inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #26 of 52: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Thu 11 Jan 01 18:55

With what purpose does one write about the future?

*With what purpose does one write about anything?

Is it with a
 serious attempt to explore what lies ahead for the human race?

*Why restrict yourself to the human race?  Try Olaf Stapledon's
LAST AND FIRST MEN.  Now that's science fiction, boyo!

 Or is
 fiction the product of a capitalist culture which centres itself on the
 principle of utility, where utility for many means some form of mind
 escape, due to the extremeties of life?

*Oh yeah.  I'm totally into the Card-Carrying Agent of American
Cultural Imperialism thing.  But people don't read books to escape
capitalist culture.  Mostly they do sex, drugs and rock and roll.

 How does one appraise SF work? is it based upon the genius of ideas
 that are explored or the very real possibilities it offers the human

*I'd have to say that it's mostly about the raw appeal of intellectual
sexiness, as opposed to, say, corny anticapitalist utopian schemes.

 Which is more valued, a clever imagination where the story is far
 removed from the human condition and our reality?

 Or where the story explores a very real future, alternative futures
 where thinking is provoked to politically act, act to attend things in
 the present that will stop disaster in the future or to encourage
 things so that we build a better future?

*This distinction is finessed a lot more easily than one might think.
Learning how to disguise tracts with pop appeal is pretty much
lesson number one in the sci-fi trade.

 Or is fiction simply there to entertain? and if so is that not to the
 detrement of the human condition?

*Trot me out some humans who never get entertained and let's
have a look at them.  Kind of a sorry lot, aren't they?  If we dropped
the lot of these sorry zealots into a compulsory hot tub with
24 hour cable porn, the human condition would improve radically
inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #27 of 52: Linda Castellani (castle) Thu 11 Jan 01 18:56

That sounds pretty bleak.  Is that truly your vision for the future?
inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #28 of 52: Linda Castellani (castle) Thu 11 Jan 01 18:56

bruces slipped!  My #27 was in response to bruces' #25.
inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #29 of 52: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 11 Jan 01 22:36
We had a pretty weird set of visions tonight. We'd seen "Red Planet,"
which is a decent sci-fi film with Viridian overtones, and as we got home
in the dark a herd of deer came down the street and went leaping - huge
fluid leaps - across our yard. As they gathered on one end of he yard and
nibbled grass, a huge meteor with a green aura shot past overhead. I
cocked my ear and listened for the apocalypse.

Bruce, if you had the power to make whatever changes you thought would
prevent the environmental chaos that appears to be brewing, what steps
would you take, before sandbagging?
inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #30 of 52: Farooq Khan (farooq) Fri 12 Jan 01 11:39
>Oh yeah.  I'm totally into the Card-Carrying Agent of American
Cultural Imperialism thing.  But people don't read books to escape
capitalist culture.  Mostly they do sex, drugs and rock and roll<

One cannot separate their ideological concepts from their writing
since it is these concepts, which define who we are. What we perceive
to be right and wrong, pretty and ugly. Our methods in writing could
not have been formed were it not for these concepts. Otherwise there
would be no distinction between communist cinema or cinema that is made
in Hollywood, or theatre that has been constructed by Brecht or

Granted people take many forms of escape but fiction books are simply
another means. I’m not attacking fiction I am simply making a point
that the very concepts that define a society will inevitably transcend
into what we find pleasurable and abhorrent. Which will inevitably
influence how we write and the subject matter that is tackled by
inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #31 of 52: Gail Williams (gail) Fri 12 Jan 01 14:07
And then the contrarians will wade in and muck up the cause and effect, and
the jokers will inject their irony and satire, and the literalists will
bounce off of that level.  How the culture "talks to itself" and changes is
about as simple as global weather patterns.
inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #32 of 52: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 12 Jan 01 15:05

Well Farooq, you can go right along defining yourself by your
ideological concepts, and I'll go right along being a middle-aged
mammalian primate.  Hope you're enjoying yourself.

Well Linda, I'm not all freaked out about it, but there's no doubt
in my mind that if something practical isn't done about the Greenhouse
Effect, it's gonna come and get me.  It was 112 degrees in my
front yard this summer.  If it's 118 degrees in my front yard,
I'm not gonna be left here in splendid isolation typing sci-fi
novels.  It's a chronic problem now, but if it becomes a major
public emergency, I'm not going to be immune just because I saw
it coming.

