SURVEY SAYS: Energy Crisis

June 21, 2001 - Several readers opined (along with their responses) that they expected this week's survey to be a "doozie" --and they were right. In terms of a final result, there wasn't much suspense --a full 84% opposed any kind of price caps/controls to help with California's energy crisis. Most seemed to believe that (a) California had gotten itself into this "mess", and now had to extricate itself or (b) other states had similar energy crises at other times, with no federal intervention. Of the 15% that supported at least some level of support (and no, they weren't all from California), most were concerned about the potential impact on lower income families --and a concern that there were energy firms taking advantage of the situation to unfairly gouge prices. One percent -- was honest enough to admit that they didn't know enough about the situation/consequences to weigh in (although there was also: First let me state that I do not have enough understanding of why there is a shortage of power out west (I.e. production capacity vs. usage and the history of energy companies there). But I never let facts get in the way of a good opinion)


Speaking of which (good opinions), even those in favor of some limits were NOT always kind in their assessment:

“Being on the West Coast and therefore impacted by what happens in California, I feel the situation is a bit more complicated than just guarding against price hikes or spikes. Californians are just beginning to look at how they can conserve energy. My husband travels down there and has noted that landscape lighting is finally being reduced and stores are beginning to cut back on usage. But all of us have a ways to go. Higher prices will cause us to look at how we are using energy. However, I think the “free market” has some clogs in it and caps at some level are necessary to protect against the robber barons. “

“As a native and life-long resident, I’m disgusted by the prevailing attitudes of those outside the state towards California. The state represents the 5th largest economy in the world; we sink, the nation sinks. I think that the government should monitor the pricing vs. what they paid for (or the cost of generating) the power. I just don’t feel we should be over charged. “

“Even if you believe it is some sort of divine justice for Californians to pay more for their energy, since California is the largest producer in the United States of produce and other goods used and enjoyed by all Americans, guess who else will feel the pain of these “just” uncapped rate hikes?However, I am concerned that because of past industry regulation, we may not have “perfect competition” among producers. Thus, if we allow prices to go where they will, I would only ask that there be some kind of oversight to make sure the markets are not being manipulated by the producers. “

“The government should ensure that the California economy doesn’t spiral into a recession. Too much tough love will punish all of us. That having been said, those (unkind word deleted) in Sacramento should be crucified for the colossal screwup that was deregulation in California and the gov’t should prevent price gouging not higher prices.That being said they do need some help from the feds as they cannot do it by themselves. Gee it seems like we just did this with the land debacle a few years ago. A final item, no way those company execs should be getting bonuses. “

There were a number of readers in the (just) “been there” camp, such as:

“I just returned from San Francisco on Sunday night. Although I was out there–in SF and Napa Valley–for a week, I saw little evidence of conservation. There were a few TV ads, but nobody really talked about the need to conserve. Billboards are still lit, hotels don’t tell customers to turn out lights. They need a rate hike. “