Cheney says he can't help Calif.

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Cheney Says He Can't Help Calif.

By H. Josef Hebert, Associated Press Writer

Friday, May 25, 2001; 4:17 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON Vice President Dick Cheney said Friday nothing more can be done to help solve California's power problems this summer. He criticized the state for not taking steps sooner to fix a flawed electricity market.

"They knew years ago they had a problem," Cheney said at an energy conference for small business. "They postponed taking action because all of the action was potentially unpleasant."

The vice president's assessment came as Democrats and Republicans in Congress tried to work out a compromise on legislation to bring some relief to California this summer. President Bush plans to visit the state next week and meet with Gov. Gray Davis to discuss the issue.

"The bottom line is there isn't anything that can be done short term to produce more kilowatts this summer," said Cheney. He also rejected price controls, saying they have added to the lack of an adequate power supply.

Davis has sharply criticized the Bush administration for opposing temporary price controls to reduce record high wholesale electricity prices across the West. Cheney said this week's upheaval in the Senate, with a shift from GOP to Democratic control, "can conceivably have an impact" on getting much of the administration's long-range energy plan approved.

Still, he said he thinks the administration can make progress on the energy package unveiled last week. He acknowledged it would be easier if Republicans had remained in control of the Senate. Cheney outlined key points of the energy package before several hundred people, many of them entrepreneurs from across the country, at an energy conference sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Asked by a Californian what the federal government could do to lower power costs that have gone from $7 billion in 1999 in California to $40 billion over the last 12 months, Cheney reiterated his opposition to price controls. "We think that's a mistake," he said, contending that part of California's energy problem today is the result of price caps put in place a few years ago.

While acknowledging that California's attempt to deregulate its electricity market had bipartisan support, Cheney suggested that Davis, a Democrat, added to the problem by not seeking retail price hikes sooner. "We're now in a situation where the prices have to go up anyway," he said.

California in 1996 allowed its wholesale electricity markets to be deregulated, but continued controls on retail prices, leaving major utilities unable to pass on their high costs. Only recently have state regulators imposed sharp increases, as high as an 80 percent hike on retail prices.

Democrats in both the House and Senate have called for temporary price controls on wholesale electricity charges, arguing the Western energy markets are broken and rife with manipulation by a small number of energy companies, many of which are based in Texas and support the president. Price controls can be crafted in such a way as not to stifle incentive for supplies, they contend.

A bill before the House Energy and Commerce Committee is aimed at bringing some help to California this summer, its sponsors say. But progress on the bill has bogged down over the price cap issue. The legislation cleared a subcommittee May 10 on a 17-13 party-line vote without a provision to cap wholesale electricity prices. Democrats and Republicans were trying to work out a compromise on the price cap issue Friday, but prospects for a deal were dim.

Copyright 2001 The Associated Press

-- Swissrose (cellier3@mindspring.com), May 26, 2001

Answers

Chaney's right.

-- Chance (fruitloops@hotmail.com), May 26, 2001.

Who could doubt it?

-- Loner (loner@bigfoot.com), May 26, 2001.

What a trade-off, temporary relief for 6 months in exchange for worse misery after that.

When are people ever going to learn that price controls solve NOTHING? The free market price mechanism is the best, most efficient, lasting, beneficial price control there is.

-- JackW (jpayne@webtv.net), May 26, 2001.


What ever happened to T.G.I.F.? We go many weeks without any responses, then get a flood in one day. And, why on a Friday, going out day, of all days?

Of course, most of the responses are criticism of Democrats, with which I partly, but not wholly, agree.

But, it's good to see so much activity emerge from time to time.

-- LillyLP (lillyLP@aol.com), May 26, 2001.


I have been a citizen of California since 1980. From 1982 to 1998, I temporarily resided, for purposes of employment, in many parts of the United States. These locales include Florida, Michigan, Indiana, Utah, Kansas, Virginia, Massachussetts, Missouri, and Pennsylvania.

From personal knowledge, I can attest that there is widespread and deep rooted stereotypical prejudices concerning California, which are very pervasive in widespead regions of the United States. California is widely scorned as "La La Land", the "Land of Fruits and Nuts", the "Sodom of our time", and so natural disaster prone as to be "about to fall off into the Pacific any day."

Having lived in CA for many years, in between these temporary trips, plus some temporary trips to other parts of CA, I also know from personal knowledge, that the facts are very different. California's economy is tough: Employers can make employees work harder and longer for less pay, and the cost of living is higher relative to wages than most anywhere else. Thus, the vast majority of working Californians don't have much idle time to get into "trouble". Those who do, have very limited time to devote to any controversial or sinful pursuits. Furthermore, Californians are as diverse as I have seen anywhere, ranging from, yes, the so-called "Fruits and Nuts" types; to very conservative family centered Bible thumper types.

Also, I saw ample evidence of the existence of the so-called "Fruits and Nuts" types in other regions of the country, generally regarded as being "conservative". Such evidence took the form of noise- bellowing "Hell's Angels" motorcycle groups, people wearing T-shirts with very controversial slogans, effeminately dressed men, and other similar public evidence.

In addition, I subscribe to the primary remaining "Y2K" mailing list, run by Cory Hamasaki. In these postings, I have seen multiple snide remarks about California, evidencing these prejudicial stereotypes. The fact that these are held even by "Y2K savvy" people shows the intensity and depth of this prejudice, as these people have unusually high intelligence in at least a certain area: Not being prone to the widespread human phenomenon of "Denial" when faced with genuine threats. This does not reflect unfavorably in any way upon Cory Hamasaki, but only upon certain individuals who are members and make postings.

I believe that these pervasive prejudicial stereotypes about California are the foundation of widespread public support for the Federal Government's refusal to take any steps which could avert the insolvency and bankruptcy of California. There is widespread belief, driven by prejudice, that California deserves punishment and hardship.

Yes, there is a "kernel" of technical bottlenecks and shortages of electricity, due to Y2K embedded system problems, just as in petroleum and natural gas. But in these other two areas, prices are moderately higher all over, and everyone is taking their fair share of the moderate "hit", so it isn't a disaster focused on one region. In the case of electricity, a combination of State Government blunders and mismanagement, synergizing with the Federal power structure, is enabling the electricity Y2K "hit" to be focused upon one region. This is politically possible because of the widespread prejudicial stereotypes regarding California.

In short, the severity of the California Energy Crisis is primarily driven by widespread and deeply held Prejudice and Discrimination.

-- Robert Riggs (rxr.999@worldnet.att.net), May 26, 2001.



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