitcakes out there: If the sun isn’t shining, THERE AIN’t NO FRIGGIN’ ELECTRICITY! How in the hell are you going to post more ignorant comments if your computer is OFF?

  • Thomas Okken

    So, Cleveland Reader, are you going to back any of that up, or was that just the usual “leftist is bad” rant that always seems to get cheers and applause here in America? What were the facts that Mr. Kucinich left out?

  • Thomas Okken

    So, Cleveland Reader, are you going to back any of that up, or was that just the usual “leftist is bad” rant that always seems to get cheers and applause here in America? What were the facts that Mr. Kucinich left out?

  • Doug Brenner

    Right, Matthew!

    Also, a federal tax credit for investments in alternative energy might go a long way toward motivating people and businesses.

    Another thing we need is conservation. When energy prices inevitably skyrocket to reflect the end of unsustainable industry subsidies, perhaps people will begin to take the conservation issue more seriously.

    Unfortunately I’m sure many more utilities will have achieved stranglehold status by then.

    Re: nukes, we haved too many already. Diesel and Coal may be horribly dirty, but in the long run their environmental footprints are far cleaner than that of the nuclear industry. The nation has a remarkable number of smaller coal and diesel generating plants which spend most of their time offline due to the subsidy-driven artificially low price of nuclear-produced electricity.

    The cheapest, cleanest electricity may come from geothermal, hydroelectric and wind sources. But we should cease the building of additional aluminum smelters right next to new hydro plants, as this scandalously wastes the electricity.

  • Doug Brenner

    FYI… Using taxpayer money to upgrade the Nation’s electrical grid may turn out to be Yet Another industry subsidy. Why would any utility maintain its own equipment when the good old American Taxpayer is standing by to bail the utilities out of their self-induced crises?

    The cost of utility maintenence should be reflected in utility bills, not tax bills.

  • Glenn Thorpe

    god bless our world, for people like sir, whoever you are, (cause being from Oz I’ve never heard of you) make it blessable.

  • Rest Ubk

    OK, so this is a bit off-topic, but wouldn’t it be nice if that stinkin, lying, shylock New York Mayor Bloomberg apologized to the Canadian and American people for throwing out lies that the power outage was Canada’s fault. He did this based on no information whatsoever. Despicable.

  • http://www.thebelfry.net/ batty

    hey dave? not to burst your cranky bubble, but solar systems include batteries, where your home draws the electricity from. certainly, on cloudy days, one must be more aware of one’s electrical usage, but just because the sun isnt shining doesnt mean you’re in the dark.

    a simple google search can give you more information.

  • Al Joseph

    Rest: Couldn’t agree with you more. We seem to have too many cover-your-ass politicians in the USA – to whom lying comes as naturally as breathing. Bloomberg is one of the worst, – right up there with Dubya. This is why Dennis Lessig’s honesty is appreciated by the majority of people. Democracy working as it should. BTW Your comments are not at all off-topic.

  • Ann Oyed

    Right on ! Bastards like Bloomberg should be thrown out of office. Sadly we Americans have become numbed by all the lies that politicians tell us day in and day out. I honestly think that one day Americans will wake up and realize what the Bloombergs, Wolfowitzes, Cohens, Albrights, Reubens, and such, have done to our once great nation. Then there will be a return to honesty and decency. I hope it happens in my lifetime.

  • Will Finch

    Yeah, Bloomberg should be forced to apologize. Not so much to the Canadians (who threw some dirt around too) but to the people of New York and America. We don’t need liars in public offices. Making oneself look good at the expense of others is about as low as you can get. I hope New Yorkers remember this incident when the next NYC elections come around.

  • http://latakia.dyndns.org/blosxom/blog Bob Uhl

    `In the first case, the right of utility franchise is vested in the people. We give utilities permission to operate, and enable them to set up a profit making business in exchange for the promise of affordable and reliable service.’

    I cannot disagree more–how frightening that wording is: we give…permission to operate. That’s crazy: one has a fundamental right to start a business and try to make a buck.

    What is needed is a way to make electricity (and phone, and cable) purchasing more like buying groceries. If my local grocer stops being affordable and reliable, I go to another. The free market is the only way to deliver on affordability and reliable service–state monopolies work in the opposite direction.

  • Bob Schmitt

    Re: Nukes

    I’d agree about the need for more nukes if we could only figure out how to deal with the unintended consequences of existing ones. Just today, parts of Custer National Forest had to be closed because of high levels of radiation being emitted from abandoned uranium mines. (http://www.helenair.com/articles/2003/08/18/montana/a05081803_02.txt)

    re:Dereg

    Here in Montana, deregulation has:

    1) Bankrupted the former Montana Power, now Touch America; throwing hundreds out of work and causing thousands of Montana retirees to loose their life savings. MT Power sold off all it’s generation facilities to PPL in 1999 (which sells most of its electricity out of state), leaving very little local generation capacity, and even less generated with our abundundant hydroelectric facilities.

    2) Put our sole “default” electrical supplier, NorthWestern Energy, on the brink of bankruptcy (CFO quit this weekend, stock trading at $.50 a share, several billions in debt).

