31 Jan 2001 gmc333   » (Journeyer)

It's been nearly a month since my last diary entry, and I'm at a loss as to what I should write about.

Personal issues seem inappropriate for this forum. Work is work, daily dredging through thousands of lines of crappy C/C++ code and all the interpersonal drama that comes from having a real job. My off-time is diminishingly small with no time to accomplish anything significant.

So I guess I'll talk about the energy crisis out in California.

I think it's a mistake to blame the entire mess on deregulation. For one thing, the energy market in CA is not entirely deregulated. The utilities have to live with retail price controls, while their suppliers do not. Believe me, pleas for energy conservation would not be ignored if the true costs were being passed on to the consumers.

Part of the problem has to do with the CA utilities mismanaging their markets and resources. They oversold their capacity too cheaply, too long-term. They compounded this error by taking a few key plants off-line. (Some small plants are needed in a power grid to stabilize voltages and make the whole thing run more efficiently. In CA, these were coal-burning plants, and there were good environmental reasons for taking them off-line, but in the end it makes the grid less efficient and reduces overall capacity.) They also went with natural gas over all other alternatives. It has the advantage of being a very clean fuel and the disadvantage of currently being six times more expensive than the utilities had predicted.

Top that off with a drought, which eliminates hydro-electric power and you have energy shortages up the yin-yang.

If CA had not deregulated, I think they still would have had a crisis, perhaps not now and not as severe, but eventually it would have happened. Regulation would have prevented some of the mistakes, but not all of them. And it would not have spurred development of more capacity. CA has definitely taken a NIMBY attitude towards new power plants. Let NV build 'em.

On the other hand, I've heard more discussion on alternative energy sources in the last two months than at any time since the Carter administration. And I definitely see that as a good thing.

Meantime, Advogato is really intended to be a forum on OSS, and with that in mind, I'll turn my attention to John Ashcroft. It looks like he'll squeak by the senate and be the next US Attorney General. And of course everyone in this industry is curious as to how Ashcroft will handle Microsoft's case.

I don't think it should be taken for granted that Ashcroft will favor MS. After all, there's a strong conservative argument that MS is a monopoly that is damaging the US software industry and that economy as a whole, and that argument may have some appeal to Ashcroft.

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