Solutions for California

By Samuel L. Blumenfeld
web posted February 12, 2001

As we all know, California is at the cutting edge of computer technology, and one would think that the Golden State would also be at the cutting edge of power generation. Unfortunately, when it comes to energy production, California is the equivalent of an under-developed third world country, where outages are a way of life. Everyone in the liberal media blames California's plight on deregulation. But deregulation doesn't mean economic freedom in a laissez-faire sense. First of all, the utilities are not allowed to own their own sources of energy, and they cannot charge the consumer prices above those set by the regulatory agency, regardless of what the utilities must pay for energy. So what's so deregulated about the system? The system is still regulated but in a way that doesn't make sense.

The basic problem in California is that the utilities must import energy from other states that want to be paid the going rate for that precious commodity. California doesn't generate enough energy for its own needs because environmentalists have been able to block the building of more power plants. As they say, California is the state of fruits and nuts, and the nuts have had their way for much too long. In addition, California continues to grow in population, increasing the need for energy. Yet the only solution you constantly hear about is conservation. Don't use energy, we are told.

I've been to California many times and never have I been told at the motel registration desk not to use the electricity in my motel room. I remember some years back when they had a water shortage and waitresses in restaurants no longer automatically brought you a glass of ice water. You had to ask for it. But the biggest use of water in California is for irrigating farms, not serving glasses of water in restaurants.

Again, the environmentalists keep urging more conservation. Let your dishes pile up before using the dishwasher. Don't use electricity if a candle will do. Get a new refrigerator that uses less energy.

But the wisest thing any household or company can do is buy one's own generator! And already many companies are doing just that. Californians! Declare your independence from the utilities and the environmentalists by providing your own energy. You already do that in your car. Your car has heat, air-conditioning, radio, and if it's an SUV, television. How about hooking up your house to your car via the cigarette lighter and just keep the motor running. All you need is gasoline. Maybe a group of homeowners can buy a generator collectively and pay energy bills to themselves. But who knows, the legislature might pass a law making that illegal.

Here's how one private entity solved its energy problem. Pensacola Christian College in Pensacola, Florida, once had a very serious energy problem. Located in an area near the Gulf of Mexico often plagued by hurricanes, the college was subject to constant outages. So what did the college do? They built their own energy plant, and it's quite a beauty, with pipes painted in bright primary colors quite visible to the passerby. It looks like a huge abstract sculpture under glass.

If Californian architects had any imagination they could design power plants to look like gigantic sculptures. Even the environmentalists might be pleased with the esthetic value of the building.

But the real solution to California's energy problem is nuclear power. Today's advanced technology has made the nuclear power plant the sensible way to generate electricity without the use of expensive coal, gas, or oil. But just the idea of a nuclear power plant sends environmentalists into apoplectic fits. They would rather use candlelight for the rest of their lives than see the building of a nuclear power plant. And, of course, they use fear to turn the public against nuclear power. They contend that nuclear power plants are unsafe. They point to Three Mile Island as an example of what can happen. But they fail to point out that not a single person was killed at Three Mile Island, nor were any homes damaged. The only damage done at Three Mile Island was done internally to the plant itself. No one working in the plant was injured by the accident. And what happened at Three Mile Island happened over twenty years ago. Technology has advanced greatly since then, making nuclear power much safer and more efficient.

But if California continues to be ruled by its wacko environmentalists, it will lose its preeminence as a technologically advanced society. But, in any case, it will take years for California to build the nuclear power plants it needs. However, there is another quicker way to make use of nuclear power. The Russians have lots of nuclear powered submarines that are wasting away at Murmansk. They are moveable power plants that can be used to generate electricity anywhere. Why not lease some of them and bring them to some of California's ports where their generating power can be plugged into the state electric grid. That would help the Russians earn some hard currency for their flagging economy. Or maybe a couple of U.S. nuclear subs can be used in the same way if any of them are available.

What is happening in California is what happens when sensible people let the environmentalists get control of energy policy. Everybody wants a pristine environment, and therefore opposing the designs of liberal environmentalists is simply politically incorrect.

During my visits to California I have often had the occasion to drive east from the Bay Area along I-580 to what must be an environmentalist's dream-a vast area of rolling hills topped by hundreds of hi-tech windmills for as far as the eye can see. It's awesome to look at because you don't see such windmills in the East. But, on second thought, they are just as much an eyesore as a power plant. If California thinks it can enter the new millennium using windmills as a prime source of energy, then they are being foolish. I'm all for solar panels. But can you imagine using windmills and solar panels to keep the lights of Los Angeles on?

California dreaming is an apt description of that state's state of mind. But California is also the state that inflicted whole language on its students, resulting in the permanent cognitive damage to millions of children. Even Mayor Willie Brown of San Francisco has come to his senses. He wants San Francisco to build its own power plant to keep the cable cars running. It takes an energy disaster to knock sense into the heads of California politicians.

In any case, I hope this crisis encourages manufacturers to design and create quiet generators that can produce energy for individual homes and businesses. And I hope it will encourage consumers to consider becoming energy independent so that they will never have to fear blackouts or brownouts in which their frozen foods go bad and their appliances don't work. It will take years before enough power plants can be built to satisfy the state's need for energy independence. So get your own generator now!

Here in Massachusetts, it took years and years of courtroom battles as well as demonstrations and picketing before the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant could be completed. The opposition increased the cost of the plant enormously. But without it we'd probably be in the same pickle as California.

Samuel L. Blumenfeld is the author of eight books on education, including "NEA: Trojan Horse in American Education," "Homeschooling: A Parents Guide to Teaching Children," "How to Tutor," and "Alpha-Phonics: A Primer for Beginning Readers." Blumenfeld's books are available from his publisher at 208-322-4440, or on

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