Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 11 Jan 01 18:55
With what purpose does one write about the future? *With what purpose does one write about anything? Is it with a serious attempt to explore what lies ahead for the human race? *Why restrict yourself to the human race? Try Olaf Stapledon's LAST AND FIRST MEN. Now that's science fiction, boyo! Or is fiction the product of a capitalist culture which centres itself on the principle of utility, where utility for many means some form of mind escape, due to the extremeties of life? *Oh yeah. I'm totally into the Card-Carrying Agent of American Cultural Imperialism thing. But people don't read books to escape capitalist culture. Mostly they do sex, drugs and rock and roll. How does one appraise SF work? is it based upon the genius of ideas that are explored or the very real possibilities it offers the human race? *I'd have to say that it's mostly about the raw appeal of intellectual sexiness, as opposed to, say, corny anticapitalist utopian schemes. Which is more valued, a clever imagination where the story is far removed from the human condition and our reality? Or where the story explores a very real future, alternative futures where thinking is provoked to politically act, act to attend things in the present that will stop disaster in the future or to encourage things so that we build a better future? *This distinction is finessed a lot more easily than one might think. Learning how to disguise tracts with pop appeal is pretty much lesson number one in the sci-fi trade. Or is fiction simply there to entertain? and if so is that not to the detrement of the human condition? *Trot me out some humans who never get entertained and let's have a look at them. Kind of a sorry lot, aren't they? If we dropped the lot of these sorry zealots into a compulsory hot tub with 24 hour cable porn, the human condition would improve radically overnight.
Linda Castellani (castle) Thu 11 Jan 01 18:56
That sounds pretty bleak. Is that truly your vision for the future?
Linda Castellani (castle) Thu 11 Jan 01 18:56
bruces slipped! My #27 was in response to bruces' #25.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 11 Jan 01 22:36
We had a pretty weird set of visions tonight. We'd seen "Red Planet," which is a decent sci-fi film with Viridian overtones, and as we got home in the dark a herd of deer came down the street and went leaping - huge fluid leaps - across our yard. As they gathered on one end of he yard and nibbled grass, a huge meteor with a green aura shot past overhead. I cocked my ear and listened for the apocalypse. Bruce, if you had the power to make whatever changes you thought would prevent the environmental chaos that appears to be brewing, what steps would you take, before sandbagging?
Farooq Khan (farooq) Fri 12 Jan 01 11:39
>Oh yeah. I'm totally into the Card-Carrying Agent of American Cultural Imperialism thing. But people don't read books to escape capitalist culture. Mostly they do sex, drugs and rock and roll< One cannot separate their ideological concepts from their writing since it is these concepts, which define who we are. What we perceive to be right and wrong, pretty and ugly. Our methods in writing could not have been formed were it not for these concepts. Otherwise there would be no distinction between communist cinema or cinema that is made in Hollywood, or theatre that has been constructed by Brecht or Stanislavsky. Granted people take many forms of escape but fiction books are simply another means. Im not attacking fiction I am simply making a point that the very concepts that define a society will inevitably transcend into what we find pleasurable and abhorrent. Which will inevitably influence how we write and the subject matter that is tackled by writers.
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 12 Jan 01 14:07
And then the contrarians will wade in and muck up the cause and effect, and the jokers will inject their irony and satire, and the literalists will bounce off of that level. How the culture "talks to itself" and changes is about as simple as global weather patterns.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 12 Jan 01 15:05
Well Farooq, you can go right along defining yourself by your ideological concepts, and I'll go right along being a middle-aged mammalian primate. Hope you're enjoying yourself. Well Linda, I'm not all freaked out about it, but there's no doubt in my mind that if something practical isn't done about the Greenhouse Effect, it's gonna come and get me. It was 112 degrees in my front yard this summer. If it's 118 degrees in my front yard, I'm not gonna be left here in splendid isolation typing sci-fi novels. It's a chronic problem now, but if it becomes a major public emergency, I'm not going to be immune just because I saw it coming. What to do about it? Burn less stuff, man! It's all about burning stuff. We're digging coal with our return keys right now.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 12 Jan 01 15:31
This is the last 'official' day for this interview, but I figure we'll just keep talkin'... Thanks, Bruce! This has been pretty great...
