16 August 2003

Power Outage Traced To Dim Bulb In White House:
Is tonight's black-out a surprise? Heck, no, not to us in the field who've watched Bush's buddies flick the switches across the globe. In Brazil, Houston Industries seized ownership of Rio de Janeiro's electric company. The Texans (aided by their French partners) fired workers, raised prices, cut maintenance expenditures and, CLICK! the juice went out so often the locals now call it, 'Rio Dark.'

So too the free-market cowboys of Niagara Mohawk raised prices, slashed staff, cut maintenance and CLICK! -- New York joins Brazil in the Dark Ages.

Californians have found the solution to the deregulation disaster: re-call the only governor in the nation with the cojones to stand up to the electricity price fixers. And unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gov. Gray Davis stood alone against the bad guys without using a body double. Davis called Reliant Corp of Houston a pack of 'pirates' --and now he'll walk the plank for daring to stand up to the Texas marauders.

So where's the President? Just before he landed on the deck of the Abe Lincoln, the White House was so concerned about our brave troops facing the foe that they used the cover of war for a new push in Congress for yet more electricity deregulation. This has a certain logic: there's no sense defeating Iraq if a hostile regime remains in California.

Sitting in the dark, as my laptop battery runs low, I don't know if the truth about deregulation will ever see the light --until we change the dim bulb in the White House.

Auckland also had major power problems after their system as rescued from the fat and bloated public sector and handed over to the lean and hungry private sector. Meanwhile back in Oz, we are trying to establish a nationwide electricity grid even though the huge distances between major population centres make efficient transmission an order of magnitude less efficient than in the US. The productivity commission itself accepts losses on the order of 5-10%, but mere physical reality does not constrain an economic rationalist in full flight. Nor, apparently, does the complex system problem.

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