When Obama announced this guy as his nominee for Commerce secretary, I knew his name sounded familiar – and not in a good way. I thought he had something to do with California energy scam, and he did. Your corporate media, of course, is describing him as an “environmentalist”:
Throughout most of the California electricity “crisis,” it has been difficult to find a story in the mainstream media that didn’t rely on one or more of these myths. The New York Times (1/25/01) summed up the inaccurate conventional wisdom: “Demand for electricity outpaced older power plants, while a botched experiment with partial price deregulation and longstanding environmental opposition combined to create disincentives to build new power plants or create cheaper wholesale prices through competition.”
Though it’s seldom noted in media accounts, California’s deregulation scheme was not forced upon the electric utilities, but was the brainchild of John Bryson, head of Southern California Edison. In 1996, Bryson’s attorneys drafted the current deregulation law (AB 1890), which was presented to and passed by the legislature within three weeks. Its premise was simple: If the ratepayers would hand the utilities up to $28.5 billion for nuclear reactor investments they said were “uncompetitive,” the utilities would give up their regulated monopolies and “compete” with other power producers.
One might expect the mastermind of California’s disastrous electrical experiment to be scrutinized by the press corps, but major media have given Bryson a facile free pass. “Everyone agrees there are no heroes in this California power crisis, and that it was brought on by good intentions and some bonehead decisions,” NBC’s Tom Brokaw began as he interviewed Bryson (1/26/01). But “bonehead” is far too kind a word for Bryson, who Brokaw described as “caught in the middle” of the crisis. In fact, as the key force behind the deregulation law, Bryson has been a major perpetrator.
After triumphing over Proposition 9, a 1998 ballot initiative backed by public interest and environmental groups that sought to roll back some of the deregulation scheme, Bryson and other utility leaders made a crucial miscalculation that has opened the door to a second mega-ripoff: They failed to freeze wholesale rates, which were deregulated in the early 1990s.
In the summer of 2000, the second shoe dropped: In a series of suspicious coincidences, a wave of shortages suddenly hit the California grid. Consumer prices in San Diego skyrocketed (the freeze there had been lifted because the local utility had received its full bailout). In the rest of the state, the utilities were caught in a vice of their own making, forced to sell power to consumers at frozen rates while being gouged by the power producers federal bureaucrats were refusing to regulate.
It was here that national media chimed in. The crisis, they said in virtual unison, was caused by a massive rise in electric demand, by the refusal of the environmental community to allow new power plants to be built, and by the cap on consumer rates which had been forced on the hapless utilities by a demanding public.