    3) Closed down aluminum plants, mines and smelters because of the high cost of energy.

    4) Skewed our state’s political process as energy lobbyists (including our former Governor Marc Raiscot, now head of the GOP and former lobbyist for Enron) threaten, cajole, sweet talk and in the end, chew up state and local politicians trying to bring back the notion of “fair and reasonable” costs for electric power.

    5) Doubled our electric and gas bills in 2 years.

    6) Produced a skittish and nervous electorate wondering if they’re going to be able to afford to light/heat their homes next winter. This is made more ironic in that Montana is a net exporter of electricity.

    No, repeat, no, none, nada, zippo competion has emerged to provide power to Montana consumers since our market was deregulated in 1997.

    The dereg crowd here are the economic equivalent of Taliban, refusing to adjust their prescription in the face of empirical evidence that their chosen path may not be the best one for most of the people involved.

    I suspect the end result will be to push more and more Montanan’s “off the grid” using wind, solar, micro-hydro, and fuel cell technologies (which may not be a bad end result). But what is a practical result for Montanan’s may not necessarily be replicable in the rest of the US.

    We need more policial leaders with Mr. Kucinich backbone (in both parties).

  • Glenn Lasher

    Solar produces no waste? You�ve never seen solar panels made, have you. Look it up. They create nasty, dirty by-products.�not unlike nukes.

    You are correct; I mistyped. I neglected to add the words “in production.” The construction phase is another matter entirely, although Evergreen Solar has found ways to cut the waste tremendously by having the wafers take form initially, rather than cutting wafers from a crystline solid.

    If the sun isn�t shining, THERE AIN�t NO FRIGGIN� ELECTRICITY!

    You use batteries to back it up. This is not a big, complicated matter. The cost of batteries adds a miniscule cost to the system. The panels and the inverter are the major expenses. For that matter, even the cost of inverters (my planned system will involve two at $4000/ea) pales next to the cost of the panels.

    I have deliberately oversized the system I am designing, also, with the idea in mind that I can make up for someone who cannot afford to go solar.

  • Ross Bagley

    Permission to operate is exactly the issue. When it comes to products where the available supply must always exceed the demand, the public must assert its control and provide alternate motivations from the normal profit-maximizing motive of the investor owned corporation.

    Pretending that utilities can be run lassiez faire won’t make it so, and for you to pretend that there’s some inalienable right to start a business means you need a serious reality check. That’s a privelage, and a valuable one, but it’s not a right. Until recently, corporations were required to be temporary and demonstrably in the public interest. Only within the past hundred and fifty years, the corporation has become America’s darling and we’ve granted more and more powers and even rights to that concept without much of a discussion of the trade-offs that we’ve made as a result. I’d love to see a discussion of the role and proper capabilities granted to corporations against the repeated abuses that corporations have piled on the public of not only America, but the world at large. Personally, I don’t believe that the separation of accountability has resulted in a net gain and should be the first thing re-evaluated in any such discussion. Investors should be liable for the sins of the investment.

    I do agree, however, that it would be better to have competition than a state-backed monopoly, but a couple or three state-backed non-profit service providers will compete among themselves if their rewards are based on satisfying some fraction of the market that can choose between them and other providers.

    It’s not black and white. This issue is all about shades of gray. Pretending that it is black and white only diminishes your argument.

  • Lou Novak

    France? You gotta be kidding! Isn’t that where the recent heat wave has them hosing down the nuclear plants to keep them cool?
    Where they chose to kill more fish rather than turn their air conditioners down? France!?!?!?!?!?!?! I guess a move isn’t enough, we’ll need a real China Syndrome incident before people stop suggesting the most expensive and dangerous source of energy in history.

  • Greg Buchholz

    Is solar power viable for the mainstream public? One emperical method for determining this would be to locate the manufacturers (or retailers) of solar panels and see if they use solar power to generate their electricty. If they do, then hooray for us; solar power will be coming soon to a house near you. If they can’t get the numbers to work right when they have access to panels at cost, then we can assume solar is still mostly for niche applications and not wide spread adoption.

  • http://www.todlandis.com Tod Landis

    Thank you to Dennis Kucinich!

    The deregulation bill he mentions, HR 776, passed the House by a wide margin, 363-60. Why does bad legislation, like this, so often win bipartisan support?

    The roll call for the vote is here
    http://clerkweb.house.gov/cgi-bin/vote.exe?year=1992&rollnumber=474
    Hastert and Pelosi voted for passage, as did Bustamante and Panetta. Tom Campbell voted against. Boxer was absent.

    Tod Landis
    Green Party Candidate for Congress, 14th CD
    PO Box 688
    Ben Lomond CA 95005

  • Unknown

    This seems kind of pointless. I mean, the power outage was for only a couple of days, and you wrote an article about it. Are you really that bored? Get a life :)

  • http://www.unbendable.org Matthew Smillie

    The dereg crowd here are the economic equivalent of Taliban

    What constantly amazes me about deregulation is exactly that; it’s put forward as a solution despite the fact that so far, it has a 100% failure rate to deliver on its promises – bills are higher, the infrastructure is slowly falling apart, consumers are being massively defrauded, and generation (one of the first areas to be deregulated) has not grown to meet demand. The proponents of deregulation are positively Soviet in their single-minded adherence to ideology – in the face of all that’s gone wrong with deregulation, they insist that more deregulation is the only way to fix things.