What to do about it?  Burn less stuff, man!  It's all about burning
stuff.  We're digging coal with our return keys right now.
inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #33 of 52: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 12 Jan 01 15:31
This is the last 'official' day for this interview, but I figure we'll
just keep talkin'... 

Thanks, Bruce! This has been pretty great...
inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #34 of 52: Gail Williams (gail) Fri 12 Jan 01 15:50
Fun indeed.
inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #35 of 52: Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 12 Jan 01 18:35

You are welcome to keep talking as long as you like.

As always, Bruce, a pleasure to read your words.  Thank you for taking the
time to share your thoughts with us.  

If you want to keep talking, it would be of great interest to me to
address the topic of today's Viridian message about the energy crisis in
California, which, as it happens, hits home for me at the same time as it

What I mean by that is that my SO is a 22-year employee of PG&E so each
day's account of the sturm and drang at ground zero has been played out
against a nearly-non-stop barrage of media reports showing on the TV
powered by our municipal power company, not subject to shortages or
inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #36 of 52: Farooq Khan (farooq) Sat 13 Jan 01 02:30
    <scribbled by farooq Tue 19 Jun 01 08:11>
inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #37 of 52: 'Got To! (freeform) Sat 13 Jan 01 10:08
Well, almost Linda.  Muni's aren't subject to the PG&E rolling black-out
process, but in a Stage 3 emergency, the ISO can boot anyone off the grid.
inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #38 of 52: Gail Williams (gail) Sat 13 Jan 01 11:08
Another face of the deregulation/grid adventures:

Family members of mine in northern california have had a storm outage
(maybe a tree down on one of the rural raods) for over 14 hours.  Food 
is spoiling, neighbor who is on oxygen is at risk, some can't heat due to 
electric thermostats.  This happens in wooded areas, but usually you can
report the situation and crews show up within a day.

Calling it in yields a notice that there are "known outages." The area
was not taken out as a rotating block with notice and restoral schedule.  
However, since 1000 PG&E workers were laid of Thursday and keeping 
rural/remote suburban areas offline helps financially, my sister is 
discouraged about getting deadline writing done for the course 
she is teaching, feeding the kid and about my mom's house being heated at
all.  Thank goodness for camping equipment.  

I know this is WAY off topic but it does have the flavor of Earth Abides and
all those early 1960s post nuke disaster fantasies.  Adventure travel
without leaving the house... 
inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #39 of 52: Gail Williams (gail) Sat 13 Jan 01 11:44
And of course when I post about it it is simultaneously fixed at the 15
hour point.
inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #40 of 52: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 13 Jan 01 18:23

  Oh, I'd have to say that's just the beginning.  Things are
pretty lively. I'm a busy guy.

   If -- for some weird reason -- you find yourself starved for
Sterling verbiage, I'd suggest signing up for Viridian List.
We're fighting global warming, and we're just warming up.

  It doesn't cost a dime!

  We now return you to your regular programming.

inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #41 of 52: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 14 Jan 01 07:46
Hey, you *are* our regular programming!

If someone wanted to go viridian on a fast track, what five books would
you recommend to bring 'em up to speed?
inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #42 of 52: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 14 Jan 01 09:32

Books hell.  Go buy an Aeron chair and an IDEO Oral-B toothbrush.

I gotta go, folks.  I gotta deadline waiting over at DWELL magazine.
WELL to DWELL, story o' my life.

Just because you don't hear from me doesn't mean I'm not typing.
Ha ha ha!  Adios!
inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #43 of 52: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 14 Jan 01 09:37

Subject:  Viridian Note 00218:  California Crisis Part I

Key concepts:  California electrical power, energy crisis,
storm damage

Attention Conservation Notice:  Pitiless analysis of the
Golden State's pathetic energy debacle.  Should cause no
end of chuckling schadenfreude among dirigiste
EuroViridians.  Part One of Three.

New to Viridian List?  Get up to speed with our ongoing
obsessions on our lovely, text-crammed website!

