The Spark

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

Utilities Make Hurricane Worse

Sep 5, 2011

After Hurricane Irene passed up the East Coast and through New England hitting areas from South Carolina to Quebec, power outages left more than six million homes and businesses without lights, air conditioning and refrigeration. Six days later, there were still more than 580,000 homes and businesses without electric service.

The hurricane is not responsible for this – the utility companies are. They have failed to properly maintain their lines and other equipment: Trees near power lines have gone un-trimmed. Old wires and transformers have not been replaced. As a result there are many more power outages than there would be if the utilities were doing their job.

The problem is that the utility companies have repeatedly cut back on the number of line workers they employ in order to boost their profits – particularly during the past decade. During this time the average utility company reduced its line crews by 25 to 30%. During the same time the population of the U.S. went up by about 10%.

Hurricane Irene was an act of nature. But much of the disruption and losses it caused are the result of the utility companies’ never-ending drive for profits.