    “Comrades/Citizens! A properly socialist/deregulated and centralised/for-profit utility will provide ample and reliable power for all, at a fraction of the current cost! This is an obvious conclusion brought about by the producer’s socialist ethic/self-interest!”

  • Anonymous

    Bob Uhl,

    Utilities are special cases. They need permission, because they use public air/land/water to travel over to run their business. If you want to start up a store and sell clocks, you are free to do that. If you want to lay pipes/fiber/use_public_airwaves, you need permission because you don’t own the use of those beyond the borders of your property. If you decide you want to run wires above your neighbors property because someone on the other side of them wants to buy your service, they have a right to complain and stop you. Utilities are a different matter.

    Purchasing utilities cannot be made like purchasing groceries because you can’t just drive your house to a different power generator. Someone must build and maintain the power lines, etc, to get it to your house. The free market does not gravitate towards stable service, it goes towards making the greatest returns for stockholders, which often means in short term thinking, no investment in maintenance or infrastructure.

  • Brad Mowrey

    Do the advocates of more nuclear power, so quick to point out how safe new technologies are, also advocate shutting down all the existing nuclear plants that don’t use this “safe” technology? Of course they don’t. Do they have an answer for the problem of waste? Truck it to Utah perhaps?

  • Anonymous

    It amazes me that the same people pushing hard for deregulation seem to think that they will have the same kind of power grid (let alone raw power) available to them by the time they are old, retired, and decript. It’s must more important to rob the heritage and inheritance of their children for their own short-term profits, than it is to do something meaningful.

    It’s even more interesting to me that deregulation of power has actually COST the career of one politicial figure in California…as if he’s not going to be recalled. Oh well, another actor in politics can’t be all bad – after all, the last one did a decent job of covering over the corruption of his cronies, while somehow staying out of scandal.

    The public is being lied to, and in a way, it is deserving what it gets. “What I tell you three times must be true” seems to be the motto of the day, and with the noise and rhetoric reaching all-time highs, no wonder American society is breaking apart at the seams. The issues are becoming more and more fundimental, and less partisan. People are tired of the sheer audacity by which the unholy alliance of both big government and big business (specifically, large international corporate conglomerates) can do something wholely wrong, lie about it to the public, and if the public notices, then SCREAMS it to the public in hopes that no-one else will notice. The problem for these people is simple – more people are noticing, and more are beginning to realize just how bad this farce has gone. Society is suffering as a whole because a group of society’s members, the Corporations, are willing to take all of the things that society has to offer – without paying their tribute to society back.

    One last thing – I know that this post means little (if nothing) in the world, and certainly there are those described above that will be shrill and scream that I’m some left-wing granola-head from California. To them I say this: I am a registered Republican, and I’m beginning to think that the party is NOT listening to me (or the thousands like me). Get your sh*t together, because one day you’re going to throw a “Grand Old Party” that no-one wants to show up to. No-one likes a cheat, and no-one especially likes a thief. Stick that in your crack pipes and smoke it.

  • F.Baube

    Can’t we just institute a rapidly ramping carbon tax, and let the free market work out the details? Hmph. Private/public ownership is a local issue. Or ought to be, at least. It diverts attention from warming and CO2. 3000 dead in France. How many in NYC? Numbers, anyone?

    Do you want to play a game? How about a Pointdexter PAM game? You guess the year, I’ll guess how many thousands of OECD citizens die from heat prostration, dehydration, tropical ailments (coming soon!), etc. Of course, most of them are not Americans, so who gives a rat’s ass eh? As long as the A/C flows, it’s only happy happy joy joy

  • Concerned Citizen

    A slightly more frightening aspect of the Davis-Besse incident was never made very public. Above the reactor vessel head, which experienced the corrosion, is a layer of insulation. Within containment there are sump pumps to remove water in the event of a catastrophic failure of the reactor. Had the 1/8 inch Stainless Steel ruptured, the insulation would have been blown off, and huge amounts of water would flow inside containment. The sump pumps would have been immediately clogged by the now fordbidden insulation. This would cause coolant water to pool inside containment, and become flash boiled by the exposed reactor. The steam generated would have caused an energetic explosion of containment, which would expell all the radioactive material. A normal “melt-down” is one thing, and explosive one is quite worse, as Chernobyl demonstrated. All of the redundancy built into nuclear reactor safety is based on containment withstanding whatever occurs inside. If containment fails in an explosion, not only do things escape, they escape far. Last time I checked, the state of Ohio was bringing criminal charges against the two individuals most responsible for the situation.

