Blackout Blackmail
by Maya del Mar

From a January 18 memo written by Credit Suisse First Boston (one of the banks with financial interests in PG&E):

"Rolling blackouts in California are more likely to soften up the rate-payers for a rate hike."

Why energy? Why now?

The truth is, we are at a crossroads of the survival of life itself, and energy is what runs life, and life runs energy. There is a world at stake here.

The United States and its big corporations and, in fact, we the people, have been mightily resisting pollution controls, even though scientists are now agreed that global warming is proceeding at an alarming pace and that pollution is a major cause.

Electrical power generation ranks as the number one world polluter, with 43% of the total human-induced emissions of carbon dioxide.

More immediately, Aquarius is the energy sign. Its ruler, Uranus, relates to technology, especially electricity. The influence of Uranus in Aquarius dominates the skies this month, along with Neptune and Mercury in Aquarius. Neptune can undermine old ideas about technology, and in the meantime there can be chaos and confusion. All of these planets can bring great innovation.

But not without struggling against the entrenchment and inertia of old patterns. Saturn, who represents vested interests, is still moving very slowly in determined Taurus, a money and resource sign. Saturn is hanging tight, closed to threatening new ways of doing things.

And stirring the pot is Pluto transiting a new degree of the zodiac—first time for 250 years it’s been there and it wants to make some whoopee. Pluto is associated with power, with the masses, with generation, with regeneration, with transformation, with energy potential, and with the underground movement of power. Looks like we’re dealing with a very Plutonic situation.

Pluto right now is transiting the U.S. Ascendant, bringing transformation and deep change to the nation. Things are never again the same after a Pluto transit.

In the U.S. chart, Pluto is in Capricorn, the sign of business and government. This is where U.S. power lies. Pluto transits around the U.S. chart regenerate this business/government power.

This is exactly the intention of the ruling powers. The government power regeneration was set in motion by the Bush coup d’etat. And we are seeing the first big blow of the business power coup d’etat. Pluto is completely ruthless. It razes what is no longer necessary without a qualm.

These very same transits create a window of opportunity for people to reclaim their power. Pluto in Capricorn is also Big Daddy. To reclaim our authority we need to cut the cord to Big Daddy, to risk being out there, and to speak up and work for our values. As we own our power, we become our own Big Daddy.

Why California?

Because California is the biggest domino. If it falls to the corporations, the rest of the nation, and the rest of the world, is a piece of cake. PG&E is the biggest utility company in the world—or was, before the recent mergers which are moving ahead since deregulation.

California is also the stickiest state, from the standpoint of having the strictest environmental controls. As Mr. Bush’s closest energy advisor, Kenneth Lay, CEO of the world’s largest power marketer, Enron, says in response to the California crisis, "Take the environmental controls off. Let the plants rip."

And it just so happens that Pluto in its new degree is exactly squaring the Sun of the Golden State, just as it was squaring the Sun of Florida during the election. When Pluto is hanging around, you always know that there are underground forces at work.

People in California know this. For years they have lived with, bailed out, and been subjected to the highest utility rates in the nation through PG&E, and in a continual battle with PG&E to be treated with a modicum of fairness.

It may be that taking on California is the move that stops in its tracks the Bush fast track to a totally profit-driven and commercialized world. For California’s Pluto squares that of the U.S., meaning that power and change here move in conflict with national power.

The U.S. Pluto is in conservative Capricorn while California’s Pluto is in pioneering Aries. Furthermore, California’s Aries Pluto conjoins Uranus in Aries, which fortifies it with vision, courage, and willingness to disrupt the status quo. California is a rebel state. With its Sun in Virgo, that rebellion is directed towards health and improvement.

We also have the vision, the talent, and the scale to turn around the whole wasteful energy system. Even the planets are with us now.

What is the history of power deregulation?

