The Wonderful, Magical Adventures of PG&E
Hello boys and girls! Today, I’m going to tell you a story about a most wonderful company, PG&E. It sounds a little like “piggy” doesn’t it? Hee hee hee! Ah, PG&E. Pacific Gas & Electric. What a great example of capitalism at work. And what an impressive decade they’ve had so far – and it’s only the second year!
Let’s travel back… to a time when life was simpler – 2010, when dinosaurs roamed the land. The “mid-term” elections were coming up, and PG&E had a great idea: “Why don’t we make it illegal for the government to ‘compete’ with us, so that we can make EVEN MORE MONEY?!” And so, the little magic elves at PG&E went to work to craft a bill that would screw the people of California, all the while knowing that their magical PR department would craft messages to make it seem as if they were doing what’s right, American, and patriotic!They came up with a magical plan called Proposition 16 – an innocuous, innocent name, no? Prop 16 would have made it much, much more difficult for those evil citizens cooperatives (booo!) to purchase power for their communities at lower prices – interfering with PG&E’s loving, all-American, freshly-baked and aromatic profit potential.
PG&E valiantly spent $46 million of their customers’ money in their forthright attempt to set things right. But, alas, they failed. The people of California just could not be made to see that paying higher rates for power would make PG&E’s profits even higher, and wouldn’t that be good for everyone? Poor deluded souls.
But wait! All was not lost! PG&E had other plans, already in progress, to make EVEN MORE MONEY. One involved a little risk, but fortunately, it wasn’t risk to the company’s profits! The risk was to the lives and property of PG&E’s customers instead! Hooray for PG&E!
You see, boys and girls, it turns out that PG&E has been “saving” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) money for years by lying to those mean-old government regulators (booooo!) about their high-pressure gas pipelines. The lies were stacked upon other lies that they had already told – lies about materials, thicknesses, welds, joints (no boys and girls, not the fun kind!) and pressures. PG&E figured that nothing would ever go wrong because those mean-old regulators were just too careful anyway. The pipes didn’t need to be that safe, did they?
So, when something finally went wrong, PG&E lost a small handful of paying customers – nothing to cry about for sure. And while they also had to pay some “damages” to people who missed their mommies and daddies, none of the decision-makers that had caused this mess would ever have to go to jail.
You see, boys and girls, that’s how our system of corporate insulation works. If a person kills someone, he’ll go to jail. If a corporation kills someone, it’s just “collateral damage” to the profit-making process – just like when we go to “liberate” some people in a far away land by killing them! Isn’t this a nice story?
But wait! It’s not over yet! PG&E has even more fun ways to make EVEN MORE MONEY! Lately, they’ve been secretly (and not so secretly) swapping the meters that tell the meter-reader how much electricity people use with automatic machines! These “smart meters” emit radiation in the form of a microwave radio signal (PG&E says it’s really safe – and why wouldn’t anyone trust them?) so that they can fire all their meter-readers. Yaaaayyy!So now, as some smart people called “economists” say, these meter-readers are free! Free to go and find another job. Oh, how nice for them!So you see, boys and girls, in America we love to lock up people who rob a liquor store or smoke something funny. But in the meantime, we let the real criminals do whatever they want to do! And get disgustingly, filthy rich in the process! Soooooo, what’s the lesson here? Are you going to go out and rob a liquor store? Are you going to go out and get a job (as a meter-reader maybe?) and work like a dog until you get replaced by a machine and HAVE to rob a liquor store to stay alive and feed your family? Of course not. You’re all going to grow up to steal and poison and kill on a massive scale, aren’t you? All you have to do is believe and your dreams will all come true!
By Magical Friendly Troll Tom Rossi
Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.
Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com