- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2001

As a full-time resident of the Golden State of California, I start each day these days by checking to see if it is likely that my electricity will be turned off. I do know that if it goes off, there will be no warning. It just goes off and everything shuts down.

This is not simply a transitory nuisance. When a rolling blackout hits, it's not just a matter of losing the convenience of televisions, radios and pop up toasters. It's serious: Traffic lights go off, computers shut down, cash registers in stores will not work, factories grind to a halt, and elevators stop between floors.

It is probable that matters will get worse, not better. We are having these rolling blackouts at a time of the year when demand for energy is at a low point. When the summer sun begins to beat down and the air conditioners go off in the high-tech factories and office buildings where the windows don't open, it is not inconceivable that the great state of California will grind down to a slow crawl, or a dead halt.

The population of California is currently 35 million people, up 75 percent since 1970. By 2040, the state will grow to 50 million residents, an increase equal to the population of the state of Texas. In the face of this massive growth in population and a vast growth in new industries and new energy-hungry companies, California hasn't built a new power plant in over 10 years.

With that reality in full view, the state government deregulated the price electric utilities must pay to buy electricity from various sources, and at the same time put price controls on what these utilities could charge consumers. As a result of this incomprehensible self-sabotage, the two major utilities in California, Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric, unable to raise rates to cover their costs, are billions of dollars in debt and near collapse.

For years, California has implemented the loony anti-growth and anti-energy policies of the radical environmentalist movement. What that means is no drilling for oil, no mining, no exploration, no new dams, no use of coal, no logging and no wood-burning fireplaces. Although nuclear power is a clean and safe way to create energy, it is feared by eco-loonies for the same reason that cavemen feared fire: ignorance.

If the Clinton-Gore administration had been successful, Californians would have appreciated the irony of thousands of energy-efficient electric automobiles stalled out on the highways and byways unable to plug into an electrical outlet to recharge their batteries.

The Democrats are in a political box. They have no choice but to incorporate more and more environmentally extreme measures into their party platform. It is the only way they can bring back the radicals who deserted the party to follow Ralph Nader, costing Al Gore the election.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle left no doubt when he accused President Bush of “using energy challenges as justification for an all-out assault on the environment.” Under Daschle's leadership, Democrats have introduced a bill that would mandate a nationwide cap on the amount of petroleum which can be used for transportation. They are offering a thinly veiled agenda that continues eight years of malign neglect of America's need for energy.

Today, America imports nearly 60 percent of its oil requirements, up from 37 percent in 1970. We buy most of what we need from OPEC, which is nothing more than a price-fixing oil monopoly. In effect, we have put ourselves at the mercy of a cluster of oil-producing countries, most of whom despise the United States. We have done this because we do not want to interfere with the lifestyle of Alaskan caribou. It is madness.

One would think that if the English could find the courage to kill hundreds of thousands of cattle and sheep to protect themselves from the spread of foot-and-mouth disease, we Americans could muster up the courage to move a herd of caribou and drill for oil.

The environmentalists are happy. It is their goal to stop the desecration of Mother Earth by people and by civilization. They want us out of our gas-guzzling cars and onto bicycles and scooters. They would lead us in a grand recession back to a simpler time and way, closer to Mother Earth and in the dark.

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