According to Alan Weisman, in "Power Trip" in the October 2000 Harper’s Magazine, it began with energy conservation. In 1978, Pres. Carter’s newly created Dept. of Energy required utilities to accept power from renewable or energy-efficient sources, such as solar photovoltaic or geothermal. As state PUCs opened bidding to outside sources, they discovered many which were very cost-effective.

It was the first time that non-utility-produced electricity penetrated the U.S. grid, and a revolution in cleaner energy began to bloom. Chiron, associated with new technology, had just been discovered.

Then the Reagan-Bush era of deregulation came in, and the love affair with big business and fossil fuels was revived.

One of Ronald Reagan’s first acts as President was to disconnect the solar collectors that Carter had installed atop the White House. It was Mr. Reagan who said, "If you’ve seen one redwood, you’ve seen them all." And, "Trees cause more pollution than automobiles."

During those years, the "Star Wars" years, we had Saturn, the archetype of government/business, picking up several strong drinks at the transit bar, fortifying it to go home and make some big changes.

One of those drinks was Uranus-on-the-rocks. Uranus is independence. Perhaps, as in the myth, Saturn swallowed the children of Uranus and Gaia, and called them rocks.

Now, from Nov. 1999-April 2001 the children are being disgorged and are protesting their fate. This is the first turning point of that cycle, which began in 1988, the year Daddy Bush was elected President.

By 1992 we were moving into a major new business cycle. Neptune and Uranus combined in Capricorn to give a big push to global capitalism. Huge business mergers, GATT, WTO, and NAFTA quickly followed. So did the high tech culture, which needed extra electricity.

Since competition for clean energy was working so well, corporations pressed for the right to shop around for all of their power. By 1992, Congress had given it to them

Now the deregulation steamroller was really moving, and the goals of cheap power and volume sales dominated the energy industry. Innovation was out the window.

By 1994 the few big power producers, most of them in Texas (where they could freely pollute), led by Enron, spearheaded deregulation in the states, including California. PG&E and Southern Edison, California’s two big utilities, wrote up the California regulations, helped by their big industrial customers. In 1996 the Calif. State Legislature unanimously passed their bill.

However, much earlier, in the early 1980’s, the California utilities were allowed to set up unregulated subsidiaries. Today, PG&E’s subsidiary, U.S. Generating Co., and SoCal Ed’s Mission Energy, operate many unregulated plants out of state, bringing in huge profits. By 1997, U.S.Gen owned most of the power plants in Massachusetts. These unregulated plants are mostly cheap to operate (and most polluting), run by coal, and they are also non-union, resulting in a relatively low paid, unstable, unskilled work force.

These investments represent many billions, and they were paid for by profits made from California rate-payers.

While buying up plants elsewhere, PG&E stopped building (more expensive) plants in California in 1993. They even bought up 5 plants run by independent operators and shut them down. They also destroyed all their solar, wind, and unconventional facilities. Edison in turn blocked the building of gas plants.

The utility giants were now ready for "free market" restructuring

With the 1996 bill, companies were broken into three components: generating, transmitting, and distributing electricity. PG&E, for instance, is PG&E Corp., PG&E Co., and PG&E Energy Systems. However, the CEO’s and Boards of all three not only interlink—they are in most cases the same people. Thus PG&E Energy Systems makes energy for 3 cents/kw hour, and sells it to PG&E Co. for 30 cents/kw hour—1000% profit for PG&E Energy Systems, a loss for PG&E Co.

PG&E Corp. and PG&E Energy Co. have been making profits hand over fist, while PG&E Co. is crying broke and wants the taxpayers to bail them out. It’s no wonder that all of their negotiations are secret.

They must be laughing all the way to the bank. There are, in fact, at least three big banks involved in PG&E’s finances and in the current secret negotiations: Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse First Boston, and Citigroup.

Legislators and the Governor are also involved. Guess who are their biggest contributors? You got it—the utilities.

There has been no talk of upping energy efficiency, developing cleaner energy, or opening to the many new possibilities of sustainable energy.