  • eridani

    This is off the main topic, but Congressman Kucinich mentioned in passing that he has survived one assassination attempt already. I’d like to remind him that he is now challenging interests that have vastly more stake in the status quo than the people who wanted to buy out Muny Light. His supporters are effectively asking him to be a combination of FDR and Gorbachev. What these two have in common is that they both presided over dramatic changes in their respective societies, and both were the targets of unsuccessful coup attempts. The Gorbachev incident is within recent memory, but the FDR incident is not. Here is a brief summary.

    http://www.beachonline.com/hoover.htm

    In the summer of 1933, shortly after Roosevelt’s “First 100 Days,” America’s richest businessmen were in a panic. It was clear that Roosevelt intended to conduct a massive redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor. Roosevelt had to be stopped at all costs.

    The answer was a military coup. It was to be secretly financed and organized by leading officers of the Morgan and Du Pont empires.

    When the plotters approached General Butler with their proposal to lead the coup, he pretended to go along with the plan at first, secretly deciding to betray it to Congress at the right moment.

    They selected him because he was a war hero who was popular with the troops. The plotters felt his good reputation was important to make the troops feel confident that they were doing the right thing by overthrowing a democratically elected president.

    The plot fell apart when Butler went public.

    Dennis! You are in desperate need of a Smedley Butler. Please find a military liasion now! He (they) could also start thinking of concrete proposals on what a non-imperial military establishment should look like, capable of effective cooperation with other countries in dealing with terrorist and other threats. Just recommending cutting wasteful spending is commendable, but it’s essentially a negative proposal, and positive ones are necessary as well.

    For starters, I’d suggest Stan Goff. ( stan@ncwarn.org) One interview with him–

    http://truthout.org/docs_03/073103A.shtml

    Bush is making more politically fatal mistakes than I can count these days. His so-called build-up of the military is one of them. He is not in fact building up the military, depending on how you define that. He is building up the weapons industry, at the behest of his mad military advisor, Donald Rumsfeld – a weird man who has convinced himself without a shred of evidence to support it, that he is a military genius.

    I seriously hope you realize that the powers behind the Bush throne aren’t kidding. If they lose the next election, they won’t just say “Gee, that’s too bad. We’ll just have to try harder next time.” If you haven’t yet read up on the people behind PNAC, you need to.

    http://www.pnac.info/
    http://pilger.carlton.com/print/124759

    And one final thought for the day. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Salvador Allende of Chile were both targets of US-backed military takeovers. One had military connections; one didn’t. One survived; the other didn’t. Think about it.

  • Greg Buchholz

    There is quite an assortment of comments here. 25 years between events is pretty infrequent when you compare it to the rest of the world (and I think that’s a pretty good metric). The company I work for has a subsidary in India and they (along with millions of their compatriots) can sometimes suffer from blackouts on an hourly basis. Power distribution is a very complicated beast. It seems to me it is still a little early to blame this on deregulation. Especially if the blackout has a single point of failure. If there had been zero deregulation, then people would be clamoring for more deregulation, because regulation hadn’t prevented the failure like private industry would have.

    It’s also interesting to note what the people here fear. Mr. Bennett doesn’t fret about living next to a nuclear plant, but is afraid of terrorists (or at least *suspected* ones). Althought I’d bet the death rate from either is equally tiny. Dee on the other hand can’t live without electricty for more than 5 seconds. I wonder how the human race survived before advent of electric utilities.

    Oh, and we might want to apply occam’s razor to the solar question. What seems more likely…

    A giant conspiracy is keeping efficient solar power off the market.

    –or–

    Solar power is a tough nut to crack, and the laws of physics are such that solar power might never be competitive with alternative sources of energy.

  • http://www.johngaughan.net/ John Gaughan

    As a Cleveland resident most of my life (since 1982), I grew up hearing about old Mayor Kucinich. I heard he did a bad job and was run out of town. I never knew why.

    Now that I understand why, I respect the man. We need more people to stand up for the rights of the little guy instead of big business, banking, the entertainment industry, deregulation, etc.

    I am a registered Libertarian but if Rep. Kucinich is selected to run under the Democratic banner, he has my vote.

  • Carolyn Cain

    Anyone who thinks that we should be running ANY nuclear plants, I’m sure you will volunteer YOUR backyard to bury the nuclear WASTE in, right? In fact, if you want to keep oil, I’m sure you’ll volunteer to help clean up the oil slicks, take care of the sick people who live around the refineries, and enlist to fight in the Middle East (or send your son). Otherwise, we could quit giving huge subsidies to the fossil fuel industries, and start using our money to install solar panels on every home and business in this country. Also, the wind turbines in South Dakota are gorgeous, and I for one, would be delighted if they want to put one in MY backyard.

  • Anonymous

    I enjoyed reading all of the comments. I found them to be very interesting.

    I would like to see the proponents for more nuclear sites volunteer to host them in their “backyards”. We have our fill here in North Carolina. It occurs to me that as the blackout was just a matter of time and odds, so too will a nuclear disaster be a matter of time and odds. However, I think those are odds none of us would like to think about. Also with nuclear, not only is nuclear waste an issue, but the disposal of the waste involves the transport of the waste from one site to another. I can’t help but think that out of all of the amazing, creative, brilliant minds we have in our country, someone is bound to come up with a better idea than the current options.

