Energy wake-up call? Quick! Hit the snooze button!
Julian Borger's article in The Guardian does a fine job of summarizing what
is known about the deeper sources of the power blackout, namely the
mania for privatization and deregulation in the Bush administration and elsewhere
in the U.S. It turns out that electrical transmission lines are not an attractive
source of profits for energy corporations. And since public spending on the
power grid has been explicitly rejected by our Republican Congress, investment
in the wires, towers and other apparatus has steadily declined in recent years.
Borger links the mentality of "let the market do it all" and cronny capitalism to
problems in Iraq and the war on terrorism as well.
"In the process of deregulating the industry, no one has found a way of making
investment in transmission lines pay. That is true politically, as well as financially.
Before the blackout, it was much easier to get elected on a programme of high
defence spending than to go to the voters on a record of generous expenditure
on transmission. Pylons and relay stations are not that sexy."
"The idea of public investment does not fit into the Bush-Cheney mission, with
the patriotic exception of defence. But even there, the cult of privatisation has
had a powerful and damaging influence.
The administration had to be coerced into nationalising airport security screening
services long after it was apparent that private companies were failing at the task.
Lip-service security is profitable. Real security is not.
The privatisation of defence contracting has also left soldiers in Iraq, supposedly
the ultimate heroes in the Bush pantheon, without proper supplies, living
quarters or even enough water in the desert heat. All these things were supposed
be provided by private companies, according to reams of contracts signed
before the war.
The trouble is that contractors fall over themselves to sign multi-million dollar
deals in peacetime but, when the shooting starts, their employees frequently
refuse to drive their trucks towards the action."
I wonder why British and European journalists seem to have a better
understanding of our problems than our American scribblers and talking
heads? Perhaps it has to do with how journalists in the different cultures
are chosen and who pays for their "services."