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 12 Jan 01 15:50
Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 12 Jan 01 18:35
You are welcome to keep talking as long as you like. As always, Bruce, a pleasure to read your words. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. If you want to keep talking, it would be of great interest to me to address the topic of today's Viridian message about the energy crisis in California, which, as it happens, hits home for me at the same time as it doesn't. What I mean by that is that my SO is a 22-year employee of PG&E so each day's account of the sturm and drang at ground zero has been played out against a nearly-non-stop barrage of media reports showing on the TV powered by our municipal power company, not subject to shortages or blackouts.
Farooq Khan (farooq) Sat 13 Jan 01 02:30
<scribbled by farooq Tue 19 Jun 01 08:11>
'Got To! (freeform) Sat 13 Jan 01 10:08
Well, almost Linda. Muni's aren't subject to the PG&E rolling black-out process, but in a Stage 3 emergency, the ISO can boot anyone off the grid.
Gail Williams (gail) Sat 13 Jan 01 11:08
Another face of the deregulation/grid adventures: Family members of mine in northern california have had a storm outage (maybe a tree down on one of the rural raods) for over 14 hours. Food is spoiling, neighbor who is on oxygen is at risk, some can't heat due to electric thermostats. This happens in wooded areas, but usually you can report the situation and crews show up within a day. Calling it in yields a notice that there are "known outages." The area was not taken out as a rotating block with notice and restoral schedule. However, since 1000 PG&E workers were laid of Thursday and keeping rural/remote suburban areas offline helps financially, my sister is discouraged about getting deadline writing done for the course she is teaching, feeding the kid and about my mom's house being heated at all. Thank goodness for camping equipment. I know this is WAY off topic but it does have the flavor of Earth Abides and all those early 1960s post nuke disaster fantasies. Adventure travel without leaving the house...
Gail Williams (gail) Sat 13 Jan 01 11:44
And of course when I post about it it is simultaneously fixed at the 15 hour point.
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 13 Jan 01 18:23
Oh, I'd have to say that's just the beginning. Things are pretty lively. I'm a busy guy. If -- for some weird reason -- you find yourself starved for Sterling verbiage, I'd suggest signing up for Viridian List. We're fighting global warming, and we're just warming up. http://www.viridiandesign.org It doesn't cost a dime! We now return you to your regular programming. bruces@well
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 14 Jan 01 07:46
Hey, you *are* our regular programming! If someone wanted to go viridian on a fast track, what five books would you recommend to bring 'em up to speed?
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 14 Jan 01 09:32
Books hell. Go buy an Aeron chair and an IDEO Oral-B toothbrush. I gotta go, folks. I gotta deadline waiting over at DWELL magazine. WELL to DWELL, story o' my life. Just because you don't hear from me doesn't mean I'm not typing. Ha ha ha! Adios!
