Does anybody else find the "financial crisis" that the local powermonopolies claim they are fighting to be completely false?

Forinstance, PG&E reported a profit last quarter and distributed a dividend totheir share holders. And yet, the state utilities claims that they haveacquired $9 billion in debt over the last year. According to a recent article in the San Jose Mercury News: Moreover,[the PUC rate increase proposal] pointed out that the utilities have sentbillions of dollars in profits to their parent corporations sincederegulation began. In PG&E's case, it said, that amounted to $9.6billion, much of which was spent on stock dividends and paying off olddebts.

So, PG&E sent $9.6 billion in profit to its parentcorporation since 1996, and yet the utility companies (that's plural becauseit includes the power companies in the southern portion of the state) wantthe public to pay off the $9 billion dollars in debt that they racked uplast year. What a joke! What's even more irritating is that thestate Public Utilities Commission is backing the utilities. Maybe thePUC ought to read the mission statement on their own web site which reads:The CPUC is responsible for assuring California utilitycustomers have safe, reliable utility service at reasonable rates,protecting utility customers from fraud, and promoting the health ofCalifornia's economy.

Of course, the public officials in chargeof appointing members of the PUC have taken over one million dollars from the local utilities incontributions, and continue to do so even now. Given that, it's nosurprise that the PUC and the governor are backing the utilitycompanies. Anybody who tells you that the utilities need this rateincrease or California will run out of power is either:1. Completelyinsane 2. A shill for the power companies There are no otherreasonable explanations for repeating such outright lies. The reasonthat power companies want to increase rates is because they want to makehigher profits. The utilities claim that the companies who operate thepower generation facilities (dams, power plants, nuclear plants, etc.) aregouging the power distribution companies. However, the reality is thatPG&E is still operating plenty of power plants. According to[The Utility Reform Network], PG&E earned net profits of $1.5 billion fromutility-owned generation between January 2000 and October2000.PG&E even admits that it is "[charging sky-high rates for power generated at its Diablo Canyonnuclear power plant and network of dams](

DTL)." The utilities alsoclaim that they have no control over the costs of electricity any more andthat if market rates actually prevailed, our energy costs would bystratospheric. In reality, that isn't true. One of the reasonsthat PG&E is buying energy for such high prices is the company's own failureto sign long-term agreements to buy power at lower prices. Instead,the utility is wading into the spot market and is being forced to pay higherprices. So, because the company is run by short-sighted idiots, weshould all pay higher energy bills. For instance, according to this article inthe San Francisco Bay Guardian:This December a typical PG&E residential customer paid $54.52 for 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity,compared to $36.89 for a [Sacramento Municipal Utility District]customer.

MUDs like SMUD routinely sign long-term agreementswith power generators to lock in favorable rates for their ratepayers. MUDs do this because they aren't run by short-sighted,profit-hungry, executives. The City of Alameda operates the electricutility for the Alameda, so we are generally insulated from PG&E's greed andincompetence. For instance, our electric bill for December 1999 wasroughly $35. Our bill for December 2000 was $41. The five extradollars are probably attributable to our increased use of the washingmachine in the basement. PG&E customers, because they aren't shelteredby an entity like Alameda Power and Telecom may see their electricity billsnearly double next month because the PUC caved into the power monopolies.

The major media outlets are feeding the perception that the localutilities are running out of money and power. For instance, check outthis story titled "Consumer groups press California electricutilities." You might think that the article would be about the peoplewho think that PG&E's need for a rate hike is a fraud. In actuality,about 75% of the article is nothing more than a rehash of the party linethat PG&E and other utilities are running out of power and money. Thissort of treatment of the topic is not unusual. In many ways, the mediaand the utilities seem to be collaborating to produce a positive feedbackloop of coverage.

For more perspective on how PG&E is gouging California consumers, ourJuly 2000 gas bill from PG&E was $12.76. Our October 2000 gas bill wasin the range of $20.00. Our November 2000 gas bill was $56 andchange.&nbsp Our December 2000 gas bill was $92.96! Our gas bill forthe same house, same heating system, in December 1999 was $38 dollars andchange. Beyond that, it hasn't even been that cold yet, so we haven'tbeen running the heat very much this year.

Bush's Interior Secretary sounds like a winner, for anyone who doesn'tcare about the environment, that is. [Norton's actions as Colorado's attorney general](

DTL) to helpcombat a corporate cyanide and acid spill, might be better classified astotal inaction. Since it will be her job to help safeguard ournational parks against disaster, better go see them while you can. There's no guarantee that they will still be there a few years from now.