(((As readers from the previous century know, it hasn't
escaped Viridian notice that California is having an
energy crisis.  The situation is chronic.  It has finally
becoming intense and dramatic as bills come due and
California utilities face bankruptcy.  This pits
California consumers against Wall Street financiers.
Since they can't get directly to  grips with one another
(in fact, they're often the very same people), a merry
search is on for scapegoats.  Losing lots of money always
wakes people up. We're looking at something in the
neighborhood of forty billion dollars gone.

(((This situation is an ugly, multifaceted mess.  It's
amazing that such a debacle should strike a locale which
prides itself on being technically aware.  Unfortunately
"technology" is best-defined as "stuff invented recently."
So even though there's nothing more profoundly
"technological" than a vast, hugely expensive, coal-
gobbling, sky-wrecking energy network, it's been allowed
to slip into fetid neglect and denial.

(((What we Viridians would like to find now is a  one
stop, web-based California Crisis Watch.  We need a clean,
well-designed place where we can pull up a Leap Chair,
munch our popcorn, and watch the state's physical,
electrical, digital, legal, financial, and political
infrastructure brown-out from the comfort of our own homes
and offices.  It's too much to ask that we Viridians
should supply this ourselves, since we are way too
detached, cerebral, theory-centric, global and
multinationalist and, uhh, lazy.  Besides, why should we
Viridians  figure out what's going on when California's
entire political and industrial establishment is
blinkered, losing their heads, and loudly blaming it on
anybody but themselves?

(((Somewhere on the web there must be a well-informed
hobbyist pundit with a sardonic taste for whimsy who is
keeping track of all this.  We'll give a lovely Viridian
star <*> to the person who can find us the most
entertaining spot on the web in which to follow the
California debacle.

(((In the meantime, let's compile a few cogent quotes from
various sources that illustrate the extent and nature of
the trouble.  First off the bat: the link between
blackouts and weather violence.)))

Source: David Lazarus, San Francisco Chronicle
January 11, 2001

"The California Independent System Operator has downgraded
Thursday's Stage Three power emergency to a Stage Two
emergency, ending the threat of rolling blackouts across
the Bay Area. (...)  (((They escaped another blackout
bullet == for now.  But winter is supposed to be the easy
season for California utilities.)))

"Earlier Thursday, an underground explosion triggered a
power outage that is affecting traffic signals and about
4,000 customers in northern San Francisco. (...) Motorists
are reminded to treat broken signals as a four-way stop
sign."  (((Californians need a lot of reminders about
everyday Third World conditions. Maybe a nice paper
manual, in big print, for candle-light.)))

"Cal ISO issued a warning today that rolling power
blackouts could affect the entire state until 8 p.m."

Link:  Current system conditions at the California ISO.
This website shows California's power hunger in real-time.
Note the direct relevance of weather conditions.

"Kellan Fluckiger, the ISO's chief operating officer, said
blackouts this evening could affect as many as 2 million

"'We are working with neighboring states to access all
possible megawatts,' he said. 'We're asking for all the
megawatts we can get.'   (((Nice slogan, Kellan.  Maybe
you should print T-shirts.)))

"Fluckiger blamed today's shortage on mechanical
difficulties at a number of plants, as well as on
bottlenecks in transmission lines."  (((These are
*infrastructure* problems.  They have nothing to do with
the political problems of deregulation, or the economic
problems of price spikes in natural gas.   Californian
power demand has outgrown California's physical network.
And the real devil here is climate disruption.  Nobody
built that network to operate under well-nigh constant
storms and heat spikes.)))

"He also said high seas affected intake of cooling water
at some coastal plants, including PG&E's Diablo Canyon
nuclear power station. Kelp and debris became entangled in
valves, causing generators to be turned off."  (((A
remarkable weather-related nuclear-power dysfunction

"If rolling blackouts are called for, PG&E has divided its
4.5 million customers into blocks; each block would be
darkened for about an hour at a time. "  (((It should
prove interesting to live in  blackout checkerboards like
that.  What might life be like if that went on for

Source: Don Thompson, Associated Press
Thursday,JJanuary 11, 2001

"(01-11) 12:54 PST SACRAMENTO (AP) == California faced the
threat of rolling blackouts Thursday as a storm and
maintenance needs hampered key power plants, cutting
generation one-third in the already energy-strapped state.
(((More storms, more maintenance.)))

