Monsters of Deregulation

If were being plundered, where are the festive pirates?

Meanwhile, the last people to get paid—which has meant not getting paid at all—are the small alternative-energy providers, the windmill and solar producers. They can't afford to keep operating, so the energy conglomerate has even hobbled the baby steps we've been making toward renewable energy.

And what about us, the poor consumers? The world hasn't exactly been rushing to our aid, probably because we in the U.S. already are using one-fourth of the world's energy. Our fellow states have been scarcely more sympathetic, probably because when they think of California, they picture Klieg-lit Hollywood premieres and Disneyland Electrical Parades and the rest of us lolling on the beaches having buff sex while laughing at other states where folks toil in the fields and go to sleep at 9 p.m., hours before we even begin powering up our post-buff sex discotheques.

What are people in Iowa to think when they see droves of Californians buying Sony's Aibo digital dog at $1,500 a pop? What I'm thinking is that dogs turn mean when they don't get fed, and I don't want to be around in the next blackout when thousands of these cyberpooches start experiencing voltaic hunger pangs.

Electric dogs! Who is going to feel sorry for us when we're buying electric dogs? Local municipalities have outlawed clotheslines, citing them as an unsightly nuisance. We're so energy-addicted that we can't even let nature dry our clothes anymore.

Can we blame the energy companies for taking advantage of people who are so useless? Suppose you had an oil company that drilled and pumped oil in remote locales, transported it, refined it, bought off politicians and did so much else, only to see knuckleheads paying more for a pint of bottled water than they do for your product. Wouldn't you start charging more, particularly when said knuckleheads are piling into hulking SUVs? And if you were Ready Kilowatt, you wouldn't want to see Oily Octane having all the fun, would you?

So this is a mess with plenty of blame to go around and not much of a solution in sight. Mandating conservation is fine, except a surcharge for not cutting back on last year's use penalizes the people who already conserve. Some say we should let the utilities go bankrupt and have the state seize them, and I'm all for that—but it'll happen around the same time Ralph Nader moves into the White House.

Some wax idyllic about the times before electric power, thinking we'll all just sit around the bonfire, singing songs and swapping recipes. Fine, except we're not an agrarian society anymore, and the closest thing most Californians have to a farm implement is a pump-action shotgun.

Technology will save us. I'm predicting that soon we'll just genetically engineer Delaware-sized vats of electric-eel DNA fed with unprocessed wastewater, hook a couple of wires up to it and voila! We're back in the Electrical Parade. And, oh, the monsters we'll imagine!

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