    As for Congressman Kucinich, I am happy to have a candidate I feel like I can believe in. I just want a candidate that speaks the truth, knows what he stands for and doesn’t change it for the audience or voters at the time, and represents my interests instead of corporate interests. Even if I didn’t agree with his platform, I would support him because of his integrity and his passion to do what is right.

    Kristin

  • James Day

    Coal, gas, and solar can all be expected to cause more deaths than nuclear power. The reason? When you burn them they release the radioactive elements contained in them. Add in the deaths from pollution and carcinogens and you end up finding that even solar will kill ten times as many people as nuclear.

    So, want safe power? Go nuclear and be worried about the possibility of killing a few hundred people in a nasty accident everyone is working hard to prevent or accept the higher number of routine and not being prevented deaths from the alternatives.

    For some numbers, see this summary and do a Google or other search for radioactivity from coal.

  • http://www.az4kucinich.org/ Bryan Buchan

    I am immediately curious as to which direction you may take in your campaign after the recent power crisis in the northeast. I recently moved to Phoenix AZ from Michigan. Hearing news from back home about how they have dealt with this energy crisis, I simply thought “Everyone needs to hear Kucinich’s vision”. Tonight Lou Dobb’s was even hinting towards the failure of our utilities privitization. The people need to hear about your vision for utility in America. I am the son of a very independant mother, who retreated from the confines of big city (NY & NJ), and redefined her need for utility by creating her own electrcity in the middle of the Sonoran Dessert, here in Arizona. What efforts will you make to dissolve the energy crisis and other large issues this country is facing as a whole, concidering you will be dealing with a Republican-controlled Congress. I read your statement about your vision, which I truely admire, and will fight for myself, because I believe in your vision. However, I am curious as to what direction you will take if this is not the case and you do not see a Democratic sweep as FDR had. America needs to know and needs to be educated on how it will work and why. This fear our current administration is brewing is making most of America question, who has a reliable plan and who has just good intentions. Your intentions are very admirable, but what is the plan behind your vision? And what will be your plan to educate the public there is no quick fix; it is about growth, and change. Sorry if I wrapped to much into one question.

  • http://www.bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    People make a fuss about fossil fuel plants in their backyards as well, Dee, so you might try and find a better example of the hazards of nuclear power.

    People tend to use electricity at night, and it tends to be hard to generate solar power at that particular time. So either you build massive battery complexes out of massively toxic subtances, or you generate power at night some other way. Maybe we can get this really massive grid with fat wires that can send power from wherever the sun’s shining to all the places where it’s not, but there probably wouldn’t be room for farms and stuff. So, scratch that.

    Gotta have nukes, and the more new ones the better.

  • http://www.gregpalast.com/detail.cfm?artid=257&row=0 iivii

    I have read these comments and Hon. Kucinich’s comments, and I think that this could be a welcome timing for his campaign… This will resonate with a lot of ears.

    On the same note, read Greg Palast’s experience with the deregulation of energy, quite eYe opening.

    http://www.gregpalast.com/detail.cfm?artid=257&row=0

  • kalmar

    > People tend to use electricity at night, and it tends to be
    > hard to generate solar power at that particular time.

    This is such a black and white argument!
    A renewables combination of solar and wind matches the daily and yearly consumption graphs almost exactly. Add in hydro, tidal, biomass and anything else you like, and there will be no problem.
    You can replace any given countries’ traditional power mix with wind up to about 40% before you even need to start worrying about your grid infrastructure or how to balance the generation variability.

    > Gotta have nukes, and the more new ones the better.

    I guess you’re wrong about that too.

    Gotta use less power.

  • http://www.unbendable.org Matthew Smillie

    The whole “when the sun isn’t shining” argument is a total red herring, equivalent to claiming that flesh-eating nuclear pixies will infest the countryside if we build more plants. Likewise this artificial contention that the argument is for 100% solar generation.

    The point of alternative energy isn’t to replace traditional generation, simply to reduce dependence on it. No matter how clean and safe you think nuclear power is, it doesn’t take a genius to realise we’re better off with a minimum of those plants and their associated problems.

    So, if a business can supply 40% (generally plausible even in cold/cloudy climates) of its own electricity during the time when usage is highest (business hours), how can that be bad? Of course it’s not going to replace traditional generation – it supplements it. It distributes generation capacity. What you can’t do, though, is charge people for it by the kW-hour.

  • MBains

    Glen stated “…but if more people were to invest in their own personal energy independence, the nation, as a whole, would benefit.”

    I’d like to borrow $64,000 from you brother! I’ll pay you back after selling the excess energy to FE. ;-)

    Otherwise, you’re right on the money. The ONLY problem I have with Nuclear plants is the disposal of the waste. And that problem overrides ALL other issues.

  • Glenn Lasher

    Solar power is a tough nut to crack, and the laws of physics are such that solar power might never be competitive with alternative sources of energy.

    True. As always, though, early adopters fund future enhancements. I want to be that early adopter because I believe in the potential here.

