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We Need Publicly Owned Utilities

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/10/30/we-need-publicly-owned-utilities


A popular theory says that businesses must be “efficient” in order to survive in a competitive marketplace.

Conservatives will spout whatever lies the feel like they need to in order to get their grubby paws on something they see as a definite cash cow. Privatizing a public utility means a no-risk investment. Conservatives know people need electricity; the business won’t go anywhere and, like the author points out, there’s no competition against the business. They see it as a sure way to profit except that they have to provide inferior services in order to obtain that profit which the author also pointed out.

Definitely, utilities should be publicly owned/operated. I think California ought to sue PG&E for damages since it was their equipment that started the fires. Then, for repayment, California can take the utility while also claiming Eminent Domain. Take that DAPL!! That way the utility goes public and California doesn’t have to pay a dime for it. However, we already know that California has “paid” for it if you really want to include all the variables involved and that’s something else a private operator doesn’t have to do. Private operators can externalize costs and we know they do.


"SOCIALIZE" ALL UTILITIES including internet!


The same happens with pipelines delivering Natural gas which is why you see more and more of these things exploding. Privately owned utilities that run these push more and more gas through each pipeline as it enhances profits even as they cut maintenance and replacement of the same for those same profits.

The champions of the Free Market that claim “Industry will regulate itself because otherwise they will lose customers” are clueless. That is not how it works. Industry will do whatever it can get away with to fatten the bottom line and this further made apparent when one compares how an Ikea operates in the USA as compared to how they operate in Sweden.

Yesterday on CBC I was listening to an advocate for big business indicating how Canada was losing investment capital to the USA. He was claiming this because there too much in the way of regulations in Canada and Industry was finding it more profitable to set up shop in the USA. He never mentioned the COSTS of those industries operating in regulation lax economies such as poorer air quality, more peoples killed on the job or more wildfires caused by Corporations unwilling to invest capital .


It will be very difficult to convince Americans that publicly owned utilities is the way to go. This is due to decades of misinformation and corporate propaganda that convinced far too many of the masses that privatizing power is the only “sensible” solution.
In more developed countries, the public realized early on that publicly owned utilities are a cornerstone of cementing a functioning democracy. Who wants to be held hostage after all, by a for-profit utility company that is raising the prices of an essential service only because its shareholders need a larger return on their investment?

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We Need Publicly Owned Utilities

We already have them: TVA and the Bonneville Power Administration. We need more.

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And EWEB - Eugene Water And Electric Board.
Which dumped it’s share of Trojan Nuke plant in 1980 - With some pressure from their customer base (really didn’t take too much at the time) EWEB got away from Trojan.

From the History of EWEB website:

1970: Eugene voters approve a moratorium on construction by EWEB of any nuclear power plants.

1977: The first energy-conservation department is established, reflecting EWEB’s growing commitment to energy efficiency. More than 42,000 Eugene homes have been weatherized since then under various residential conservation programs.

1980: EWEB assigns its share of the Trojan nuclear power plant to the Bonneville Power Administration. This move proves to be enormously beneficial financially, sparing EWEB customers the high costs associated with operating Trojan and its eventual shutdown in the early 1990s.

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There’s not much point in having publicly-owned utilities if we don’t have a publicly-owned government.  Both major parties and the vast majority of “our” elected officials are wholly-owned subsidiaries of the Multi-NaZional Korporations and the Military-Industrial Complex.  Ditto their fellow-travelers, the Main-Stream Media.

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one of the dumbest things Americans have done in a long history of exemplary stupid: turning on the very idea of utilities.

so many things need to be returned to the public domain: energy, communications, internet, you name it.

i’m past sick of austerity and privatization.

and then when we’re done, ditch this crap media model. no more advertising-based media. I’d rather risk Tass and Pravda than this crap.

There are enough separate and relatively unacknowledged factors in California’s fire crises that the causal participation of PG&E has likely far more to do with its participation in the misuse of water and soil and the dismantling of the Homestead Act than in any particular problem with its equipment.

When we talk about public energy, we probably intend to move energy away from the self-centered control of a very few people. But there are really two systemic polls that have to be satisfied to get that to occur:

  1. It cannot be a for-profit system
  2. It cannot be a geographically large system, which must inevitably be a bureaucracy out of touch with the population that it purports to represent.

These are not mutually exclusive: they leave the options of administration by community and of administration by nonprofit organizations. Such organizations are not altogether immune to corruption, of course, but they offer opportunities that can at least be made structurally viable.

Meanwhile, communities here in California should be working on arranging the following responses:

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I’m in total agreement with the article, but it missed another powerful argument, namely climate change.

Whereas once it may have made sense to sell more electricity and natural gas, today we want to use less electricity and stop our use of natural gas (largely methane, a potent greenhouse gas) entirely. How can a private utility make money if not by selling more?

In contrast, a public utility has a powerful economic incentive to reduce consumption because it saves its owners – namely the public – money. So, what’s absolutely necessary for the environment is good for the utility.

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Or at least locally owned.

perhaps a limit on how much revenue a media organization can get from advertising. Go back to selling subscriptions

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I live in Santa Clara CA which owns the local utility co (public) and the rates are cheaper than even Maui Electric where I never had to pay for heat, air conditioning or clothes drying. We aren’t experiencing black outs either.

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Yes, public ownership, not simply being a publicly-regulated utility. The regulatory commission is too easily corrupted, like the one we have that is supposed to regulate Duke Energy.

Also, a distributed power model and decentralized grid would help. The grid needs to be able to generate and obtain power from a variety of locations and have the ability to couple and decouple as necessary. That builds resilience that the PG&E system obviously does not have.