"The deregulation debacle" and "Power and the people"

Readers respond to two recent stories on California's energy crisis.

Published February 2, 2001 8:00PM (EST)

Read the story by Anthony York

Read the story by Damien Cave

In Anthony York's article, he fails to mention that deregulation was former Gov. Pete Wilson's baby. Wilson appointed four pro-deregulation advocates to the Public Utilities Commission for the express purpose of deregulating. The PUC, the large energy consumers (cement, steel, etc.) and the utilities worked out the deregulation plan. Consumer groups were effectively cut out of the planning. This plan was then pushed through the Legislature by Democratic Sen. Steve Peace, who ended up padding the bill with pork to satisfy the various lobbyists (like consumer groups) who might otherwise object to the plan.

When York lists the people who are at fault -- and I agree there are many -- he should start with Gov. Wilson and the Republican Party. Wilson is the one who wanted deregulation and who made the appointments to make it happen. Of course, the utilities and the large energy consumers were only concerned with their own pocketbooks and advocated a plan that each thought would benefit it. It was the PUC that should have been protecting the rest of us. It did not, thanks to Wilson's appointments.

Moreover, according to the San Jose Mercury News, the Department of General Services issued a report at the time saying that demand was going to be a problem in the future. That report never saw the light of day because it was not what the Wilson administration wanted to hear.

At this point, it is necessary to find a solution to this mess first, and finger-pointing does not aid that process. But if and when we get to the point where we have the luxury of finger-pointing, I think the finger first points to Wilson.

-- Carol Navone

I expected the heavy emphasis on oil from the Bush energy plan, but was even more discouraged and outraged by the suggestion that Mexico will be looked to for U.S. energy needs. Encouraging our neighbor to the south to quickly ramp up its energy generation capacity spells more problems for the U.S.

Apparently, our leaders are less interested in encouraging Mexico to produce clean energy and adopt more pollution control technology than they are in hastening the speed of energy production. Two Mexican power plants near the border burn dirty coal, belching pollutants into the borderlands and creating smog that has reduced visibility not only in Big Bend National Park but as far away as the Grand Canyon, where the view is a pale shadow of what it used to be.

We mustn't continue to be so dependent on oil. It's time we invested seriously in conservation efforts and research into alternatives instead of paying lip service to these ideas and parading insincere corporate efforts around every Earth Day only to mothball them by Mother's Day.

-- Michal Hillary

You mention several times that "environmentalists" signed on to the deregulation bill. This bill was written by a small clique of people. The vast majority of environmental groups were never consulted.

-- Michael Perelman

It's interesting that everyone seems to remember how they were so sanguine about the future back when deregulation and market forces were hailed as a panacea. The power companies would be broken up, and the highly competitive "free market" would drive prices down. And somehow the producers and distributors would also be rich and happy.

Yeah, right.

-- Dick Paddock

By Salon Staff

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