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 14 Jan 01 09:37
Subject: Viridian Note 00218: California Crisis Part I Key concepts: California electrical power, energy crisis, storm damage Attention Conservation Notice: Pitiless analysis of the Golden State's pathetic energy debacle. Should cause no end of chuckling schadenfreude among dirigiste EuroViridians. Part One of Three. ******************************************************* New to Viridian List? Get up to speed with our ongoing obsessions on our lovely, text-crammed website! http://www.viridiandesign.org ******************************************************* (((As readers from the previous century know, it hasn't escaped Viridian notice that California is having an energy crisis. The situation is chronic. It has finally becoming intense and dramatic as bills come due and California utilities face bankruptcy. This pits California consumers against Wall Street financiers. Since they can't get directly to grips with one another (in fact, they're often the very same people), a merry search is on for scapegoats. Losing lots of money always wakes people up. We're looking at something in the neighborhood of forty billion dollars gone. (((This situation is an ugly, multifaceted mess. It's amazing that such a debacle should strike a locale which prides itself on being technically aware. Unfortunately "technology" is best-defined as "stuff invented recently." So even though there's nothing more profoundly "technological" than a vast, hugely expensive, coal- gobbling, sky-wrecking energy network, it's been allowed to slip into fetid neglect and denial. (((What we Viridians would like to find now is a one stop, web-based California Crisis Watch. We need a clean, well-designed place where we can pull up a Leap Chair, munch our popcorn, and watch the state's physical, electrical, digital, legal, financial, and political infrastructure brown-out from the comfort of our own homes and offices. It's too much to ask that we Viridians should supply this ourselves, since we are way too detached, cerebral, theory-centric, global and multinationalist and, uhh, lazy. Besides, why should we Viridians figure out what's going on when California's entire political and industrial establishment is blinkered, losing their heads, and loudly blaming it on anybody but themselves? (((Somewhere on the web there must be a well-informed hobbyist pundit with a sardonic taste for whimsy who is keeping track of all this. We'll give a lovely Viridian star <*> to the person who can find us the most entertaining spot on the web in which to follow the California debacle. (((In the meantime, let's compile a few cogent quotes from various sources that illustrate the extent and nature of the trouble. First off the bat: the link between blackouts and weather violence.))) Source: David Lazarus, San Francisco Chronicle January 11, 2001 "The California Independent System Operator has downgraded Thursday's Stage Three power emergency to a Stage Two emergency, ending the threat of rolling blackouts across the Bay Area. (...) (((They escaped another blackout bullet == for now. But winter is supposed to be the easy season for California utilities.))) "Earlier Thursday, an underground explosion triggered a power outage that is affecting traffic signals and about 4,000 customers in northern San Francisco. (...) Motorists are reminded to treat broken signals as a four-way stop sign." (((Californians need a lot of reminders about everyday Third World conditions. Maybe a nice paper manual, in big print, for candle-light.))) "Cal ISO issued a warning today that rolling power blackouts could affect the entire state until 8 p.m." Link: Current system conditions at the California ISO. This website shows California's power hunger in real-time. Note the direct relevance of weather conditions. http://www.caiso.com/SystemStatus.html "Kellan Fluckiger, the ISO's chief operating officer, said blackouts this evening could affect as many as 2 million homes. "'We are working with neighboring states to access all possible megawatts,' he said. 'We're asking for all the megawatts we can get.' (((Nice slogan, Kellan. Maybe you should print T-shirts.))) "Fluckiger blamed today's shortage on mechanical difficulties at a number of plants, as well as on bottlenecks in transmission lines." (((These are *infrastructure* problems. They have nothing to do with the political problems of deregulation, or the economic problems of price spikes in natural gas. Californian power demand has outgrown California's physical network. And the real devil here is climate disruption. Nobody built that network to operate under well-nigh constant storms and heat spikes.))) "He also said high seas affected intake of cooling water at some coastal plants, including PG&E's Diablo Canyon nuclear power station. Kelp and debris became entangled in valves, causing generators to be turned off." (((A