California Consumer Power and Conservation
October/November 2001 IBEW Journal
Let me say that it is a distinct honor -- and I really mean that -- to be invited to address this group. It wasn't the workers of California that deregulated our electric system. It was the management. And it was the biggest colossal failure in the history of the state.
Everyone from all over this nation should pay heed to what happened in California the last two years and beware. You just don't take a leap off the high board and assume there's 20 feet of water down there and find that there's only three feet and you smashed your head.
We've had an electric power system in this country run by hard-working union people that provided reliable power at reasonable prices almost from the days of Thomas Edison until a few years ago. But somehow some free marketeers and other folks decided they needed to improve it and got us in the fix that we've been in.
But I'd like to suggest to you that under the leadership of Governor Davis, we have figured our way out of this, and we are determined that never again will this state be put in the position where we're at the mercy of the price gougers and folks like that. By the way, everybody that was charging five bucks a gallon for gasoline yesterday ought to be put in jail.
You know, we need to get angry at a whole lot more than those terrorists that bombed us. We need to get agree at the folks that have been ripping us off and stay angry.
Here in California we have done something about it, we've created a consumer agency that I'm the head of that has the very straightforward obligation to see to it that we build enough power plants, do enough conservation, have enough renewable energy so that we're not at the mercy of these folks again; so that never again will the people in California be subject to the whims of a so-called free market that turned out the most expensive thing on earth.
We are determined that we're going to build up a surplus of electric power and, hopefully, those power plants are all going to be built with union labor and maintained with union labor.
And we intend to see that that happens on the plants that we acquire.
Yeah, we need to learn some lessons for this, that you cannot allow a shortage of the lifeblood, the oxygen of a modern civilization. So what we've learned from this experience the hard way is that you just can't leave it to a bunch of companies who can shut their power plants down when they want to. We have got to have a reserve of power supply in this state and throughout the nation that deals with any situation that comes up, and it needs to be in the hands of the people.
Now, let me say another word or two in the time that I've got, because this is a time when we should be doing some deeper thinking in this country. I'm old enough to have been a sophomore in high school when Pearl Harbor hit. Now, we won World War II because we put everybody to work. The people of America all went to work. There wasn't any unemployment. We even got women who had never worked before back into the workforce. We created the strongest, most united workforce on earth. If we're going to win the battles of this century, we've got to have a full employment economy that is rebuilding the infrastructure of this country. We have seen the Twin Towers blow up in our face, but we have not seen the fact that we've neglected all the basic infrastructure in this state, including the power plants, which we are now building in California.
But we stand and sit here today dependent upon oil supplies from countries that hate us. This is ridiculous. I think, my personal opinion, is one of the reasons we didn't go into Iraq and Iran and those countries and take them out is because we needed their oil. Over half of our oil is coming from overseas. Do you have any idea of how many jobs are being exported by the importation of oil? It is an unbelievable situation that we are the super power on earth, and we are dependent upon Iraq, Iran and other countries that hate us for getting to work in the morning.
Now, we've got to wake up and recognize that we've got to become much more self-sufficient. And one of the answers is finally to build some things in this country that need to be built. There is no excuse for not having fast electric trains connecting all the cities in this country. There's no excuse for it.
We've got to have a reaction to this crisis that goes deeper than the things that we know we need to do militarily. We've got to get the people of this country back to work again to rebuild the infrastructure of this country and become much more self sufficient in the terms that we're dependent on, while we reach out to the rest of the world to form a union to whoop those terrorists. Thank you very much.
Power and Conservation
Chairman S. David Freeman