Powerless in California
by Chris Seidel


January 17, 2001   Wednesday

It is a dark time in California. Today as I walked around work all the lights were out. People occupied dark offices. No one worked on their computers because they feared their work would be lost. I considered going home to work. However, a co-worker reported no power at her house when she went home for lunch.

It is a dark time because the state intentionally turned off the power to particular areas. People were stuck in elevators for hours. Businesses had to close their doors. Traffic intersections became dangerous and chaotic crossings. Citizens were placed at risk by the state. After a certain amount of time the power was turned back on.

Recently power in California became a deregulated utility. PG&E sold off some of its power plants to private holders. Many of those plants have cut down on the amount of power they produce. The decreasing supply means that more money can be charged. Power rates are going up. Because of the high demand companies can now gouge California with whatever rates they please. Which means the average citizen takes money out their pocket and simply places it into someone else's because of a political decision. Some of the plants are owned by friends of the Bush family in Texas. Now that Bush is president is California going to get any attention from Washington in regard to our power crisis? Somehow I doubt it. As I sat at work wondering how a company is supposed to stay in business when they can't be sure from moment to moment whether they'll have any power, I wondered, "Why do I and my fellow citizens have to go without power so some guy in Texas can get rich?"

The work that I do at home is important. I write computer programs and write about my research as a scientist. Why can't the power company supply me with the power I need for my work? I'm not playing nintendo, or watching soap operas on TV. I'm working on a computer that needs power. But it doesn't really matter what I do. My work is important to me, just like whatever anybody does is important to them. People's lives are affected by what they do. I pay my power bills on time and deserve to have power delivered. There's not a shortage of power, there's simply a shortage of commitment for supplying it.