    I made reference earlier to improvements made by Evergreen Solar. Currently, their panels come in a little lower than their competition. Once they have recouped their R&D, I’m sure they’ll come down even more. At least, that is how it is supposed to work in a free market. Yes, I have specced Evergreen Solar panels for my system. No, I have no vested interest in the company.

    There is also a technolgy in the lab right now for a carbon nanotube based panel, which is supposed to be about 85% efficient by effectively being an antenna array that is resonant at light wavelengths. If this ever hit production, the impact would be incredible. The problem, right now, is that nanotubes are fragile.

    Coal, gas, and solar can all be expected to cause more deaths than nuclear power. The reason? When you burn them they release the radioactive elements contained in them. Add in the deaths from pollution and carcinogens and you end up finding that even solar will kill ten times as many people as nuclear.

    Um…. what do you “burn” in a solar power system? What does it release?

    You might get a little outgassing of hydrogen from your batteries, but you can remedy that by using hydrocaps on them. These contain a catalyst that will recombine the hydrogen with ambient oxygen and rewater the battery, also cutting down on maintenance in the process.

    The point of alternative energy isn�t to replace traditional generation, simply to reduce dependence on it.

    I’d say give the man a cigar, but I don’t want the smoke from that thing, either :-)

    My planned system is expensive. I recognize that. It is also bigger than my household demand. That makes it a rare exception. Anything that reduces the use of power supplies that rely on a thing called “fuel,” regardless whether it is coal, gas, oil, uranium, or whatever, automatically reduces the waste that that fuel becomes once it is spent. Disposal of that waste therefore becomes less of a problem.

  • Greg Buchholz

    Whenever I hear about someone with an expensive solar installation, I always wonder about what they did to reduce consumption, some people I’ve met can get pretty creative (since we know that it is almost always cheaper to eliminate electricty rather than generate it with solar). Do you use a ground source heat pump for heating/cooling? Fluorescent lighting instead of incadasent? Super insulated refridgereator/freezer? LCDs for TV/computer monitors? Tankless (on demand) water heater or do you reclaim waste heat from somewhere else? And what’s your favorite energy saving device/idea?

  • naasking

    Kucinich attributes the problems to insufficient regulations on the power companies that operate with ever thinner margins to compete. I would focus instead on the environment in which CEI operated: the laws and regulations. If those special interest laws (ie. laws which serve only a minority group’s interests) had not been in place, CEI would have been forced to compete fairly against the public utility (and may have lost if Kucinich is believed). Instead, the laws created an environment in which CEI had a distinct advantage and obviously CEI exploited it (as would any creature in its natural environment). You cannot hold CEI responsible for behaving legally though you may ethically oppose its actions.

    Special interest laws are the real enemy here; improper regulation, not under-regulation. Whether power generation and distribution in its current form is better left in public or private hands is still unlcear.

    To those who say deregulation is a mess, will never work and cite all sorts of evidence, you must really re-examine the situation carefully. There is a big difference between doing something properly, with due consideration to all relevant factors, and doing something by jumping in blindly. I think we’d all agree the latter is how most “deregulation” plans are being implemented.

    Most governments do not examine the impact of the old laws in new circumstances because there is little benefit to them. Who will notice? “Vote Kucinich: he spent 4 years repealing 1,000 non-sensical laws.” That’s not progress to most people. Politicians are looking for the sound bite, the quick fix. “‘Deregulation” is what they’re currently touting, but they’re not willing to put in what it really takes to make it work. The problem is with the public and the politicians. Let’s hope someone can sort it out because the potential benefits are significant.

  • Ron Veelik

    I know what a battle it is with utilitys, He has my vote

    Ron Veelik

  • Mike

    “People tend to use electricity at night, and it tends to be hard to generate solar power at that particular time.”

    People also tend to use electricity during the day, as with the case of air conditioning, genius. The majority of electrical demands come during the day, and yes, solar power can relieve MUCH of that demand. No kidding.

  • http://www.bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    If Marie Antoinette were alive today, she’d have said “let them use solar” when the power went out.

  • Glenn Lasher

    Whenever I hear about someone with an expensive solar installation, I always wonder about what they did to reduce consumption, some people I�ve met can get pretty creative (since we know that it is almost always cheaper to eliminate electricty rather than generate it with solar). Do you use a ground source heat pump for heating/cooling? Fluorescent lighting instead of incadasent? Super insulated refridgereator/freezer? LCDs for TV/computer monitors? Tankless (on demand) water heater or do you reclaim waste heat from somewhere else? And what�s your favorite energy saving device/idea?

    This is an excellent comment.

    I am working on efficiency projects as well, as time and money permits.

    The reason I am going to town on the solar installation is to produce a surplus. I set my limit at the state legal limit for net metering.

    I am insulating my attic first.

    I use compact fluroescent tubes for all of my lighting needs. This is a cheap and very easy thing to do, and I am, honestly, flabbergasted by the number of people still using incandesent bulbs. This is probably my hands-down favourite, because it is so easy, and, in fact, it is even cheap these days, with the tubes going for as low as $4.00 each. Yes, that is a lot more than the $.50 you pay for incandesent, but before you even consider the energy savings, it will outlast more than eight incandesent bulbs it replaces.