remarkable weather-related nuclear-power dysfunction here.))) "If rolling blackouts are called for, PG&E has divided its 4.5 million customers into blocks; each block would be darkened for about an hour at a time. " (((It should prove interesting to live in blackout checkerboards like that. What might life be like if that went on for months?))) Source: Don Thompson, Associated Press Thursday,JJanuary 11, 2001 "(01-11) 12:54 PST SACRAMENTO (AP) == California faced the threat of rolling blackouts Thursday as a storm and maintenance needs hampered key power plants, cutting generation one-third in the already energy-strapped state. (((More storms, more maintenance.))) "California's power production fell more than 15,000 megawatts == or one-third of the state's generating capacity == in part due to a storm carrying high winds and heavy rain, Dorinson said. One megawatt is enough to power 1,000 homes for an hour. "Key plants hit by the storm included the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in San Luis Obispo along the Pacific north of Los Angeles, which was hampered by high surf that blew sea kelp into its intake valves. "Storm-tossed waves that could rise as high as 28 feet forced Diablo Canyon to cut to just 20 percent of normal output. Each of the station's two 1,100-megawatt generators provide enough electricity to serve about a million people." (((On a positive note, surf's up.))) O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O NO PLUG, NO PLAY, SURFER BOY O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 14 Jan 01 09:40
Subject: Viridian Note 00219: California Crisis Part 2 Key concepts: California energy crisis, policy aspects, boredom as policy Attention Conservation Notice: So intensely boring that even California's politicians lost track. Part Two of Three. Source: Christian Berthelsen, San Francisco Chronicle Sunday,JDecember 31, 2000 "Genesis Of State's Energy Fiasco "String of bad decisions on deregulation could end up costing consumers $40 billion "Next month, about 10 million Californians may begin paying as much as 30 percent more for electricity, in a maddening coda to one of the most costly public policy mistakes ever made. "When the state's leaders started moving the energy system toward deregulation six years ago, they envisioned a brand new day in which utility companies' long-standing monopoly would be broken and rates would decline by as much as 25 percent. "Instead, when it is over, it may cost customers of the state's investor-owned utilities $40 billion, perhaps more. In the coming year, it could harm the world's sixth- largest economy and send a ripple effect throughout the globe for those dependent on California's continued prosperity. (((Nice move with the emotional blackmail there, fella. What about *California's* dependence on *everybody else's* prosperity? Who's going to bail you out of this mess? Iowa, Wisconsin.... If there's a federal bailout, California will be dependent on everybody else's generosity.))) "This is the story of what went wrong with deregulation, and how planning lapses, serious policy blunders == and warnings that came too late == set California's two main utilities, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Edison, toward a train wreck. "Power plant construction lagged while demand expanded. Leaders misjudged how much competition there would be to supply California with juice. And flawed deregulation laws left utilities and their customers at the mercy of power companies, extracting the highest price for electricity. (...) "In the early 1990s, businesses were fleeing the state amid the worst economic times since the Great Depression. Energy rates were 50 percent higher than they were on average across the nation, because of commitments to more expensive, environmentally friendly power and cost overruns for nuclear power plant construction. (((Electrical utilities are dirty and lack sexiness, but they don't go away just because they're boring.))) (((Here is the crux of the political problem with deregulation. It was so boring that the California legislature couldn't stand it. So they forfeited the control of their destiny to the one guy among them who was willing to do the grunt work. His name was Steve Peace, and he wasn't as bright as he thought he was. Unfortunately, since State Senator Peace couldn't get his colleagues to concentrate, he had to railroad the bill through with oleaginous assurances that everything would turn out just fine if they just crossed their fingers and held their breath. "Leap, and the Net will appear!" Every single one of them voted yes.))) "Months passed while the discussion meandered and faltered, and at one point it even appeared that no law would be passed. "That's when state Sen. Steve Peace took the reins and tried to make something happen. "The San Diego legislator already had won the respect of his colleagues for his work on another complex piece of legislation, reform of the workers' compensation system. "During a hurried two-week conference in August == dubbed the 'Steve Peace death march' for his propensity to keep negotiators at the table late into the night == the fine points of the energy law were hashed out. "Legislators entrusted their judgment to Peace and the few colleagues who worked on the bill. There was an abiding sense by a number of participants that few members of either house knew what was in the bill or even understood it. (((The dotcom approach to governance.))) It was passed by both houses of the Legislature unanimously and signed into law the following month. 