"California's power production fell more than 15,000
megawatts == or one-third of the state's generating
capacity == in part due to a storm carrying high winds and
heavy rain, Dorinson said. One megawatt is enough to power
1,000 homes for an hour.

"Key plants hit by the storm included the Diablo Canyon
nuclear power plant in San Luis Obispo along the Pacific
north of Los Angeles, which was hampered by high surf that
blew sea kelp into its intake valves.

"Storm-tossed waves that could rise as high as 28 feet
forced Diablo Canyon to cut to just 20 percent of normal
output. Each of the station's two 1,100-megawatt
generators provide enough electricity to serve about a
million people."  (((On a positive note, surf's up.)))

O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O
O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O
inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #44 of 52: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 14 Jan 01 09:40

Subject: Viridian Note 00219: California Crisis Part 2

Key concepts: California energy crisis, policy aspects,
boredom as policy

Attention Conservation Notice:  So intensely boring that
even California's politicians lost track.  Part Two of

Source: Christian Berthelsen, San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday,JDecember 31, 2000

"Genesis Of State's Energy Fiasco

"String of bad decisions on deregulation could end up
costing consumers $40 billion

"Next month, about 10 million Californians may begin
paying as much as 30 percent more for electricity, in a
maddening coda to one of the most costly public policy
mistakes ever made.

"When the state's leaders started moving the energy system
toward deregulation six years ago, they envisioned a brand
new day in which utility companies' long-standing monopoly
would be broken and rates would decline by as much as 25

"Instead, when it is over, it may cost customers of the
state's investor-owned utilities $40 billion, perhaps
more. In the coming year, it could harm the world's sixth-
largest economy and send a ripple effect throughout the
globe for those dependent on California's continued
prosperity.   (((Nice move with the emotional blackmail
there, fella.  What about *California's* dependence on
*everybody else's* prosperity?  Who's going to bail you
out of this mess? Iowa, Wisconsin....  If there's a
federal bailout, California will be dependent on everybody
else's generosity.)))

"This is the story of what went wrong with deregulation,
and how planning lapses, serious policy blunders == and
warnings that came too late == set California's two main
utilities, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Southern
California Edison, toward a train wreck.

"Power plant construction lagged while demand expanded.
Leaders misjudged how much competition there would be to
supply California with juice. And flawed deregulation laws
left utilities and their customers at the mercy of power
companies, extracting the highest price for electricity.

"In the early 1990s, businesses were fleeing the state
amid the worst economic times since the Great Depression.
Energy rates were 50 percent higher than they were on
average across the nation, because of commitments to more
expensive, environmentally friendly power and cost
overruns for nuclear power plant construction.
(((Electrical utilities are dirty and lack sexiness, but
they don't go away just because they're boring.)))

(((Here is the crux of the political problem with
deregulation.  It was so boring that the California
legislature couldn't stand it.  So they forfeited the
control  of their destiny to the one guy among them who
was willing  to do the grunt work.  His name was Steve
Peace, and he wasn't as bright as he thought he was.
Unfortunately,  since State Senator Peace couldn't get his
colleagues to  concentrate, he had to railroad the
bill through with oleaginous assurances that everything
would turn out just fine if they just crossed their
fingers and held their breath.  "Leap, and the Net will
appear!"  Every single one of them voted yes.)))

"Months passed while the discussion meandered and
faltered, and at one point it even appeared that no law
would be passed.

"That's when state Sen. Steve Peace took the reins and
tried to make something happen.

"The San Diego legislator already had won the respect of
his colleagues for his work on another complex piece of
legislation, reform of the workers' compensation system.

"During a hurried two-week conference in August == dubbed
the 'Steve Peace death march' for his propensity to keep
negotiators at the table late into the night == the fine
points of the energy law were hashed out.

"Legislators entrusted their judgment to Peace and the few
colleagues who worked on the bill. There was an abiding
sense by a number of participants that few members of
either house knew what was in the bill or even understood
it. (((The dotcom approach to governance.))) It was passed
by both houses of the Legislature  unanimously and signed
into law the following month.

