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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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I keep hearing about how the massive power outage is a failure of the power grid system and that private enterprise failed us. Hogwash! Anyone who thinks that the power grid system is a private creation or is privately run is ignorant because the power industry is heavily regulated—ever heard of the Department of Energy? Equal blame must also be apportioned to the environmentalists and NIMBY-iots. Without their sanctimonious and ill-informed protestations, the nation, and that region in particular, would have more than enough power, backup power, and reserve power to meet any needs—making the blackout more like a flicker.

It’s interesting that the two parties most responsible for the setup that allowed—nay, made inevitable—the blackout are the same ones crowing for more control vested in themselves. Unfortunately, the appellation of “deregulation” was squandered on California’s ersatz attempt and that sour taste is still stuck in everyone’s mouth. Unfortunately, it’s the only course that would avert or minimize these sorts of incidents.

It might cost a little more on the surface, but it’s currently costing a lot more in lost business (when the power goes off), increased bureaucracy (especially with the performance bonuses that the DoE is so fond of), and artificial scarcity (hasn’t there been only one nuclear plant to come online in the last couple of decades?). Regulation adds expenses that don’t generate any revenue. Deregulation, conversely, strips away these expenses and lets the power company do its own thing—and fail if it can’t satisfy it customers and stockholders. What could be bad about that?

[UPDATE: Slashdot is seeking clarification of deregulation’s involvement. Comments ranged from funny to insightful to informative to interesting. I especially like the example of Hydro-Quebec and the replies.]

[UPDATE 2: Jane Galt has a couple of excellent entries about the deregulation present in the northeast power grid, linking to a great resource that I’m going to bookmark.]