The talk about solutions revolves around users conserving (but PG&E’s office lights in San Francisco have been on all night), taxpayers bailing out the utilities, lifting environmental regulations for the companies, putting back into service obsolete dirty plants, drilling in the Arctic, and building plants in Mexico where environmental restrictions are less stringent. The fact is that all long-distance transmission wastes a lot of energy as it travels through the wires.

Fossil fuel has got to go, or we will. It’s been like a huge drug addiction in the United States, and we must, for the sake of future generations if not ourselves, wean ourselves away from it. The energy crisis is just that golden opportunity.

Neptune, the reigning planet at the Inauguration, refers to denial and addictions, and this nation is rife with them. But Neptune also refers to seeing through the fog of addictions, and finding the sacred, as in AA.

A few of the California Legislators, led by John Burton of San Francisco, have the courage to make proposals that would benefit the people, such as public ownership, and no bailout.

On Jan. 19 (read Calendar entry for Jan. 19) the City of San Francisco sued 13 major power producers, claiming that they had joined in a conspiracy to unfairly manipulate the wholesale energy market.

In her statement, City Attorney Louise Renne said, "The companies are playing with marked cards. Consumers know when they are being conned, and this is a clear instance of corporations taking advantage of a deregulated market to make a quick buck."

How do we know that public ownership is better?

Several cities In California, with Sacramento and Los Angeles being the biggest, own their own utilities. They do actively promote conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. Energy costs there have gone down, not up. The energy supply is stable. And, in fact, throughout this "shortage," Los Angeles has had enough of a surplus that they have been able to sell excess power. This while prices have tripled in neighboring San Diego.

In Nebraska, where all utilities are publicly owned, rates are 20% below the national average.

There are dozens and dozens of ways we could provide cleaner and cheaper energy if our system was not run by the utilities, who are dedicated to big fossil fuel plants. A very simple help that we could accomplish in weeks would be installing solar panels on roofs which would handle the day's energy needs, and then just hooking into the energy grid at night.

In the 80’s the oil companies bought up all the patents for solar panels they could find, but new ways of making them are invented every day. They need a market and public encouragement.

Real power lies with truth, and Pluto in Sagittarius is power in truth. It is also the power to transform truth. This is the period when we decide what version of truth we embrace, for during the course of the next 15 months Pluto opposes both planets of the establishment, Jupiter and Saturn.

In this case, should the energy system be for the public or the private good?


PG&E Co., the one crying poor, sent a check for $100,000 to the Bush Inauguration.

Enron donated $750,000 to the Bush campaign, and $300,000 to the Inauguration. An attendee said that every room at the Inauguration ball was filled with Enron advertising. Enron also donated corporate jets to George Bush during the campaign.

Kenneth Lay, CEO of Enron, is a family friend of Bush’s.

(1)Enron is the biggest gas producer in the world, (2) gas prices have gone up, and (3) on Jan. 23 Enron reported a 34% increase in quarterly profit.

Enron was cited by the U.S. Human Rights Watch at its energy facilities in India and Bolivia.

PG&E didn’t buy a reserve supply of gas last summer, as they usually do, because "they hoped the price would go down." Now Enron won’t sell them gas—at exorbitant prices—because they can’t pay cash. Now we need a consumer bailout. Alice in Wonderland, hello.

PG&E Corp. has been buying up plants all over the world with their California profits, e.g., in Indonesia, Thailand, the UK, and the U.S.

Many companies all over the country are into the electricity greed grab-bag, thus disrupting U.S. industry. Just one of many examples is Kaiser Aluminum near Spokane. The Dec. 11 Post-Intelligence reported that Kaiser was to pay Bonneville Power Administration $22.50/megawatt hour for power it was to receive in December, and now it was selling the power back for $500/megawatt hour.

Banks can afford to let PG&E file bankruptcy. As bondholders, they have first entitlement to the assets.

Quote from an anonymous PG&E worker, "Do not bail them out. PG&E will never modernize."

Quote from a local Argentinian, "This is a complete joke. It doesn’t happen in my country and it’s a Third World country."

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