    I will be upgrading computer displays to LCD as possible. These are also a great space-saver.

    I have a standard gas water heater. This will do for now. Being modern and brand new, it is pretty efficient. Better can be done in the future.

    At some time, the furnace will need replacement, and I am considering using a ground-transfer heat pump for this purpose. This will also cool the house in the summer and I can lose the window aircons I use now.

  • Greg Buchholz

    This is getting pretty offtopic by now, but has anyone out there ever got a compact flourescent bulb to last the 5-7 years the manufacturers claim? My experience has been that they tend to burn out in 2-3 years (why didn’t I save those reciepts?):( Do the more expensive ones last any longer? I guess I should check out consumer reports to see if they have the low-down, but I’d like to hear any other real world experiences.

  • MikeA

    “If Marie Antoinette were alive today, she�d have said �let them use solar� when the power went out.”

    Listen people….welcome to any final project happening in Thermodynamics classes across the country. There are reasons why every citizen doesn’t use solar power, and it has nothing to do with batteries, darkness, or consumption. It has to do with the same reason why Hydrogen or Electric cars aren’t everywhere: economics. And those economics are not driven by the costs of technical expertise, research or materials. The economics are there because people (car manufacturers, investors, politicians, etc.) don’t WANT solar power or alternative cars. Period. No. Other. Reason.

    With autos, I suspect we’ll see what happened with airbags. What originally seemed to be a non-recoupable cost will become a selling point, and maybe alternative fuel-driven cars will take off. But solar power….probably not, but don’t start thinking it has anything to do with technology at all.

  • mARTY

    Biomass is a viable alternative to foscle fuel. Anything that can be made from a hydrocarbon can be made from a carbohydrate. Peace, Marty

  • James Day

    Glenn,

    The solar costs come from the power to make the panels and the coal used for the production of the steel, aluminum and glass used in them and their associated battery systems. The construction costs are comparatively high compared to central power generation. This may change in the future. If it does, the balance could shift in favor of solar rather than nuclear as safest.

    Greg,

    You need to check the orientation requirements of the compact fluorescents. Mount them the wrong way up and the light output and lifetime can drop dramatically. The Phillips earthlight series is one example. Mount it in an upward pointing spot as I did and you don’t get the rated output or lifetime. Different models suffer to different degrees. I’m now using really inexpensive Lights of America helical tubes in upward facing spots. You also need to look at the duty cycle for the projected lifetime, to see how many hours per day they are using for the estimate. You may find it’s four or six hours a day and it’s easy to go far beyond that if you do the obvious thing and replace your most used lights first. Frequent turning on and off also seriously reduces the lifetime, dropping it from 100% lifetime for a lamp turned on every three hours to 70% of the lifetime if turned on every hour, 50% if every 45 minutes and 20% if every five minutes.

  • Anonymous

    as a life long resident of cleveland, ohio i knew well of the mayor and his ‘fight’ for the people. reading the positive responses to his run for pres. from such diverse geographicial areas and idealistic people gives me hope once again in our people/system
    thank you

  • Kris

    Here is an interesting article (NYT, registration required…)

    It seems to corroborate the utility’s carelessness that was illustrated in the original article.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/22/national/22ENER.html?hp

  • http://www.quantumpanda.com/ Quantumpanda

    What bugs me in all this is how situations like this are used as arguments against deregulation of utilities. The problem is that in the US, there has never been a true “deregulation”–what folks like to call deregulation is actually just a different form of regulation. Properly used, the term “deregulation” should refer to the removal of regulations, not merely restructuring them. A true deregulation would result in an increasingly free market–which would provide companies more incentive to not let things like this happen. As long as they can fall back on the excuses of existing regulations to keep customers, they have no such incentives.

  • eridani

    Hey Dennis! Pay attention!

    http://www.cleveland.com/election/index.ssf?/base/news/106207171078040.xml

    Columbus – The head of a company vying to sell voting machines in Ohio told Republicans in a recent fund-raising letter that he is “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.”

    The Aug. 14 letter from Walden O’Dell, chief executive of Diebold Inc. – who has become active in the re-election effort of President Bush – prompted Democrats this week to question the propriety of allowing O’Dell’s company to calculate votes in the 2004 presidential election.

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/HL0307/S00065.htm

    When asked to comment on allegations by Bev Harris that the Diebold software may have been designed to facilitate fraud, Rubin described the claim as “ludicrous. “Rubin could dismiss the allegation of deliberately fraudulent design in Diebold software, because his team never examined the Diebold software in question. Incredibly, this software keeps not one, but two Microsoft Access data tables of voting results. It’s like a business keeping two sets of account books. The two tables are notionally identical copies of the votes collated from all polling stations. The software uses the first table for on-demand reports which might uncover alteration of the data –such as spot checks of results from individual polling stations. The second of the two tables is the one used to determine the election result. But the second table can be hacked and altered to produce fake election totals without affecting spot check reports derived from the first table.”