'People were grateful to Peace and (former Sen. Diane)
Martinez for taking it on,' said Debra Bowen, D-Los
Angeles, the current chair of the Senate energy committee.
'Historically, utilities were a pretty boring topic, and I
think term limits factored into it.'

(((This is really funny, isn't it?  It's chucklesome
thing, very  human.  The authorities ceded any real
understanding of  their genuine predicament, tried to
handwave their way out it, and death-marched the
population straight off a cliff in a haze of inattention.
But it's not entirely funny == because that's exactly what
we're doing to ourselves with the Greenhouse Effect.)))

O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O
O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O
inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #45 of 52: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 14 Jan 01 09:51

Subject: Viridian Note 00220: California Crisis Part 3

Key concepts:  California energy crisis, economics,
finance, corruption, missing voltage

Attention Conservation Notice:  Following the money hither
and yon.  Over 2,600 words

Energy-saving tips from the hideously stricken Pacific Gas
& Electric.

Source:  David Lazarus, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday,JDecember 29, 2000

"The lights stayed on in 2000, but just barely.

"This was the year Californians stopped taking energy for
granted. The state's failed attempt to deregulate the
electricity market resulted in a surge in wholesale power
prices, a tripling of some consumers' bills and financial
devastation for the two biggest utilities.

"But until the supply of electricity can meet the state's
rapidly growing demand == something that will not happen
for years == it seems clear that California's energy
crisis will get worse before it gets better. (((He said
"years," folks.  Wow.)))

"'Every possible thing that could go wrong has happened,'
said Michael Worms,  an energy-industry analyst with
Gerard Klauer Mattison in New York. 'It's actually pretty
amazing.'  (((It's definitely amazing, but energy problems
can get a  lot worse than this.  If this systemic  failure
happened in a state without a Mediterranean  climate, the
people would die in droves.)))


"'This is the ghost of summers future,' Michael Shames,
executive director of the Utility Consumers' Action
Network, predicted at the time.

(((Great soundbite, Michael!    This aptly-named Shames
guy has got a nice California Crisis website. Kind of a
nice, crunchy, homemade ripped-off consumer design look-
and-feel there.)))

(((On his unfortunately garish website, Michael Shames
also offers a fabulously boring 20-page document that
explains in  painful detail why California ran out of
energy, and why it can't get any merely by being
politically correct.  Here it is:)))

(((I'll summarize this document later. In the meantime,
it's back to feeling California's pain via the SF
Chronicle and reporter David Lazarus.)))

"At this point, California's energy crisis split into two
separate but related issues.

"On the one hand, chronic power shortages threatened to
derail the state's red-hot economic expansion.   (((Net
infrastructure goes broke.)))

"On the other, the leading utilities were warning of
possible bankruptcy if they were left holding the bag for
billions in extra expenses.   (((Power infrastructure goes

(((This crisis should not be split into two issues.  The
21st century century solution is network convergence.  The
digital nets should eat the voltage  nets and make them
much less filthy and clumsy.  Not much  sign of this
lovely result so far, though.  California's hackers think
their voltage  comes from Oz.  Too bad it comes from

"Wall Street, meanwhile, started taking notice.  (((Uh-

"'No one wants to hold stock in a company that is
subsidizing its customers,' said Paul Patterson, an
analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston in New York. 'If
PG&E has to swallow this loss, investors will run in

 (((So on the money front, it's Wall Street financiers
versus NIMBY-obsessed California consumers.   These two
power-groups can't get at each other  directly; they'll
have to fight by proxy, ripping the  public services to

"PG&E placed its power-related debt at almost $5 billion
and said it was losing an additional $1 million an hour.
(((An impressive burn-rate even in California.)))

"'The credit situation is getting much tighter,' said
PG&E's Pruett. 'There will come a time when we won't be
able to buy power for people. This is going to happen more
sooner than later.' (...)

"They have chosen to ensure unconscionable profits for the
pirate generators and power brokers who are gouging
California consumers and businesses,' the governor said.
(((That would be California Governor Gray Davis, coining
the exotic 21st century term "pirate generators."  How
slashdot of him.   And where's that money  going?  If it
goes anywhere besides a pile of deficits, it'll go to the
people who  sold fossil fuel to California.)))