'People were grateful to Peace and (former Sen. Diane) Martinez for taking it on,' said Debra Bowen, D-Los Angeles, the current chair of the Senate energy committee. 'Historically, utilities were a pretty boring topic, and I think term limits factored into it.' (((This is really funny, isn't it? It's chucklesome thing, very human. The authorities ceded any real understanding of their genuine predicament, tried to handwave their way out it, and death-marched the population straight off a cliff in a haze of inattention. But it's not entirely funny == because that's exactly what we're doing to ourselves with the Greenhouse Effect.))) O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O THE BOREDOM DEATH MARCH O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O
Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 14 Jan 01 09:51
Subject: Viridian Note 00220: California Crisis Part 3 Key concepts: California energy crisis, economics, finance, corruption, missing voltage Attention Conservation Notice: Following the money hither and yon. Over 2,600 words Links: http://www.pge.com/003_save_energy/003a_res/index.shtml Energy-saving tips from the hideously stricken Pacific Gas & Electric. Source: David Lazarus, Chronicle Staff Writer Friday,JDecember 29, 2000 "The lights stayed on in 2000, but just barely. "This was the year Californians stopped taking energy for granted. The state's failed attempt to deregulate the electricity market resulted in a surge in wholesale power prices, a tripling of some consumers' bills and financial devastation for the two biggest utilities. "But until the supply of electricity can meet the state's rapidly growing demand == something that will not happen for years == it seems clear that California's energy crisis will get worse before it gets better. (((He said "years," folks. Wow.))) "'Every possible thing that could go wrong has happened,' said Michael Worms, an energy-industry analyst with Gerard Klauer Mattison in New York. 'It's actually pretty amazing.' (((It's definitely amazing, but energy problems can get a lot worse than this. If this systemic failure happened in a state without a Mediterranean climate, the people would die in droves.))) (...) "'This is the ghost of summers future,' Michael Shames, executive director of the Utility Consumers' Action Network, predicted at the time. (((Great soundbite, Michael! This aptly-named Shames guy has got a nice California Crisis website. Kind of a nice, crunchy, homemade ripped-off consumer design look- and-feel there.))) Link: http://www.ucan.org (((On his unfortunately garish website, Michael Shames also offers a fabulously boring 20-page document that explains in painful detail why California ran out of energy, and why it can't get any merely by being politically correct. Here it is:))) http://www.ucan.org/law_policy/energydocs/Whathappened.htm (((I'll summarize this document later. In the meantime, it's back to feeling California's pain via the SF Chronicle and reporter David Lazarus.))) "At this point, California's energy crisis split into two separate but related issues. "On the one hand, chronic power shortages threatened to derail the state's red-hot economic expansion. (((Net infrastructure goes broke.))) "On the other, the leading utilities were warning of possible bankruptcy if they were left holding the bag for billions in extra expenses. (((Power infrastructure goes broke.))) (((This crisis should not be split into two issues. The 21st century century solution is network convergence. The digital nets should eat the voltage nets and make them much less filthy and clumsy. Not much sign of this lovely result so far, though. California's hackers think their voltage comes from Oz. Too bad it comes from Texas.))) "Wall Street, meanwhile, started taking notice. (((Uh- oh.))) "'No one wants to hold stock in a company that is subsidizing its customers,' said Paul Patterson, an analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston in New York. 'If PG&E has to swallow this loss, investors will run in droves.' (((So on the money front, it's Wall Street financiers versus NIMBY-obsessed California consumers. These two power-groups can't get at each other directly; they'll have to fight by proxy, ripping the public services to shreds.))) "PG&E placed its power-related debt at almost $5 billion and said it was losing an additional $1 million an hour. (((An impressive burn-rate even in California.))) "'The credit situation is getting much tighter,' said PG&E's Pruett. 