Hold that Tiger

Bites would like to extend warm congratulations to the newest SMUD board member, Rob Kerth. He’s taking over as director of SMUD’s 5th District, which spreads from downtown and Midtown, north to Natomas, Rio Linda, and on to the Sacramento County’s northern border.

Kerth replaces Peter Keat, who’s retiring after 20 years on the board. Keat was a major force behind closing the Rancho Seco nuclear power plant—and bringing more openness to the Board.

You might recognize Kerth’s name as well. He served on the Sacramento City Council, representing north Sacramento for two terms. He gave up his seat to run unsuccessfully against Heather Fargo for mayor in 2000.

Kerth’s priorities are greening up the power supply, while “making sure energy stays as abundant and inexpensive as possible.”

He also advocates more undergrounding of electrical supply lines and for building more “neighborhood scale” solar arrays—along the lines of the solar plant in the parking lot at Cal Expo.

It all sounds good … but wait: SMUD board members are elected by the ratepayers, aren’t they? Anybody recall voting this guy into office?

No, that’s because you didn’t. Nobody else filed paperwork to run for the seat, so Kerth’s name is the only one that will appear on the ballot this November. The only thing that can stop him would be an unprecedented write-in campaign for a dark horse candidate. Hmmm … Bites for District 5, anyone?

You know what they say about things that seem too good to be true? Bites was intrigued to hear that the conservative legal group Pacific Justice Institute had come up with a way to punish energy giant PG&E for its myriad sins.

The group is mad at PG&E for spending $250,000 in July to oppose Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment on this November’s ballot that would strip gays and lesbians of the right to legally marry.

The conservative group wants to make sure the measure passes, so traditional marriages are safe from, well, something. So they set up a Web site, www.notopge.com. There, PG&E’s natural-gas customers can sign up to hit the company where it hurts—by boycotting PG&E and buying their natural gas from someone else.

“Send a loud message to this San Francisco based company,” the Web site encourages the faithful. “Simply click below to switch to a trusted, reliable and Christian supplier.”

The supplier is Tiger Natural Gas, and while Bites doesn’t know if the company is actually all that Christian, we’ll just have to take PJI’s word for it. Jesus doesn’t appear in any of Tiger’s Web content, but they are based in Tulsa, Okla.

PJI spokesman Brad Dacus told Bites that so far about 150 families had made the switch and sent PG&E the loud message. The group even got local radio station KFBK to help spread the word.

But it’s a scam. It is true that anybody can switch natural-gas providers. But here’s the statement Bites got from PG&E about what switching actually means to the company’s bottom line.

“PG&E does not make a profit on the sale of natural gas to its retail customers due to the way natural gas utilities are regulated. PG&E makes its profit from delivering gas through its system as well as from other sources, but not from the sale of gas itself.”

You see, state regulators let PG&E earn a return on its investment in new and improved infrastructure. It’s the pipes, not the stuff in the pipes, where the sodomite utility actually makes its dough.

And whose pipes does Tiger use to distribute gas to its customers in California?

PG&E’s pipes.

So, it seems unlikely that PG&E will care one bit if their customers switch natural-gas providers—no matter how, er, principled the reason. Then again, who is Bites to question anyone’s faith?