Do you think consumer rates are artificially low, or do you think that wholesale electric prices are being artificially jacked up? The real supply problem is in the summer, when peak demand is much higher, not the winter. a
The consumer rates are artificially low for the market, by definition. When supply is controlled by a small group that isn’t regulated, it‘s hard to make things work without raising rates.
They want it to work without any increase in rates.
Sure. Howard Hughes wanted the Spruce Goose to fly. Part of the short-term crisis may be taken care of by the recession.
That was the pattern in the ’70s. With a coming recession, you get a decline in energy usage.
Economic crisis, like an energy crisis, provides opportunity for a new direction.
What should we do about the utilities and their financial situation?
Their holding companies are sure sound. We need to sort through their real finances. It‘s very complicated. Bankruptcies would hurt a lot of people. Retirees. The state pension funds have big holdings. And we might not have much claim over their assets. We might lose even more control over our energy future if they went into bankruptcy.
In your experience, how long do you think we have in terms of new approaches on energy before people get complacent again?
Who says people can get complacent again? We got away from [a policy of transforming our energy base to renewable sources] with Reagan and Bush and Deukmejian and Wilson. They ended up liking a lot of the energy efficiency, but dismantled a lot of the renewables. They’re fossil-fuel guys. They took our higher efficiency for granted and failed to plan for the future. This is a problem that is going to continue, because half the power plants in the state are 30 years old.
Most of the living Nobel science laureates proclaimed in their 1992 “Warning to Humanity” that the real dangers are insufficient food, deforestation, species loss and climate change which could trigger “unpredictable collapses of critical biological systems whose interactions and dynamics we only imperfectly understand.” We can stick with fossil fuels and fuel the future crisis or use this as an opportunity to bring more renewables online.
Do you feel the state power authority is a good way to go?
It could be. We have to be careful about centralizing power in opposing the centralization of power. It requires a lot of thought to make sure that government doesn‘t merely replicate the same old patterns. It could be a good part of the mix, though people are suspicious of state government running even part of the show.
But municipal utilities are doing well, mostly sailing through the crisis.
They are. We would be in much worse shape without them.