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THE GATEWAY • volume C number I 


OPIMOIN 13 


Energy infrastructure burnt out 

JASON 

U<K “Having no competition has left us simultaneously 
under tlireat of blackouts and paying some of the 
highest power bills in the country'. Deregulating 
meant weve lost control over when power plants are 
built, even when they’re desperately needed." 



S o. as you’re probably aware if 
you follow the latest in energy 
information news, an offi¬ 
cial for Alberta’s Utilities Consumer 
Advocate recently quit. Now. having 
shed the constraints of having pure 
evil muzzling him, he can take it 
upon himself to warn the public 
directly that our siay-the-course 
march towards fully deregulated 
power will ’’crush" them. Despite 
past promises of low prices. Alberta 
has proven to have a power market 
almost designed to fail. 

Decades of infrastructure neglect 
makes it excruciating for new 
competition to move in. Just as we 
don’t expect to find a Walmart in a 
deserted plain, a power plant won’t 
build where the wires don’t run. 
Now in a frantic rush to catch up. 
we’re told to prepare to be hit by a 
sudden absurdly expensive trans¬ 
mission expansion. But even if our 
decrepit system is spiffed up with 
something that is bigger or better, 
utilities are still scared shitless to 
build here. 

Our ultrasensitive boom-and-bust 
economy may be fantastic for inves¬ 
tors who can cash out anytime, but 
it’s not hot for someone backing a 
billion-dollar plant over 30 years. 
The fact of the matter is. no one 
knows whether the next oilsands 
project will flood the market with a 
bevy of impossibly cheap electricity 


made from waste energy, or drain 
our grid to near-emptiness, push¬ 
ing up power prices. As a result, 
having no competition has left us 
simultaneously under the threat of 
blackouts and paying some of the 
highest power bills the country has 
ever seen. Deregulating ultimately 
meant we’ve lost control over when 
power plants are built, even when 
they’re desperately needed. 

We were supposed to be able to 
shop around for the better prices, 
but energy retailers are just as pet¬ 
rified of our fragile power grid. We 
now have a choice of a handful of 
sleaze-bag militias who can only 
survive by going door-to-door hus¬ 
tling folks with outrageous energy 
contracts. They don’t know if vola¬ 
tile market prices are going to be 
low next week, or whether they 
have to pay for imported power just 
to fight off the dreaded threat of a 
blackout. 

So they take the path of least 
resistance for them; they sign you 
up to five years of monstrous cal¬ 
culus-textbook-like prices to ensure 
they can cover their own bills. Even 
here in these deep city lights, our 
Edmonton-based utilities won’t save 
us. as EPCOR intelligently refuses to 
play the demented game of selling 
deregulated power. 

It’s not that having fluctuat¬ 
ing power prices is a sin. but the 


energy barons could at least go out 
of their way a smidge to make it 
useful to us. When power demand 
is high during the day, new plants 
go all out and dirty old plants fire 
up, sending costs soaring. Earlier 
or later in the day. the system eases 
up and runs more efficiently as 
power demand and prices plum¬ 
met. “Smart Meters” currently used 
in Ontario and California would 
let us slash our bills by doing the 
dishes at 8 p.m. rather than 6 p.m. 
Klein and Stelmacb’s developmen¬ 
tal!)' delayed loveebild of a system 
struggles to tell time, charging us 
the same price day or night. 

Sure, we could tough out the 
occasional blackout, and generously 
spread our wealth by buying more 
power from British Columbia. We 
could man up to door-to-door util¬ 
ity con-men and agree to ludicrous 
contracts, knowing their busy- 
work feeds their family, at least. 
We could even wash our delic.ates 
late at night, burning the midnight 
oil. all to let the grid run more fuel 
efficiently, and marginally lower¬ 
ing society's overall power costs. 
And all of this happening, unfor¬ 
tunately. without any real personal 
financial benefit. But if this is the 
best that the PCs can offer us with 
deregulation, how are we better 
off than with the socialist systems 
of yesteryear? 


readerpoll 


V 

THIS week's question: 

"How many courses are you registered in for the fall term?" 


"What’s the maximum price you’d pay for a 
booth-hawked cheeseburger and soda during 
Week of Welcome?" 


As a vegan, your poll offends my sensibilities. (17%) 
$6.99 (I'd better get a toy.) (1%) 

S4.25 (For a good cause) (18%) 

$3.75 (That's about average, right?) (22%) 

S2.50 (I'm a cheapskate.) (42%) 


TOTAL responses: 78 

vote online at 
thegatewayonline.ca 


LETTERS • CONTINUED FROM PAGE 12 

li any thing, Civtero's problem is that he seems to wan: to 
piss people off. I'm not exactly a member of the guy's fan- 
dub, but "populist” is the last word I'd use to describe him. 

MATT 

Via Internet 

Letters to the editor should be dropped off at room 3-04 of 
the Students' Union Building, sent via paper aeroplane or 
e-mailed to letters i<Lgateway.ualbena.ca. The latter is pre¬ 
ferred, since having to type up letters makes the Opinion 
Editor rather sad and tired. 

The Gateway reserves the right to edit letters for 
length and clarity, and to refuse publication of any letter 
it deems racist, sexist, libellous or otherwise hateful in 
nature. The Gateway a/so reserves the right to publish 
letters online 

Letters to the editor should be no longer than 350 words. 


and should include the author's name, program, year of 
study and student identification number to be considered 
for publication 

Furthermore, e-maiis featuring excessive amounts of 
exclamation marks, all-caps, large font sixes, and emoti¬ 
cons, are liable to be ridiculed mercilessly by the editorial 
staff. 

In recent days, we've begun using website article com¬ 
ments as letters for the section as well, since prim media 
isslow'y dying a langourous death, and we're all watching 
it bum. burn, bum with Terrified looks in our eyes. During 
that awkward traansition period, however, comments and 
Quotes from both sides of the internet will be accepted. 
The inclusion of identifying derails are preferred under 
this case, but not altogether necessary, as the anonymity 
of the Internet is an inalienable right that we cannot take 
away. 

Tweets to the Gateway's twitter account wiii not be 
printed, however. Welcomed, but not retweetec- 



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GATEWAY 

OpiNION 

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