The Spark

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

No electric service - the disaster is in their cutbacks

Jul 14, 2003

The first July thunderstorm brought rains and high wind gusts to southeast Michigan. In downtown Detroit, the Comerica Tastefest closed for about 3 hours. The festival director said, "We had a few tents that were blown over, but it was nothing serious."

And indeed it was the sort of summer storm that frequently comes through. It should have been nothing serious. But over a quarter-million households lost electric power, most for at least half a day, some for as long as three days. Ask anyone who had meat in their freezer: that's serious. Ask anyone who depends on any electrical medical device: that's way beyond serious.

If an ordinary storm can take out electricity for so many people, it only points out how deeply the power companies have silently cut into service and maintenance.

It's not hard to see which tree limb is likely to fall on a power line in a storm, nor to spot sagging power lines. It's not hard to check records to see when transformers are due for replacement. But it is hard when there are no workers to do it – when power companies are more interested in increasing profit than in spending on upkeep of power lines and equipment.

When a storm hits, electric company execs rush to blame their problems on Mother Nature.

But the problem isn't Mother Nature. It's the nature of business.