"In fact, industry insiders estimated that Californians
had paid about $10 billion in extra electricity charges
since prices spiked in the summer. (((Ten billion is big
money, but there's much bigger money in the debts the
Californians *haven't* paid.  Instead, they've stuck the
utilities with the tab.)))

"'This is one of the highest transfers of wealth from
people in this state to those outside the state in
history,' said Mindy Spatt, a spokeswoman for The Utility
Reform Network in San Francisco."

(((Some people coin great soundbites. Some people ==
dirty, smog-covered Southerners, mostly == produce and
ship energy.  They have the  Golden State over a barrel,
OPEC-style.  California's  beggars can't be choosers, but
that doesn't mean they have  to be polite about it.)))

Source:  San Francisco Bay Guardian editorial

"The Confederate Cartel's war against California

"The current war over electricity is a war over the future
of California.

By Daniel M. Berman

"The Confederate Cartel of Southern, Enron, and Reliant is
holding California for ransom and looting it dry.
(((Southern, Enron, and Reliant sell natural gas.
Californians have no other suppliers.)))   There's no
doubt Pacific Gas and Electric will try again to push
through a huge percentage rate increase(...).  And the
bounty will go to holding companies in Texas and the
Carolinas, giving them more cash to buy out PG&E Corp. and
Edison International.  (((Buying California with the cash
from its own gullibility!  New Rules for the New

"Attorney Jason Zeller, testifying for the normally mild-
mannered Office of Ratepayer Advocates, told the
commission on December 29 that 'this enormous transfer of
wealth ...[is] ... the kind of thing that nations have
gone to war over.'  (((Good luck going to war with no
energy, fella.  Empty fuel tanks, busted supply lines....
the kind of crimp in one's style that defeated Erwin

"Is the threat of a Confederate takeover of our energy
future for real? Look what has happened to California's
biggest bank and biggest telephone company in the past
five years: the Bank of America is now owned by a bank
holding company based in North Carolina, and PacBell is
now owned by SBC Communications, Inc. out of Dallas. High
electric rates will also drive business out of California
to the benefit of Texas and the Southeast, the bedrock of
Republican support. (...)  Will President George W. Bush,
who believes 'the free market' will solve our electricity
problems, oppose further takeovers by hostile interests?"
(((These must be rhetorical questions. Oh yes, the Texan
Peril is at hand == and they've *got the White House.*
Time for a serious policy re-think. The Confederates don't
lack customers, so as far as Californians are concerned,
it's pay up or sit in the dark.  Is it too late to
surrender and beg abjectly for mercy?)))

(((Okay, so much for the extortionate profits in fossil
fuel.  Where's the *political* money going?)))


"Electricity Deregulation

"The U.S. electric industry is undergoing a sea change in
the way it delivers electricity to millions of households
and businesses nationwide. The $220 billion industry,
which has been called the last great government-sanctioned
monopoly, is slowly but surely being deregulated and
opened to competition, giving consumers the power to
choose their electricity provider in much the same way
they choose telephone carriers. (...)

"As talk of national electricity deregulation intensified
in the 1990s, electric utilities == not surprisingly ==
increased their political contributions to candidates and
parties. In 1992, utilities contributed a total of $5.4
million in individual, PAC, and soft money contributions.
That figure nearly doubled to $9.5 million in 1996. That
figure could double again when the final statistics for
the 2000 election cycle are known.

"The strongest area of growth in political giving from
electric utilities has been in the form of soft money. In
1992, utilities contributed just $556,000 in unlimited,
unregulated soft money to the Democratic and Republican
parties. By 1996, soft money contributions increased by
more than six times to $3.6 million. The industry's soft
money contributions more than doubled in the 2000 election
cycle to approximately $8 million.  (((That's still
peanuts when you're losing a million dollars an hour.  The
utilities have been harpooned and they are bleeding soft
money.  Political fundraisers are standing around with
buckets.  You think they're going to patch up that $220
billion whale any time soon?)))

"It seems that every major group within the electric
industry is pouring money into political activities. In
fact, there's so much money being thrown around that some
observers say Congress has little incentive to resolve the
matter quickly.  (((A very Russian situation here ==
crooked  pirates feasting indefinitely on the bleeding
remnants of  the state-supported economic sectors.)))
Lobbyists, too,  are reaping the benefits of the issue.
One lobbyist even  called it the 'two-Lexus bill,' reports
CQ Weekly.  (((A Lexus goes pretty cheap these days, what
with that dotcom crash in California.)))

