The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

St. Louis Blackout—Created by Profit-mad Utility Companies

Jul 24, 2006

More than 500,000 homes and businesses in the St. Louis area lost power July 19 in the middle of a stifling heat wave. Temperatures were in the upper 90s with high humidity. At least 440,000 household and facilities–which means many more people–were still in the dark three days later.

For the people of the St. Louis area the outage was as bad as the big blackout that hit the Midwest and East Coast three years ago. Emergency rooms and health clinics saw many people with heat-related illnesses and there were dozens of heat-related deaths in the region. Stores ran out of fans and ice cubes. The National Guard was sent in to evacuate people from their homes.

Public officials, the utility companies, and the media pretend it’s the fault of thunderstorms that hit the region.

Yes, there were storms in the area and some of them were really severe. But it wasn’t the storms that caused most of the electrical lines to break. Some had trees fall on them. That’s because the utility companies have not devoted enough resources to keep the power lines free of trees. Other lines were not strong enough to withstand high winds, because many of them were not properly maintained.

Beyond that, once the power outages occurred, the utility companies did not have enough repair crews on hand to handle the emergency. They rely on bringing in crews from other areas to help with the repairs–but then those crews don’t know the area and are less familiar with the systems in place there because the systems are different from the ones they are used to working on.

What an inefficient way of organizing an electrical system! Separate private companies are organized individually, for their own profit, with completely different systems and no coordinated planning for emergencies. How much time, effort, and even life could be saved by having a single, centralized and uniform network–one which doesn’t put profit as its goal.

The current patchwork of individual utility fiefdoms is backward and means a steadily deteriorating utility service around the country.

Remove private interests from the provision of public utility service!