Thursday, August 30, 2007

Burn, baby, burn!

DeadSpot had a funny post yesterday about what a lame-ass “news” program Marketplace is, and I have to say that I agree. I mostly listen to it because it’s good to know what the capitalists are up to. Well, that, and I’m WAY too lazy to change the station for 10 minutes every morning.

But DeadSpot’s point is a good one. Frequently, their “news stories” are pretty much straight copy from the press releases of giant, evil corporations. And then sometimes, like this morning, they run a story so infuriating in its pro-business bias that I have no choice but to start screaming at the clock radio. And that really throws off my schedule. See, I gotta get out the door in, like, twenty-five minutes in the morning. Screaming at the clock radio just does not fit in my active a.m. lifestyle.

But here, check out the story for yourself:

Stacey Vanek-Smith: California is asking residents to conserve energy this week. But there's not much of a reason to listen, says Jim Bushnell with the University of California energy institute.

Jim Bushnell: When we get to these tight electricity situations, the rates paid by customers don't change.

Not that energy comes cheap these days.

Bushnell says companies like PG&E that sell electricity to consumers, buy it from wholesale suppliers and wholesale prices have been skyrocketing.

Bushnell: And, yes, that is actually a good thing because prices tell us we're running out, and when we're running out, we want to reduce consumption.

But Bushnell says companies like PG&E can't pass wholesale prices onto consumers because of regulations that cap electricity costs, and that stifles innovation.

He says energy-saving technology would become profitable a lot faster if people could save money by using it.

That’s the whole story. I’m not kidding.

First of all, right now, in Southern California, it’s about a hundred and eleventy-six degrees, and it has been for days. Which wouldn’t be so bad, except that for some reason, it’s not cooling down at night like it usually does. We normally go down to seventy during the evening in the summer. But last night, at 11pm, it was STILL NINETY-THREE DEGREES.

Not that I’m complaining. Dry heat, blah, blah, blah. Hey, I know I have it good, overall. But my point is that the temperatures are driving power usage very high.

So, usage is high. Therefore demand is high. Therefore supplies are “limited.” Now, they’re not really all that “limited,” because of course the supplies have been artificially lowered by all sorts of means. Watch The Smartest Guys in the Room if you need more info there.

So, when supplies are “limited,” the price goes up.

Hey, whatever the market will bear, baby.

And the point of that lame-ass Marketplace story is that consumers should pay for this jacked-up system.

Notice that, although businesses are by far the largest consumers of energy, that Bushnell guy isn’t really talking about making businesses use energy more efficiently. Because hey, businesses are energy-efficient already, right? Because it’s cheaper, right? I mean, businesses never adopt practices that waste money, do they? No way. Businesses are never short-sighted like that. They much prefer to risk a drop in the price per share and go for those long profits.

And it’s not like businesses can influence public policy and drive innovation. I mean, it’s not businesses who contribute to politicians, is it? It’s not businesses who employ the overwhelming majority of lobbyists, right? It’s not businesses that invest in and build those very technologies that we need so desperately, is it?

Naw, it’s those damn “people” who are falling down on the job, turning on their air conditioners when it gets over a hundred degrees because hey, it’s just as cheap as running it when it’s only seventy-five out, which I guess is what I should be doing, because the energy supplies are more plentiful then.

His logic is mind-boggling, isn’t it? I mean, electricity isn’t like strawberries in January, I can’t just decide not to splurge because the price is too high. I can’t just buy electricity in the spring, and put it in the freezer and take it out when the price for fresh electricity goes too high. Of course the usage is high!!! It’s hotter than fucking hell outside!!!!!

But, according to that Bushnell guy, it’s our pansy-ass consumer protections that have “stifled innovation,” not, oh, say, corporations with a stake in the status quo. And yes, according to the geniuses at Marketplace, the benevolent power of the open market will watch over us and protect us like a soft, downy blanket. If only we would let it.

Yeah, where have I heard that before?


A Ghost's Story said...

huh. Soon they'll be telling us that Sweet N' Low causes cancer...

Oh, wait-- it doesn't anymore, does it? What happened to the warning on the side of the label??

I'm sorry, what were we talking about??

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Any gal who uses the phrase "giant, evil corporations" has my vote for woman of the year.

dad said...

Let's assume that electric companies have to make a profit and have to have a way to make simprovements for future expansion. The more electrical usage, the more profit. If usage goes down, rates have to go up to stay even. These facts are the fundamental reason the industry has to be regulated. And because of regulation, all kinds of manipulations are done to avoid rules and regulations. Think Enron. Therefore, consumers are at the mercy of the combination of policians, regulators, lobbyists, and crooks.

'Bubbles' said...

Uh, I got a $250 rebate on my $6000 hi-eff a/c and furnace package.

Man, I'm so motivated to go green...

Where does that variable fit in the equation? :D