The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

California power profiteers

May 21, 2001

Electricity shortages? Outrageous rate increases? Blackouts leaving you in the dark?

As we've all heard by now –this is your fate if you live in California.

But, suprisingly, not everyone in California suffered this fate. There have been no blackouts for people living in Los Angeles or Sacramento, for example. None in most of the other California cities served by publicly-owned utilities.

Nor has everyone served by pubicly-owned utilities suffered a stupendous rate increase. Rates in Los Angeles, for example, which already were lower than those charged by the two big privately-owned utilities, didn't go up. Nor did rates in Sacramento and other municipal electricity systems.

What's the difference? Quite simply: The publicly-owned utilities were set up to provide electrical service. The privately-owned ones were set up to provide a profit.

Of course, publicly-owned utilities function inside a system for making profit. And they are trapped by that also. They have to buy their supplies from profit-making corporations. They depend on natural gas for producing some of their electricity. And when their contracts with the suppliers of natural gas run out, they may be held up too.

Nonetheless, Californians served by Los Angeles or one of the other publicly-owned utilities have so far not suffered what other Californians have suffered.

Strangely enough no one bothers to raise why the profit-making utilities have made such a mess of the situation, while the publicly-owned ones have escaped the mess. Could it be that profit is the problem? Maybe that's why the politicians, from Bush on down, don't ask. Their job is to defend the right of big corporations to make super-profits at our expense.