Magazine article Whole Earth

Power to the People

Magazine article Whole Earth

Power to the People

Article excerpt

One-third of us own electric companies, directly as voters in 900 cooperatives or indirectly as voters in 2,100 municipalities. Two-thirds of us can't really vote. We are customers of 240 investor-owned utilities. Only the shareholders vote, creating tension between customers and owners. The federal power authorities are run by directors appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. They are even harder to influence, but they are small generators except for the Tennesse Valley Auhority and the Booneville Power Authority in the Pacific Northwest. In general, energy has played private v. public, profit v. service, futures thinking v. utility/public power conservatism. How much democracy should go into energy policy? (In choosing sources of power? efficiency budgets? security for eiders and the poor?) --PW

SEEING THE LIGHT
Regaining Control
of Our Electrical System
David Morris
2001; 160 pp.
$15. Institute for
Local Self-Reliance

The best high-voltage manual for charged-up activists who want to reconfigure their community's place in the electric web and nurture green micropower. Easy to read in a field awash in acronyms and twisted concepts. Rules for assuming authority; acting responsibly, and decentralizing capacity.

PROFILE OF POWER
A History of the People and
Events That Have Shaped and
Continue to Shape America's
Most Critical Industry
Scott Ridley
1996; 66 pp. $20. APPA (below)

SEASON OF CHANGE
A Profile of Power Update on
the History of the Electric Utility
Industry 1996-1998
Scott Ridley
1999; 32 pp. $10
American Public Power
Association (APPA), 2301 M Street
NW, Washington, DC 20037-1484.
202/467-2910, www.appanet.org

Meet Mr. Utilities. Scott Ridley has the 120-year-long view. Meet Thomas Edison and early municipal power systems, the rise of monopolies, rate wars, the externalities like stock market crashes and wars, and the emergence of the feds in energy affairs. …

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