  • http://SterlingAssociates Philip Sterling

    Dear Professor Lessig:

    I fully appreciate and concur with your article, sir.
    I am an electrical engineering consultant, with many years of hands on practical experience in the mission critical power field. I have recently been developing and testing systems for residential utility independence, using dual fuel standby generators (natural gas, backed up by propane) and offline automatic transfer switchs. The controls are PC based and have capability of working in concert with solar energy systems as automatic standby and/or making a logical decision run/stop by monitoring battery status and/or utility power to provde independent self generation by natural gas. If that all fails, the system rolls over to a propane tank for emergencies.
    Problems: Utility interconnection rules, Local Government Engineering codes, Fire codes, Air Polution Control Districts. They are different everywhere and all are red tape revenue generating businesses that dont have that much experience with distributed power.
    In the final analysis, the Utility Companies seem to be able to raise the price of NG and or Power any time they go before the PUC.
    The problem we have in this courntry is the near and sometimes criminal corporate greed. especially when their market share is threatened. Just look at the Enron scandal.

    In order to push the pendulum in the other direction, people need cost effective alternatives. We are standing by and allowing developers to devour the land at such an exponential rate that the infrastructure is overloading. Too many generating stations operating in parallel. One goes down, ups the load on the rest and when conditions are right, domino effect disaster.
    Interesting observation: During fuel crisis, the Iraq war, east coast power failure, the price of gasoline in California jumps 50 cents at the gaspumps. Seems if they are loosing on one coast, make it up on the other. Just a game, business as usual.
    Too many eggs in one basket and how do you fix it?
    The power grid can still be in master sync and phase, just split up the load and run “Isolated Redundant” Bus optimizaton and shed generators according to demand. This also saves fuel. Otherwise, the next big cascading power failure is only a matter of time.
    I hope to further develop working systems to provide the private residence and small business user with all alternatives and options for power, water storage and communications independent of all utilities.
    We have the technology, it just needs to be integrated in a unique way.

    Phil Sterling

  • http://www.geocities.com/torontotenants/ontariohydro.html Ontario Hydro

    It will be interesting to see what happens with Ontario Hydro.

    That link is to a page that is kept up to date on what appears to be a daily basis on energy issues on a tenant advocacy site in Ontario, Canada.

  • http://www.cupe.ca/www/PrivatizationUtilities/4329 Privatization of Ontario Hydro

    I wouldn’t count privatization out yet.

    You can’t trust McGuinty and his Liberals.

  • Anonymous

    That buchan guy’s a jackass.

  • http://www.ergo.boom.ru George Mamulashvili

    April 05,2004 — The information on construction of a huge solar tower of 1000 m in Australia under use of the project of company SBP already for a long time passes in a network, however probably concrete ways of construction is not yet planned. I want to take your attention to that fact, that creation is artificial rotating air weight in a tower will allow to reduce twice almost its height and five times diameter of a solar collector that is to finish a solar factory till the sizes accepted today in construction. My calculations which in due time 1994-1996 were submitted both in SBP, and in IMechE, BMFT and NASA, was give the physical parities determined between difference of temperatures on an input and an output of a tower and a ratio of tower’s diameter and a solar collector at which rising inside a tower on hyperbolic spiral fluids warm air weights create a steady whirlwind such as a tornado. For example it is possible with sufficient confidence to tell the following, that at difference of temperatures of 20 degrees C and a global sunlight 220 W/sqm, taking into account the relation of tower’s diameter in an average part to diameter of a collector 0,05, it is possible to receive capacity roughly in 100 MW power at height of a tower of 580 meters. Therefore for the decision of a question on construction next Solar Chimney, in my opinion, at first it is necessary to finish researches of a vortical energy source and new physical processes arising in it at scale rotation of air weights and then to start final designing and construction of one of the most powerful known sources on the ground of non-polluting energy. With pleasure I’m ready to take part in development of the international project. My site http://www.ergo.boom.ru and the address of e-mail G_Mamulashvili@mail.ru

  • http://www.ontariotenants.ca/electricity/ontario-hydro.phtml Ontario Hydro One

    Ontario’s Energy Minister on May 30, 2005 said his government is persuing privatized power for the province.

    You can read that from the Ontario Hydro Electricity page and there are 600 more items on the Ontario Electricity Privatization news articles page.

  • http://www.taureandevi.blogspot.com Danielle

    Mr. Kucinich,
    I have just finished watching your appearance on David Letterman and am in the process of writing a post highlighting your life and career. I am doing my part in spreading your message of peace as the only catalyst for security. I did not like the attention that was placed on your beautiful wife Elizabeth, however.
    But, I must say that any country would be served completely by one who knows love, shares love, and experiences love.

    You have my vote and I will do what is in my capacity to spread winds of change. I’ve heard that there is a movement in America, a movement without a leader or a focus.
    I say that the movement does have a leader and his name is Dennis J. Kucinich.

    Wishing health, balance and joy to you and yours.

    Danielle http://www.taureandevi.blogspot.com