'There will come a time when we won't be able to buy power for people. This is going to happen more sooner than later.' (...) "They have chosen to ensure unconscionable profits for the pirate generators and power brokers who are gouging California consumers and businesses,' the governor said. (((That would be California Governor Gray Davis, coining the exotic 21st century term "pirate generators." How slashdot of him. And where's that money going? If it goes anywhere besides a pile of deficits, it'll go to the people who sold fossil fuel to California.))) "In fact, industry insiders estimated that Californians had paid about $10 billion in extra electricity charges since prices spiked in the summer. (((Ten billion is big money, but there's much bigger money in the debts the Californians *haven't* paid. Instead, they've stuck the utilities with the tab.))) "'This is one of the highest transfers of wealth from people in this state to those outside the state in history,' said Mindy Spatt, a spokeswoman for The Utility Reform Network in San Francisco." (((Some people coin great soundbites. Some people == dirty, smog-covered Southerners, mostly == produce and ship energy. They have the Golden State over a barrel, OPEC-style. California's beggars can't be choosers, but that doesn't mean they have to be polite about it.))) Source: San Francisco Bay Guardian editorial http://www.sfbg.com/News/35/14/Berman.html "The Confederate Cartel's war against California "The current war over electricity is a war over the future of California. By Daniel M. Berman "The Confederate Cartel of Southern, Enron, and Reliant is holding California for ransom and looting it dry. (((Southern, Enron, and Reliant sell natural gas. Californians have no other suppliers.))) There's no doubt Pacific Gas and Electric will try again to push through a huge percentage rate increase(...). And the bounty will go to holding companies in Texas and the Carolinas, giving them more cash to buy out PG&E Corp. and Edison International. (((Buying California with the cash from its own gullibility! New Rules for the New Economy.))) "Attorney Jason Zeller, testifying for the normally mild- mannered Office of Ratepayer Advocates, told the commission on December 29 that 'this enormous transfer of wealth ...[is] ... the kind of thing that nations have gone to war over.' (((Good luck going to war with no energy, fella. Empty fuel tanks, busted supply lines.... the kind of crimp in one's style that defeated Erwin Rommel.))) "Is the threat of a Confederate takeover of our energy future for real? Look what has happened to California's biggest bank and biggest telephone company in the past five years: the Bank of America is now owned by a bank holding company based in North Carolina, and PacBell is now owned by SBC Communications, Inc. out of Dallas. High electric rates will also drive business out of California to the benefit of Texas and the Southeast, the bedrock of Republican support. (...) Will President George W. Bush, who believes 'the free market' will solve our electricity problems, oppose further takeovers by hostile interests?" (((These must be rhetorical questions. Oh yes, the Texan Peril is at hand == and they've *got the White House.* Time for a serious policy re-think. The Confederates don't lack customers, so as far as Californians are concerned, it's pay up or sit in the dark. Is it too late to surrender and beg abjectly for mercy?))) (((Okay, so much for the extortionate profits in fossil fuel. Where's the *political* money going?))) Source: http://www.opensecrets.org/news/electricity.htm "Electricity Deregulation "WHAT'S THE ISSUE? J "The U.S. electric industry is undergoing a sea change in the way it delivers electricity to millions of households and businesses nationwide. The $220 billion industry, which has been called the last great government-sanctioned monopoly, is slowly but surely being deregulated and opened to competition, giving consumers the power to choose their electricity provider in much the same way they choose telephone carriers. (...) "THE MONEY J "As talk of national electricity deregulation intensified in the 1990s, electric utilities == not surprisingly == increased their political contributions to candidates and parties. In 1992, utilities contributed a total of $5.4 million in individual, PAC, and soft money contributions. That figure nearly doubled to $9.5 million in 1996. That figure could double again when the final statistics for the 2000 election cycle are known. "The strongest area of growth in political giving from electric utilities has been in the form of soft money. In 1992, utilities contributed just $556,000 in