New Sherwood

One more reason to get “off the grid”

PG&E contributes $250,000 to fight against marriage initiative:

Pacific Gas and Electric Co., California’s largest investor-owned utility, has contributed $250,000 to defeat a ballot measure that would ban same-sex marriage in the state, it was announced Tuesday.

Businesses often steer clear of ballot measures that deal with social issues for fear of alienating customers.

But PG&E officials said the San Francisco-based company’s effort to defeat Proposition 8 on the Nov. 4 ballot is consistent with its long-time advocacy of equality for all.

Darlene Chiu, a PG&E spokeswoman, said in the 1990s the company contributed to efforts to defeat initiatives that curtailed affirmative action and attempted to crack down on illegal immigration.

“PG&E was also the first utility in the nation that sponsored a (lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender) association in the ’80s,” Chiu said.

PG&E serves more than 15 million Californians in Northern and Central California.

Chiu said the money for the campaign will come not from ratepayers, but from shareholder-funded political contribution accounts.

PG&E’s contribution is the largest corporate and only utility donation received by the No on 8 campaign.

Geoff Kors, a member of the No on 8 campaign committee, said the campaign is “thrilled to partner with PG&E to ensure that the laws of our state are not used to treat people unfairly.”

Jennifer Kerns, a spokeswoman for the Yes on 8 campaign, said campaign officials were not surprised by PG&E’s announcement.

“As a heavily regulated monopoly in California, PG&E can make decisions such as this without regard to their customers or fear of boycott,” Kerns said.

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July 31, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

10 Comments »

  1. Dastardly! This should be illegal. PG&E may not be a public company, but it’s a state-backed monopoly, is it not?

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    Comment by The Western Confucian | July 31, 2008 | Reply

  2. It’s both a public company AND a state-backed (virtual) monopoly. Which I have nothing against, in principle. But these are wicked times. There may soon come a day when PG&E customers will be required to prove their non-discrimination credentials in order to receive services. They already require it of vendors and employees, so why not customers? A virtual monopoly on an essential service can be an effective tool of “persuasion”! You can get a sense of their militancy on this topic here and here.

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    Comment by Jeff Culbreath | July 31, 2008 | Reply

  3. Ah, but perhaps seeing how this power has been abused will help you to see why people _do_ have something against public companies and state-backed monopolies, if not strictly in principle, then as so well-founded a prudential negative prejudice as almost to amount to a problem in principle.

    I’ll admit my ignorance: Does “get off the grid” mean do without electric power altogether–going “Amish” or Amish-ish or something–or does it mean running one’s own generator, or what?

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    Comment by Lydia | July 31, 2008 | Reply

  4. I find these power shortages in California a little amusing, since they could be easily ammended with nuclear reactors, and recycling used nuclear feul rods. The World Nuclear Association states in on their website “The materials potentially available for recycling (but locked up in stored used fuel) could conceivably run the US reactor fleet of about 100 GWe for almost 30 years with no new uranium input” (http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf69.html). However, enviormentalist groups, like the Seirra Club, have since thwarted these enviormentally sound power initiatives in the name of “saving the planet” ect. It wouldn’t surprise me if PG&E has been completely overtaken by board members more interested in political and “Go-Green” fads; and therefore shifted their base from “supplying sufficient power cheaply to the general public” to the typical elitist “global climate change crusader” stance with their buddies on America’s far left.

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    Comment by George | August 1, 2008 | Reply

  5. Lydia, I can see an argument for a “well founded prudential negative prejudice” against such things in our day, but I’m still not convinced. We might as well argue against the government having police powers at all, since they might be used against us.

    What you are saying, I think, is that it is easier to convince the powers-that-be to be libertarians than it is to convince them to be Christians (or at least decent human beings with some respect for Christian values). Liberals can be frightened into being libertarians for the same reasons we can – that is, neither wants the other side to wield too much power – so libertarianism is an attainable compromise. Am I correct? As a prudential matter I do sympathize with this argument. Perhaps libertarianism is the only possible “truce” in the culture wars.

    But the problem is that libertarianism, while recognizing the dangers of power and the need for limits, morally stigmatizes power in such a way as to paralyze its legitimate use. For example, if PG&E were to refuse to serve certain “businesses” on moral grounds the world would be a better place. Under the libertarian scheme (short of totally dissolving the monopoly) this is not be possible: company executives must serve (and therefore cooperate) with abortionists and pornographers and worse. Those who work for and with PG&E are prevented from making – and acting upon – obligatory moral distinctions. How can this be possibly be justified?

    As a side note, the more radical libertarians will advocate eliminating the monopoly altogether. That’s just crazy. Our power system requires public space, easement rights, and so forth, none of which can be granted to multiple providers.

    The way I see it, the fundamental problem with PG&E is not that it uses its resources to shape the culture and promote its moral vision – every Christian is obliged to do the same! – but that it makes the wrong moral judgments, and exercises its clout for evil rather than good.

    With respect to being “off the grid”, to the best of my knowledge this simply means not being dependent upon public utilities and services. That could mean going without power altogether or supplying one’s own.

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    Comment by Jeff Culbreath | August 1, 2008 | Reply

  6. George, you’re probably correct about that. PG&E does seem more interested in social engineering than providing stable and affordable energy for the north state. However, I’m not a big fan of nuclear power myself, in any form. It’s a little too close to peeking behind the Veil …

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    Comment by Jeff Culbreath | August 1, 2008 | Reply

  7. Well, I tend to imagine a better version of more purely economic libertarianism that is consistent with a moral vision but dislikes state-sponsored monopolies. Certainly I see nothing about being a Christian society that requires that such a society endorse and have such monopolies. Why would it? There’s nothing about Christianity that leads us to conclude, “State-sponsored monopolies are a good idea.” But nobody can really justly complain (sez I) if you _don’t_ have a state-sponsored monopoly and one of the private companies–or all of them, spontaneously–refuse to supply power to the abortionist.

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    Comment by Lydia | August 1, 2008 | Reply

  8. George,

    I’ve learned to take industry advocacy groups’ assesments of “easily done” with a grain of salt.

    I’d lay odds that really means “easily done, if we are given free reign with permitting and if everyone looks the other way at the dangers and environmental costs of reprocessing.”

    Having been at the other end of that industrial cycle (a multi-state rad waste dump very nearly ended up in my literal backyard in the 90’s) was an education in how one group’s “easily solved” problems are only easily solved by turning someone else’s home into a sacrifice zone.

    No, thank you.

    peace,

    Like

    Comment by Zach Frey | August 1, 2008 | Reply

  9. “Certainly I see nothing about being a Christian society that requires that such a society endorse and have such monopolies. Why would it? There’s nothing about Christianity that leads us to conclude, ‘State-sponsored monopolies are a good idea.'”

    Oh, I agree entirely. A Christian society can take monopolies or leave them. It is strictly a matter of prudence, efficiency, and common sense – not theology. There just isn’t enough physical room for multiple, competing power providers. And the legal complications would be enormous.

    What are we supposed to do when a new competitor enters the arena? Erect new poles, dig new trenches, and string new cables? On whose property? How will permission be secured (to the satisfaction of libertarians)? A single landowner could block power to an entire city. It just gets too complicated. A monopoly makes perfect sense when it comes to modern power distribution.

    Are there examples anywhere in the USA or the developed world where a “free market” and multiple competitors are supplying power to a modern city?

    Like

    Comment by Jeff Culbreath | August 5, 2008 | Reply

  10. How does Jennifer Kerns sleep at night?

    Like

    Comment by Kenny | August 31, 2008 | Reply


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