Who can forget the deplorable actions of Pacific Gas & Electric in Hinkley, California dramatized in 'Erin Brockovich'? The firm contaminated the city's drinking water with hexavalent chromium causing scores of instances of cancers, birth defects and organ failures. The firm acknowledged its actions as unconscionably egregious and settled lawsuits out of court for no less than $333 million, the largest ever settlement up until that time. Not long afterwards, several utility companies in California conspired together to raise electric prices in the state to the point that they bankrupted fellow utility Pacific Gas & Electric, and nearly bankrupted the state, effectively leading to the bringing down of the Grey Davis administration through the infamous recall.
Now, as a heat wave grips the nation, utility companies, which have been raking in the profits as of late, have shown their infrastructures inadequate to prevent widespread blackouts and brownouts. NPR reported that 300,000 people had been without power on Monday in Wisconsin and Michigan. The northwest portion of Queens, NY including LaGuardia airport and portions of the NYC subway system has been dealing with rolling blackouts and brownouts since Monday afternoon. Consolidated Edison (Con Ed) who services the NYC area titled its 2005 Annual Report "Strength". It boasted of being the "Only utility in the S&P 500 with 25 or more consecutive years of dividend growth." Indeed, Con Ed's net income grew from 537 million dollars in 2004 to 719 million in 2005.
How is it that the utility companies cannot handle a short period of spiked energy usage due to a heat wave? This is the United States, not a third world country in Sub-Saharan Africa. How can Con Ed report massive profit growth in its annual reports for the last 25 years and not ensure its cable plant and infrastructure is adequate to handle a two-day long heat wave? Is Con Ed going to compensate the city, the businesses and customers for lost revenue and lost refrigerated foods due to their incompetence? I have a few messages for America Utility Companies including Con Ed, courtesy of 'The Bard':
[Thine] sole name blisters our tongues.
You shall stifle in your own report, and smell of calumny.
What trick, what device, what starting-hole canst thou now find out, to hide thee from this open and apparent shame?
Thou art so leaky that we must leave thee to thy sinking.
[Thou] appeareth nothing to me but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.
Thou art the rudeliest welcome to this world.
Were I like thee I'd throw away myself.
How now, wool-sack, what mutter you?
Methink'st thou art a general offence and every man should beat thee.