Published on March 14th, 2019 | by Steve Hanley
March 14th, 2019 by Steve Hanley
Creative destruction is one of the fundamental principals of capitalism. In theory, when a business no longer serves the needs of the marketplace, it will be destroyed and replaced by one that does. That’s pretty much what officials in San Francisco have in mind as they contemplate what will replace Pacific Gas & Electric after it filed for bankruptcy in January.
“We need to take advantage of this opportunity because the crisis of climate change is a crisis,” San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen said during a recent hearing. “We really need to take it to the next level, and that next level is a complete build out so that we are providing 100 percent renewable energy to all of our customers.”
According to a report by Renewable Energy World, the city thinks it could buy the grid infrastructure — wires and poles — left behind by PG&E to serve as the backbone for a new full service municipal utility. If so, one of the principal goals of the new enterprise will be bringing 100% renewable energy to the residents of the city together with the new jobs those new sources of electricity will create.
The city already has an aggressive renewable energy program to power its municipal transportation system and municipal buildings using hydroelectric power generated at the Hetch Hetchy reservoir in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The plan to transition to 100% renewables would require the construction of new solar and wind facilities. That’s where the prospect of creating new jobs for local residents comes into play.
San Francisco Supervisor Sandra Fewer said a city-run utility would work to kill the city’s long dependence on others for electricity. “If we want to be truly independent in providing energy, clean energy to the residents of San Francisco, we need to really think about a local version of a Green New Deal,” she said at a hearing in January. “And that is really about building our own resources for renewable energy on our own land.”
PG&E critics have long argued its focus on making money led it to scrimp on safety. Although the company vehemently denies those accusations, it has admitted it is a least partially responsible for the deadly Camp Fire that wiped out the community of Paradise in a raging inferno last year.
City officials say a municipal utility that is free of shareholder pressure to reign in spending on maintenance could provide safer service. “When profit is the ultimate motive, then public safety comes second, then reliability comes second, then keeping costs down comes second,” Hilary Ronen says. “Profit will not be our ultimate goal.”
Such statements smack of the dreaded socialism that sends
conservatives reactionaries into gibbering, foaming at the mouth tirades. How dare the public welfare take precedence over corporate profits? That’s unAmerican! It says so right there in the Constitution: “We the corporations of the United States….”
Silly rabbits. That’s not what the Constitution says. It says, “We the people….” That’s socialism in its purest form right there, the whole idea that the people hold the sovereign power of the nascent nation, not some monarch, potentate, or business entity. San Francisco is often mocked for its liberal tendencies, but it remains one of the last bastions of the promise the American Experiment was built upon. Deal with it.