Blackout: synopsis

From brian carroll <human@electronetwork.org>
Date Sat, 16 Jun 2001 16:12:21 -0800




[from the US Public TV (PBS) broadcast of the documentary: Blackout;
  regarding the US energy crisis, starting, but not necessarily ending in
California. the website offers a pletherora of interviews, etc. most
  interesting is the one with VP Cheney, demanding substance about
  long-term energy policy from the interviewer, and giving none himself.
  a real blast-from-the-past, literally...]

Power shortages. Rolling blackouts. Skyrocketing utility bills.
California's 2000-2001 power disaster has made "energy" a national
front-burner issue.

In "Blackout." FRONTLINE and The New York Times join forces to
investigate the story behind the California energy crisis.
Correspondent Lowell Bergman goes head to head with energy industry
CEOs and state and federal officials to uncover what's at the heart
of the growing energy crisis, and who's profiting. Among those
interviewed for the one-hour documentary are: Vice President Dick
Cheney; California Governor Gray Davis; Enron CEO Jeff Skilling; Curt
Hebert, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission(FERC);
and consumer advocates.

"The bottom line is we've launched ourselves into a great social and
economic experiment that no one knows for sure will work," says
Bergman. "No one, either Democrat or Republican, opposed overturning
the old regulated order, and now no one thinks it is possible to turn
back before summer comes with projected heat waves, rate hikes, and
possible blackouts."

Amid the growing energy crisis, this report tracks the emergence of a
new kind of megacorporation: giant, national holding companies that
trade electricity and gas much like any other commodity. With names
like Enron, Dynegy, Reliant, and El Paso -- and with close ties to
high-ranking Republican and Democratic officials -- these energy
traders have seen their profits explode in recent years.

At the same time, California's electricity costs for the coming year
may, by one estimate, reach $70 billion -- nearly 10 times what they
were just two years ago. That fact prompted California Gov. Gray
Davis to brand these energy giants "pirates."

It's a label that is hotly refuted by Jeff Skilling, CEO of energy
trader Enron Corporation, which now ranks seventh on the Fortune 500
and is the largest business operating through the Internet today.

"We are working to create open, competitive, fair markets," Skilling
says. "And in open, competitive, fair markets prices are lower and
customers get better service. We are the good guys -- we are on the
side of the angels."

Skilling, like many critics, blames the California crisis on the
state's flawed 1996 attempt to deregulate the power industry.
"Unfortunately, they agreed to a bad market structure," he says. "...
[It] was like it was designed by the Politburo in the Soviet Union."

The program also explores why the federal government refused for
months to intervene in the California crisis, as well as the
rationale for dismantling the old system of utility regulation. In
addition, "Blackout" examines the relationship between big power
companies which have profited from deregulation and top government
officials, including political appointees who run FERC.

In the end, some observers say this growing energy crisis could
result in a rollback of deregulation and a grassroots push for more
public power. "They can huff and they can puff and they can say what
they want to ideologically," says David Freeman, energy advisor to
Gov. Davis. "Private power has been an abysmal failure as far as the
consumer is concerned in California in 2000 and 2001."
home - california - my bill - new business - regulation - the
future - new york times reports
video - interviews - glossary - discussion - synopsis - press - tapes
& transcripts - credits
FRONTLINE - wgbh - pbs online

power lines photo 2001 entropy media/images
new content copyright 2001 pbs online and wgbh/frontline

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/blackout/etc/synopsis.html

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