"The undisputed lobbying leader in this issue is the
Edison Electric Institute, which has spent tens of
millions of dollars lobbying Congress on behalf of large
investor-owned electric companies. (((Edison Electric
Institute are merely the biggest among a vast swarm, but
just so you'd know.))) (...)

"And then there are the advertisers. As any Congressional
staffer or lobbyist knows, publications aimed at Congress
have been filled with ads from companies and groups
staking out positions on the debate over electricity
deregulation. These groups include Americans for
Affordable Electricity, a coalition of large-scale
business consumers of electricity; Citizens for State
Power, a conservative coalition backed by investor-owned
electric utilities; and the Electric Utility ShareholdersU
Alliance, a coalition of cooperatives, investor-owned
utilities and labor interests.   (((Plus a swarm of
Greenhouse denial freaks such as Greening Earth Society
and Global Climate Coalition.  It's not surprising to
peel up the lid and find a bunch of Viridian class-enemies
hard at work here.)))

(((Money talks, soundbites walk.  So here's the executive
summary: Silicon Valley down,  natural gas marketing
companies up, up, up. Al Gore Info Superhighway,
yesterday's news; big, crunchy, energy bills coming due
Bush Savings & Loan Crisis style, that is the Next New
Thing.  Sue your heads off in the dark, Californians. If
there's any business entity politically  covered in an
Administration run by two Texan oil men,  it's Texan
energy companies like Reliant and Enron.)))

(((So now you know where the money went.  For extra
credit, here's a long, rather technical explanation of
where the voltage went.  I'm saving all this for last,
because these stark facts of life are so boring that even
the California Legislature couldn't handle them. If
California's power  elite had been adding up the watts,
they would have known they were coming up a cropper; but
since they  didn't bother to do that, they'll have to
fingerpoint, instead.

(((This California energy crisis has market manipulation
involved.  Of course it does. There are no free markets in
fossil fuels: OPEC is a cartel.  Calories aren't bits.
People *die* to get fossil fuel; it is the biggest,
toughest, bloodiest business in the world.

(((But that's not the whole problem.  If politics could
trump engineering, then an interstate legal war on
"Confederates" would turn California's voltage back on.
It won't, because it can't.  Justice comes with a
blindfold and a balance, not a generator.)))


