August 28, 2003

And thanks to its cozy relationship with President Bush, FirstEnergy may get a free pass. The company is a big donor to the White House.

(825/03) Two car bombs went off in Mumbai today, killing at
least fifty innocent people. It is of course more of
the violence that is spreading widely across the
planet from Jakarta to Moscow to Tunisia to Bali to
Jerusalem to Baghdad to Kabul to Chechnya. Violence
for which the _resident and Sharon are just as
responsible as the suicide bombers sponsors. The
maniacs are striking soft targets everywhere. Of
course, the UN HQ in Baghdad and the streets of the
commercial center of Mumbai have something else in
common beside the softness of the targets --neither
the UN or the Indian government are not coooperating
with Secretary of Stone Calm ´Em Powell´s attempts to
legitimize the _resident´s foolish military adventure
in Iraq (and his irresponsibility in Afghanistan) by
shedding blood under other flags but still under US
control. Hmmm. The very twisted logic of Bin Laden
(who, BTW, is called the Contractor) continues to
getting murkier and murkier. Meanwhile, in the US,
even Newsweak, perhaps in search of its own post-Bush
future has acknowledged the growing dislike, distrust
and distaste for the _resident and his brain trusse of
neo-con wet dreamers. Newsweak reports: "At the same
time Mr Bush's approval rating dropped to 53%, down
18% since April. ...But the most jarring statistic for
the White House looked forward to the 2004 election.
Some 49% of Americans questioned in yesterday's poll
said they did not want him re-elected, against only
44% prepared to give him a second term. The
corresponding figures in April were 52% backing
re-election with 38% opposed." WELL, here is some
fascinating background on the _resident and
FirstEnergy from

FirstEnergy Woes

Wenonah Hauter is Director of the Critical Mass Energy
and Environment Program at Public Citizen.

On mid-day Thursday, Aug. 14, a coal-fired power plant
in northeastern Ohio stopped running. In response,
FirstEnergy, which owns the plant, began to pull 20
percent of its electricity load out of Michigan. This
transfer overloaded several transmission lines,
causing them to trip. Non-FirstEnergy plants in
Ontario, Canada, began supplying energy to the
underpowered Michigan market, leading to an overload
on those transmission lines. This movement of power in
Canada sapped New York of power, within hours leading
to the largest blackout in U.S. history.

Electricity deregulation was the catalyst, but
FirstEnergy was the immediate culprit for the massive
power blackout that shut down much of the Midwest and
Northeast last week. FirstEnergy delivers electricity
to more than 4 million people in Ohio, Pennsylvania
and New Jersey. Although industry analysts blame the
Ohio-based energy conglomerate for the power outage,
the Bush administration is silent. FirstEnergy's
strong ties to the president helps to explain why the
Department of Energy (DOE) may downplay the company's
role in the blackout.

Why Bush Won't Blame FirstEnergy

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham thinks consumers
should cough up the $50 billion needed to upgrade the
strained transmission system. “Ratepayers,” Abraham
told CBS's Face the Nation,”will pay the bill because
they're the ones who benefit.”

FirstEnergy started the problem, why shouldn't the
company be held responsible? Because the Bush
administration wants to absolve corporate America from

And thanks to its cozy relationship with President
Bush, FirstEnergy may get a free pass. The company is
a big donor to the White House. In June, the company’s
CEO hosted a fundraiser that brought in $600,000 for
the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. Another
FirstEnergy executive, president Anthony J. Alexander,
gained distinction in 2000 by raising $100,000 for the
Bush-Cheney campaign and personally donating another
$100,000. When Bush took office, Alexander was
included on the Energy Department's transition team.
In the electricity utility industry, FirstEnergy's PAC
and its top executives are the sixth-largest
contributors to political campaigns, giving more than
$1 million to federal candidates in 2001-2002, with 70
percent of the money going to Republicans. FirstEnergy
wields enormous lobbying influence in Congress as
well. In 2001-2002, the company spent nearly $3.8
million lobbying Congress and the Bush administration.

FirstEnergy, Deregulation and the Bush Administration

FirstEnergy may have spurred the power outage, but
deregulation deserves the overall blame. Long before
the August blackout, the Bush administration pursued a
policy of energy deregulation, and now that policy has
come back to haunt us.

Bush's energy deregulation makes America vulnerable
for two reasons. First, the United States'
transmission system was designed to accommodate local
electricity markets. Under deregulation, however,
companies trade electricity and move power over much
longer distances and wider areas. This freewheeling
approach to sending power strains a transmission
system designed to serve local utilities.

Second, deregulation leads to inadequate investment in
infrastructure. Deregulation at the state level means
that utilities are no longer required to reinvest
ratepayer money back into the transmission system, as
this orderly planning has been replaced with reliance
on "the market." But the market has been unwilling to
make the necessary investments in transmission.

In particular, the market has not functioned properly
since lawmakers punched loopholes in the federal law
intended to protect electricity consumers. Now, the
Public Utility Holding Company Act(PUHCA) faces the
likelihood of full repeal by Republicans in Congress.
PUHCA regulates giant energy companies by requiring
them to disclose crucial financial details and
limiting the types of non-electricity investments they
may make. If PUHCA is repealed, a wave of mergers will
likely result, leaving a handful of companies (like
Southern Co., ExxonMobil and FirstEnergy) in control
of our electricity -- with no effective regulators
looking over their shoulders.

In the case of the August blackouts, the deregulated
wholesale markets of the Midwest and Northeast --
typically cited as models for national deregulation by
the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) --
failed in their ability to provide reliable and
affordable power. As a result, wholesale prices remain
higher than under regulation, and nearly 96 percent of
the 40 million residential consumers in the remaining
15 deregulated states lack access to competitive
electricity suppliers.

This is the world of energy the Bush administration
and its financial supporters envisioned. Of course, no
one wanted a regional blackout. But no one was there
to prevent it, either.

Posted by richard at August 28, 2003 02:48 PM