Power to the people

At first, it sounds like yet another conspiracy theory. The first few times I heard folks tie the whole deregulation debacle to Texas oil companies and on to George W., I dismissed it.

But Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, is so darn convincing.

To understand what’s happening with energy costs, he said, you have to forget everything you thought you knew about supply and demand. Neal’s color charts, based on numbers from the U.S. Department of Energy and Public Citizen magazine, show steady supply and seemingly unrelated huge spikes in energy costs. Why? Neal said we should realize that some powerful shakers are moving behind the scenes, playing the public and pulling political strings.

“They are very slick, and we got snookered,” Neal said at a recent meeting of a new grassroots group that seeks to push for utility re-regulation in Nevada. “Our people bought their idea.”

Who are “they"? Hmm, that’s complex. Here’s the story of one energy powermonger.

Houston-based energy giant Enron is not only one of the big, new energy players in California, it’s also the company that bought Portland General Electric and is re-selling it to our own Sierra Pacific Resources for $3.1 billion. And it’s contracted to buy some of SPR’s power plants.

Plus, back when baffled Nevadans were considering deregulation in 1997, Neal said, a knowledgeable helper frequently came to the table to make suggestions, to help poor Nevadans write the best utility deregulation law possible (if you’re a ruthless energy corporation).

“I asked people, ‘Who’s that guy?'” Neal recalled. “They said, ‘He’s from Enron.’ But nobody knew what Enron was.”

OK so far? Good.

Now guess what American corporation, according to the Center for Public Integrity, has given more money to Bush over the years than any other? Yup, Enron. Guess who’s on the list of 73 contributors to Bush’s recount committee? Hey, you’re right again.

You can read many Enron sagas online. Hang with Enron Chairman Ken Lay as he wonders in December: Will Dubya appoint him to be Energy Secretary or Secretary of the Treasury? Watch as Lay meets with Bush to discuss tax breaks that hugely help the worried wealthy in January. Consider Amnesty International’s investigation of the illegal arrest and beatings of women in Maharashtra, India. The women had led a peaceful protest against a massive new natural gas plant being built for one of the world’s largest suppliers of natural gas. (That’s Enron.)

So here’s the bottom line. Senate Bill 269 would re-regulate Nevada’s electric and natural gas utilities. The bill would return control of the industry to the Public Utilities Commission, who is (in theory at least) accountable to the ratepayers of Nevada.

If Nevada’s deregulation, on hold only temporarily, isn’t officially stopped, we will end up in the unmerciful hands of some relentless powermongers. Plan on rolling blackouts. Or support SB 269. To learn more about the grassroots Nevada Utility Reform Alliance, e-mail scott@aztech-cs.com