Background on the Los Angeles Blackout
FTW Gets New LA Department of Water and Power Chief on Tape Less Than a Month before Los Angeles Blackout
More Insight into What Is Facing America’s Cities with Peak Oil and Gas
Michael C. Ruppert
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September 16, 2005 1440 PST (FTW) – On August 17th, less than a month before a September 12th blackout – attributed to employee error – plunged Los Angeles into darkness, stranded many in high-rise elevators, and snarled the nation’s most congested traffic, FTW had a chance to interview L.A.’s newly-appointed head of the nation’s largest publicly-owned utility, the Department of Water and Power. The occasion was an Oil-Shock conference held in Torrance, California featuring current and former government officials role-playing crisis management following an oil shock not unlike what has happened with Hurricane Katrina.
Playing the role of the head of the Environmental Protection Agency at the event was Mary Nichols, Director of UCLA’s Institute on the Environment and newly appointed commissioner for L.A.’s DWP.
Over the past four years, in more than 100 original articles on diminishing energy supplies, FTW has looked at what are certain to be an increasing number of major blackouts in large metropolitan areas around the globe and linked them to the fact that needed infrastructure investments were not being made because investors and governments alike understood that now-certain energy shortages will never pay off those investments. Along with scientists like Dr. Richard Duncan, one of the pioneers of Peak Oil research, FTW understands that as soon as 2007-2008 these blackouts affecting major cities around the globe will start to become permanent as modern industrial civilization enters irreversible decline.
After the conference FTW Editor Mike Ruppert had a chance to talk to Ms. Nichols and raise a few of the issues confronting Los Angeles and most major cities, especially in the wake of the Bush Administration’s recently enacted energy bill which opens up unrestricted private ownership of utilities for the first time since the Great Depression.
FTW: Here’s my question – the tape recorder’s rolling…and you can say off-record or whatever, but what I’m concerned about is can municipals and state-owned or publicly-owned utilities compete with an apparent wave of privatization that’s coming?
NICHOLS: The great advantage, of course, that the public utilities have is the ability to use taxes and financing as their way to construct plans. There’s also – and I don’t want to call it emotional – but there is certain political and, maybe, uh…ideological faith that a lot of the public have in publicly-owned power. We can’t squander that faith by giving people poor service, or by providing them with unreliable power that they can get elsewhere, but if we can continue to earn the trust of the citizens who are also our rate-payers…I believe that publicly-owned utilities, like DWP, will continue to occupy an important rol e in the overall producing of power in this country.
FTW: You have fuel costs, too –
NICHOLS: Yes, absolutely.
FTW: – you have to pay for fuel – not everything is hydroelectric. I don’t know how much of your electricity – and I’ve been an LA resident for forty years – it comes from natural gas generation versus oil versus whatever –
NICHOLS: Our in-basin is all gas; we use no oil at all. We import 56% of our power comes from out of state coal, so that’s by far the largest source that we have and the next big increment is hydro that’s imported from the north. So we have a pretty diverse mix and the focus has always really been on making sure we have enough, enough diverse sources so we are always able to keep the lights on, which certainly stood the city in good stead when California was reeling from what happened with sudden deregulation.
FTW: Do you foresee any immediate budgetary issues over fuel costs a ffecting LA City power?
NICHOLS: I think LA has already taken some of that hit on the natural gas prices as it is. They probably missed some opportunities to engage in some longer-term strategies… but for the future, it seems to me that our cheapest investment is where it’s always been, which is in conservation, and that’s what we’ve got to do to get back on track with the cost-effective and steady… long-term commitment to helping our customers use as little of our product as possible.
FTW: Thank you very much.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina the US is facing what may be a 100 billion cubic foot shortage of natural gas, along with a 30% hit on production capability from the Gulf of Mexico as we approach the winter months. This may be the winter when our discontent becomes both obvious and permanent.
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