unlimited, unregulated soft money to the Democratic and Republican parties. By 1996, soft money contributions increased by more than six times to $3.6 million. The industry's soft money contributions more than doubled in the 2000 election cycle to approximately $8 million. (((That's still peanuts when you're losing a million dollars an hour. The utilities have been harpooned and they are bleeding soft money. Political fundraisers are standing around with buckets. You think they're going to patch up that $220 billion whale any time soon?))) "It seems that every major group within the electric industry is pouring money into political activities. In fact, there's so much money being thrown around that some observers say Congress has little incentive to resolve the matter quickly. (((A very Russian situation here == crooked pirates feasting indefinitely on the bleeding remnants of the state-supported economic sectors.))) Lobbyists, too, are reaping the benefits of the issue. One lobbyist even called it the 'two-Lexus bill,' reports CQ Weekly. (((A Lexus goes pretty cheap these days, what with that dotcom crash in California.))) "The undisputed lobbying leader in this issue is the Edison Electric Institute, which has spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying Congress on behalf of large investor-owned electric companies. (((Edison Electric Institute are merely the biggest among a vast swarm, but just so you'd know.))) (...) "And then there are the advertisers. As any Congressional staffer or lobbyist knows, publications aimed at Congress have been filled with ads from companies and groups staking out positions on the debate over electricity deregulation. These groups include Americans for Affordable Electricity, a coalition of large-scale business consumers of electricity; Citizens for State Power, a conservative coalition backed by investor-owned electric utilities; and the Electric Utility ShareholdersU Alliance, a coalition of cooperatives, investor-owned utilities and labor interests. (((Plus a swarm of Greenhouse denial freaks such as Greening Earth Society and Global Climate Coalition. It's not surprising to peel up the lid and find a bunch of Viridian class-enemies hard at work here.))) (((Money talks, soundbites walk. So here's the executive summary: Silicon Valley down, natural gas marketing companies up, up, up. Al Gore Info Superhighway, yesterday's news; big, crunchy, energy bills coming due Bush Savings & Loan Crisis style, that is the Next New Thing. Sue your heads off in the dark, Californians. If there's any business entity politically covered in an Administration run by two Texan oil men, it's Texan energy companies like Reliant and Enron.))) (((So now you know where the money went. For extra credit, here's a long, rather technical explanation of where the voltage went. I'm saving all this for last, because these stark facts of life are so boring that even the California Legislature couldn't handle them. If California's power elite had been adding up the watts, they would have known they were coming up a cropper; but since they didn't bother to do that, they'll have to fingerpoint, instead. (((This California energy crisis has market manipulation involved. Of course it does. There are no free markets in fossil fuels: OPEC is a cartel. Calories aren't bits. People *die* to get fossil fuel; it is the biggest, toughest, bloodiest business in the world. (((But that's not the whole problem. If politics could trump engineering, then an interstate legal war on "Confederates" would turn California's voltage back on. It won't, because it can't. Justice comes with a blindfold and a balance, not a generator.))) Source: http://www.ucan.org/law_policy/energydocs/Whathappened.htm "WHAT HAS CAUSED CALIFORNIA'S ENERGY CRISIS J J "(...) It is fair to say that MurphyUs Law has controlled almost every aspect of electric services == from generation to delivery, anything that could have gone wrong HAS gone wrong.J(...) The energy crisis will disrupt the lives and economic well-being of Californians for at least the next four years. J J "We Allowed Ourselves to Run Out of Electric Generation Capacity. California failed to build renewables and cogeneration (...) while relying on out-of-state power that turned up missing this summer. J "We Allowed The Natural Gas Market to be Cornered. Lax federal and state regulation led to market manipulation by the natural gas pipelines and the energy marketers who control pipeline capacity. J JJ "We Overlooked the Interaction of Natural Gas & Electric Markets. Regulators failed to recognize the interaction between the natural gas and the electric generation markets.JJ When one is out of balance, the other market breaks down as well. J JJ "We Tolerated Lazy Regulation. The movement to deregulation served as a convenient excuse to reduce regulatory oversight and authority, to the detriment of the competitive energy