Conservationism is hogwash

I know, I know. Heresy to say such a thing the day after Earth Day, but I’m saying it.

Ok, let me be a bit more specific.

Water and electric conservation is poppycock.

I’m mad. Can you tell?

I’ll tell you why in two stories.

One from several years back. One from a couple days ago that got my ire all up again.

First story. Electricity.

You may recall in the early 2000’s, California was going through a power crisis during the hot summer months.

We were subject to brownouts and rolling blackouts. Which is just a nice way of saying, “oooops, your power is out, we did it on purpose.”

Then-Governor Gray Davis challenged all of us to conserve power with the threat of increased power rates. It was a rallying cry. Stores turned off half or more of their lights. The Bay Bridge and Golden Gate went dark (turned off the accent lights, kept the roadway lights on), and I personally worked really hard to use less energy.

What happened?

The state of California conserved 11% energy. ELEVEN PERCENT!! That is a HUGE number.

We were then rewarded by the news that the power companies were corrupt, our overuse was never the issue, and rates went up, by a lot, to offset the crisis.

Conserving power meant nothing. Nothing. We paid more anyway.

Second story. Water.

It’s been noted in the news recently that California is having an especially dry year. Our reservoirs are a bit low. We didn’t get the snow pack that those that know would like to see.

So in Santa Clara County, they have enacted conservation…with the threat of raising rates.

And the people and businesses are doing it. They are conserving.

On the radio Tuesday, I heard a report that conservation has worked SO well that the water company hasn’t been bringing in enough billing revenue to sustain their beleaguered business model.

So they are going to raise rates, anyway.

Working so hard to conserve water meant NOTHING.

This concept of voluntary conservationism is useless and a bunch of bullhockey! Don’t threaten or coerce me. If you are just going to raise my rates then go ahead and raise my rates. That will get me to use less, I promise!

Any first year business student can draw for you the chart showing supply and demand. And price is a factor in demand. A BIG factor.

You raise rates, people will want to pay less, they will use less and conservation of resources happens.

This jimmy-jacking around, blaming the victim, telling me I’m a bad consumer and must use less or bad things will happen…so then I use less and bad things happen anyway?

By the by…I already use so little water and so little power as to be laughable. I turn off lights, I unplug appliances, I use Energy Star. My bills stay pretty low.

So no. I’m done. I’m done trying really hard to conserve even more, only to be rewarded by higher rates anyway.



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  • Anonymous

    You get ’em girl!

    And then we can start on smoking taxes going to health care for poor little big eyed children – or were those from Guatemala?

    Because those awful smokers are Sooo expensive to the “rest” of society – except now the GAO says we aren’t, actually. We are sorta cheaper since we die younger.

    And all that money we got from the evil, evil tobacco companies actually got thrown into the states general funds until we could find “appropriate means” to disburse it for children’s health but y’know with the recession and all we kinda had to spend it on other stuff, an’ well…
    Evil ol’ Smokers just OUGHTA pay more anyway!
    mmm Dammit!

    OH! And fat people, too! Dammit!
    And speeders! And Teenagers! And especially the uninsured! Dammit! We need a new penalty for people who don’t afford health insurance! And raise the penalties on people who don’t afford auto!

    But I really wish you’d mail your blog to the papers, and the utility board. This one’s a ‘beaut!

  • Karen Fayeth

    Emmett – you raise great examples! I see you are picking up what I’m putting down.

    I suspect not everyone is inclined to agree with how we see things.

    I’m so happy someone out there hears what I’m sayin’!

  • Natalie

    Same thing is happenin’ with gasoline. The price of a barrel of crude is way down and demand is way down (’cause we can’t afford to drive!) but the price isn’t reflected in gasoline prices.
    I still think that whole gas pricing thing was a Bush conspiracy… I mean, c’mon; Exxon made 46 (or 48 or something like that) BILLION DOLLARS PROFIT last year. Shouldn’t they be the ones bailing GM out?
    I’m being facetious but, really, all of this gets my dander up.
    We can’t win for losin’…

  • Old Bogus

    The problem in regulated utilities is that the regulating agency (if any) generally allows a profit margin to the regulated companies, not a regulatory structure. When they through “demand side reduction” in the mix, the utility comes back a a year or two later whining about losing money.

    But the alternative is worse. To be “fair”, rates should have a connection fee (my REA does but not to the extent it really costs), a “spinning reserve” fee (which few have to allow for required immediate reserve power), and the actual cost of production fee. If a billing plan like this were in place, the per KW unit cost would plummet. But everyone’s base bill would increase.

    The poor would suffer the most, just like when motor fuel goes up.

    Equity is in the eye of the ratepayer.

    Charlie Green
    former utilities employee

  • Karen Fayeth

    Ah, OB….former utilities guy. Good insight, your point about regulated utilities is something to think about.

    “The poor would suffer the most, just like when motor fuel goes up.”

    The poor are already suffering the rising costs of utilities. They get hit like the rest of us with this g*ddamned dance the politicians do. “Conserve and you won’t get a higher bill!” We conserve. AND we get a higher bill.

    You take away incentive (avoiding higher rates), you take away my “want to”. I’m disinclined to conserve much.

    Now, you wanna touch my pocketbook? Oh I got incentive to conserve! A lot!

  • Anonymous

    I got laughed at by a surprisingly candid insurance agent years ago in Phoenix, said “What do you expect when you create a mandate for insurance and then don’t regulate it?”

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