J  "(...) It is fair to say that MurphyUs Law has
controlled almost every aspect of electric services ==
from generation to delivery, anything that could have gone
wrong HAS gone wrong.J(...)  The energy crisis will
disrupt the lives and economic well-being of Californians
for at least the next four years.
J   "We Allowed Ourselves to Run Out of Electric
Generation Capacity. California failed to build renewables
and cogeneration (...) while relying on out-of-state power
that turned up missing this summer.
   "We Allowed The Natural Gas Market to be Cornered. Lax
federal and state regulation led to market manipulation by
the natural gas pipelines and the energy marketers who
control pipeline capacity.
JJ "We Overlooked the Interaction of Natural Gas &
Electric Markets. Regulators failed to recognize the
interaction between the natural gas and the electric
generation markets.JJ When one is out of balance, the
other market breaks down as well.
JJ "We Tolerated Lazy Regulation.  The movement to
deregulation served as a convenient excuse to reduce
regulatory oversight and authority, to the detriment of
the competitive energy markets that were supposed to have
been formed.J
"How We Ran Out of Electric Generating Capacity
"In 1996, when the state Legislature passed the electric
restructuring law (AB1890),J the legislators were told
that California had plenty of power in the near term, but
that new power would need to be built.JJ The theory, at
that time, was that the private market would see the need
for new power plants and would be able to deploy these new
plants cheaper and faster than under regulation.
"In 1995, the California Energy Commission issued its
Electricity Report 94.J It forecast that California had
plenty of power through 2001.JJ It predicted reserve
margins in 2001 in the range of 21-23% for PG&E and
Edison, when only 16% was needed == in other words, power
surpluses of about 2000 MW between the two companies.J
"However, that rosy assessment relied on a number of
resources that, when push came to shove, were not there:
"Nine hundred megawatts of renewable and cogeneration
capacity (684 MW Edison, 246 MW PG&E) to be acquired (...)
were never purchased. (...)  The utilities, particularly
Edison, got FERC  (((FERC are the feds))) to kill the
auction as discriminatory against other power generators.J
We ended up spending $90 million of ratepayer money (...)
to bail out the utilities for killing these contracts and
didn't get a single kilowatt-hour.  (((California's
utilities didn't want to build expensive, complicated
green stuff, so they sidestepped the work.  That capacity
would be mighty handy right now.  And mighty
"Nearly 2300 MW of uncontracted 'spot' capacity (1700 MW
for PG&E and 588 MW for Edison) from Northwest and
Southwest sources who have proven that (1) when push comes
to shove, they have very little energy to sell and (2)
were demanding cash on the barrelhead to sell what little
they had (...).  ((((1) The kindness of strangers.  (2)
Fossil fuel price spikes are for everybody.  When there's
an OPEC line around the block, nobody's your pal.)))
"Over 2000 MW of DSM that the utilities had no intention
of ever acquiring.J PG&E and Edison were projected to be
acquiring 100-150 MW per year each, at the same time as
they were cutting their budgets in response to
performance-based ratemaking incentives and acquiring only
40-70 MW per year each.J(...)  (((Don't pretend you'll
build 150 megawatts, and then build just 40 because that
looks a whole lot better on this quarter's report.)))
"One hundred megawatts of non-existent line loss savings
from interruptibles, because the CEC forgot that most of
them were at transmission voltage, not secondary
distribution.  (((Don't blow stuff off through sheer
technical ignorance, either!)))
"Add up all of these overestimates and the 2000 MW surplus
becomes a 2000 MW deficit, with reserve margins in the 8-
10% range.J(...)   These actions set the stage for the
artificial shortage of generation that has hit the western
United States in 2000."

(((That long, eye-glazing recitation doesn't even count
the stark effects of  California's suddenly booming demand
for energy, due to Greenhouse heatwaves and, well, the
Digital Gold Rush. "Gold Rushes Finish Ugly," as they say;
and lo and behold, the Golden State of California is four
thousand megawatts and forty billion dollars short.
Californians have two basic choices here: whine all the
way down, or invent their way out of it. Every crisis is
an opportunity, are we right?  Is this a new economy == or
was it a mere "New Economy?"  Good luck, California!
We'll be watching!)))

O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O
O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O
inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #46 of 52: Linda Castellani (castle) Sun 14 Jan 01 14:01

Bruce, thank you for posting those.  They do an excellent job of summing
up the situation, better than I have seen anywhere.
inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #47 of 52: -N. (streak) Sun 14 Jan 01 15:13
        Join the list, folks.  The cool points alone are worth it, and _all_
the notes are that good.  It's interesting and makes you
better-informed than most people.
inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #48 of 52: can't ruminate too long on cows (roger) Tue 16 Jan 01 11:49
Absolutely great stuff, Bruce.
inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #49 of 52: jumping the railroad gate (vasudha) Wed 17 Jan 01 13:04

My prediction for the future is that the same bullshit
rosy predictions about supply and demand that has hurt CA in
the energy arena is going to derail NYC eventually over water.

If there is ever a serious drought - - that persists for more
than a few years NYC will be a dangerous place cause people
get testy when their survival buttons are pushed.

Cities of over 10 million are a recent human innovation. 
Testing for it hasn't really come yet.
inkwell.vue.100 : Bruce Sterling 2001 - The State of the Future
permalink #50 of 52: Infradibulated Gratility (ssol) Wed 17 Jan 01 16:21
I dunno. Folks living on the periphery and the streets of places like
Cairo, Mexico City, Sau Paulo are being pretty well tested every day.
By comparison, our North American poor folks do got it easy, I'll


Members: Enter the conference to participate. All posts made in this conference are world-readable.

Subscribe to an RSS 2.0 feed of new responses in this topic RSS feed of new responses

   Join Us
Home | Learn About | Conferences | Member Pages | Mail | Store | Services & Help | Password | Join Us

Twitter G+ Facebook