markets that were supposed to have been formed.J J "How We Ran Out of Electric Generating Capacity J "In 1996, when the state Legislature passed the electric restructuring law (AB1890),J the legislators were told that California had plenty of power in the near term, but that new power would need to be built.JJ The theory, at that time, was that the private market would see the need for new power plants and would be able to deploy these new plants cheaper and faster than under regulation. J "In 1995, the California Energy Commission issued its Electricity Report 94.J It forecast that California had plenty of power through 2001.JJ It predicted reserve margins in 2001 in the range of 21-23% for PG&E and Edison, when only 16% was needed == in other words, power surpluses of about 2000 MW between the two companies.J J "However, that rosy assessment relied on a number of resources that, when push came to shove, were not there: J "Nine hundred megawatts of renewable and cogeneration capacity (684 MW Edison, 246 MW PG&E) to be acquired (...) were never purchased. (...) The utilities, particularly Edison, got FERC (((FERC are the feds))) to kill the auction as discriminatory against other power generators.J We ended up spending $90 million of ratepayer money (...) to bail out the utilities for killing these contracts and didn't get a single kilowatt-hour. (((California's utilities didn't want to build expensive, complicated green stuff, so they sidestepped the work. That capacity would be mighty handy right now. And mighty profitable.))) J "Nearly 2300 MW of uncontracted 'spot' capacity (1700 MW for PG&E and 588 MW for Edison) from Northwest and Southwest sources who have proven that (1) when push comes to shove, they have very little energy to sell and (2) were demanding cash on the barrelhead to sell what little they had (...). ((((1) The kindness of strangers. (2) Fossil fuel price spikes are for everybody. When there's an OPEC line around the block, nobody's your pal.))) J "Over 2000 MW of DSM that the utilities had no intention of ever acquiring.J PG&E and Edison were projected to be acquiring 100-150 MW per year each, at the same time as they were cutting their budgets in response to performance-based ratemaking incentives and acquiring only 40-70 MW per year each.J(...) (((Don't pretend you'll build 150 megawatts, and then build just 40 because that looks a whole lot better on this quarter's report.))) J "One hundred megawatts of non-existent line loss savings from interruptibles, because the CEC forgot that most of them were at transmission voltage, not secondary distribution. (((Don't blow stuff off through sheer technical ignorance, either!))) J "Add up all of these overestimates and the 2000 MW surplus becomes a 2000 MW deficit, with reserve margins in the 8- 10% range.J(...) These actions set the stage for the artificial shortage of generation that has hit the western United States in 2000." (((That long, eye-glazing recitation doesn't even count the stark effects of California's suddenly booming demand for energy, due to Greenhouse heatwaves and, well, the Digital Gold Rush. "Gold Rushes Finish Ugly," as they say; and lo and behold, the Golden State of California is four thousand megawatts and forty billion dollars short. Californians have two basic choices here: whine all the way down, or invent their way out of it. Every crisis is an opportunity, are we right? Is this a new economy == or was it a mere "New Economy?" Good luck, California! We'll be watching!))) O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O LOSE THE MONEY, BUT DON'T LOSE THE LESSON O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O
Linda Castellani (castle) Sun 14 Jan 01 14:01
Bruce, thank you for posting those. They do an excellent job of summing up the situation, better than I have seen anywhere.
-N. (streak) Sun 14 Jan 01 15:13
Join the list, folks. The cool points alone are worth it, and _all_ the notes are that good. It's interesting and makes you better-informed than most people.
can't ruminate too long on cows (roger) Tue 16 Jan 01 11:49
Absolutely great stuff, Bruce.
jumping the railroad gate (vasudha) Wed 17 Jan 01 13:04
My prediction for the future is that the same bullshit rosy predictions about supply and demand that has hurt CA in the energy arena is going to derail NYC eventually over water. If there is ever a serious drought - - that persists for more than a few years NYC will be a dangerous place cause people get testy when their survival buttons are pushed. Cities of over 10 million are a recent human innovation. Testing for it hasn't really come yet.
Infradibulated Gratility (ssol) Wed 17 Jan 01 16:21
I dunno. Folks living on the periphery and the streets of places like Cairo, Mexico City, Sau Paulo are being pretty well tested every day. By comparison, our North American poor folks do got it easy, I'll grant.
Members: Enter the conference to participate