Green Party of California Weighs In With Energy Proposals - Supports State Take-Over Of Utilities, Energy Conservation, and No NukesPress Release 1/31/01
The Green Party of California is outraged by the convoluted approach to the current energy crisis and demands that our state legislature integrate common-sense, consumer friendly, sustainable measures put forth by this state's fastest growing third party.
The Green Party recommendations lay out a comprehensive agenda for establishing an energy policy that supports conservation, public control, renewable energy, tiered pricing, and forcing PG&E to use it's corporate assets to bail itself out. The full proposal lays out the skeleton of a plan for a massive energy conservation effort in the state.
Over four years ago, the Green Party was the only electoral voice in California warning against the adverse effects of energy deregulation. With the current energy debacle, the Green Party warns utility companies and state lawmakers to do more in staving off the impending hardships imposed on consumers and our environment. Levying consumer rate hikes for utility company benefit will not mitigate this burgeoning crisis.
Consumer advocate and Green Party presidential candidate, Ralph Nader has stated that "California has an opportunity to set an example for the nation: an example which establishes clearly that consumers should not be required to pay for failed deregulation schemes, corporate mistakes, and greed."
In 1998, the Green Party of California joined with other consumer groups and pushed for Prop. 9 to reform the state energy deregulation law. The initiative was soundly defeated by millions of dollars invested by the three big energy companies in California, PG&E, SoCal Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric. This investment by the utilities translated in to almost $30 billion since shared by the utilities under the deregulation bailout.
PG&E now claims they are close to bankruptcy and are asking for state and rate payer help again. How should the state respond?
"Everything we need technologically to fix the problem has been available on store shelves for twenty years or more," according to Don Eichelberger, who co-chairs the state party's energy working group and helped author the proposals. "All that is missing," he says, "is for the state politicians to have the political will to stand up to the utilities and do what's right."
Budd Dickinson, a Berkeley energy analyst and spokesperson on energy issues for the state Green Party believes that this "crisis" is, in part the "blackmail of California rate payers". "You don't let me raise my rates," they're telling us, "or you don't let me build nuclear power plants or any power plants in your neighborhoods, and I'll cut off your electricity." He calls it another failure of deregulation. "Remember the 'Savings and Loan crisis'," he warns.
Indeed, consumer advocate, Harvey Rosenfeld, president of Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights dismisses altogether any need for a bailout. Pointing to over $37 billion in assets owned by SoCal Edison's parent company, Edison International, he quips, "Edison can bail itself out."
Greens worry that the economic effect of the proposed bailout and rate hikes would affect the poor the most. Rebecca Kaplan, a Green Party activist who ran for a seat on the Oakland City Council said, "Low-income families should never have to choose between food and heat in the middle of winter. Those who waste power should have to pay the real cost; and everyone should have incentives to conserve energy. That's why I support a strong multi-tiered pricing system"
Addressing this situation, Greens have joined protests and met with industry executives in an effort to find ways to work out solutions. The solutions put forth in this set of proposals, as Don Eichelberger points out, are not new. Many have been tried and proved true in the past, such as tax incentives for renewable power, which were severely cut back under the Reagan presidency.
The most controversial idea set forth is for the state to support public ownership of the electric system, an idea supported by a growing network of progressive organizations. They share the belief that traditional supply and demand economics has no place in an industry so crucial to the economic well being of the state.
The Green Party of California