I can't think of any better illustration of several important facts than the aftermath of last Friday's megastorm: Namely, that when you use privately-owned companies to deliver public utilities, they're going to cut staffing to improve profits, that tax cuts are simply loans against infrastructure investment, and that years of taking energy lobbyist cash and hoping climate change would simply go away was like rolling over a payday loan. Eventually, you have a very big bill to pay.
Now even Matt Drudge has noticed that global warming is here, so maybe his mainstream media fanboys will follow. And then we can begin to address some very important issues, like how we can't simply keep cutting government services to cover the costs of rebuilding after these extreme storms and other weather-related disasters:
(CBS News) WASHINGTON - From the Midwest to the mid-Atlantic, some 1.4 million homes and businesses are still in the dark, and the heat, four days after violent storms caused heavy damage.
Many are now asking their local utilities why it's taking so long to get the lights back on.
Power companies say they've been playing catch-up as they struggle to get the Washington, D.C., area back online following Friday's big storm, which hit so quickly it caught just about everyone by surprise.
Ken Barker, vice president of Ken Barker Dominion Virginia Power, the largest electricity provider in the state, points out, "In parallel, we're restoring power and getting more resources in while we're restoring power, versus a hurricane, where we would pre-stage those resources."
The storm system originated in the Midwest and affected over four million households and businesses in seven states and the District of Columbia. President Obama declared federal emergencies in Ohio and West Virginia.
The problem is, energy companies now keep minimal repair crews to keep costs down - and stock prices up. In the past, they could simply trade off aid to companies in other parts of the country to clean up after storms, but that system was built around hurricanes (where they had time to prepare) and much smaller, less frequent storms - not megastorms like Friday's.
Since these utilities are exempt from taxes (PEPCO got a $500 million + rebate in 2010, it doesn't seem too unreasonable to make that status contingent on adequate staffing levels, does it?
As the Post points out, we also have to better define the middle ground between avoiding false alarms and giving sufficient warning. After learning of the storm via my DC Twitter friends, I knew it was headed my way because I could see it on the Accuweather weather radar. But the same site was still predicting clear skies in the forecast section. There was nothing at all on the local weather reports or even on NOAA.org. until 11:51 p.m. The storm hit here at 12:15.