September 29th, 2010
Yesterday reportedly witnessed the highest temperature ever recorded in Downtown Los Angeles since temperatures have been recorded dating back to 1877. Today, it was widely reported that approximately 25,000 homes in the greater Los Angeles area are without electrical power as a result of the excessive heat of yesterday (including many of which in LA-DWP and SoCal Edison territories). I have not heard any reported or specific reasons for the excessive number of power outages. Also, I have yet to actually research the matter for specific reasons for the outages. However, I assume that the outages are due to the antiquated electrical power grid being over-taxed and faulty component failures.
Nevertheless, I wonder if the electrical grid is similar the municipal water systems that repeatedly fail throughout our nation. As with the water systems and water companies, we have small government-sanctioned monopolies which have been in business for a long time. Apparently, even though these monopolies have been getting paid for their efforts, they typically appear to have decided against making any significant capital upgrades or overall system improvements until the existing systems experience catastrophic failures.
Are we to suppose that the aging electrical grid of our nation is subject this same infrastructure logic as well? That is, where we have many government-blessed monopolies that prefer to pocket their earnings with minimal reinvestment shown to the electrical transmission system grid from which they make their earnings? Even if these sanctioned monopolies only maintain these systems and do not actually own them, why is it that they are typically immediately able to cover the costs of repairing catastrophic system failures but appear unable to proactively invest in the infrastructure to prevent catastrophic failures? I suspect because the utility companies would rather wait until a system fails before replacing any antiquated relics in the systems and claim that such makes better economic sense to do so. I, of course, would disagree with any such claimed economic sense that waits until a catastrophic failure to perform system upgrades.
I would counter with the following economic sense:
Maybe its time to rid the nation of these often-times ineffectual yet sanctioned monopolies that are blessed with special treatment from our governments and replace them with a better system. Maybe more competition (or something) is needed to ensure our utility systems are more rugged and operating regardless of the occasional catastrophic weather occurrences. As a result of the utility monopolies’ self-centered and short-sighted quest for profits, maybe the firms we know as our electrical and water companies (as with many other utilities) are, in fact, the true relics and antiques that require replacement; as the paradigms of these firms are what appear to actually impede utility system upgrades necessary to withstand any weather conditions to which the systems are subjected.
Adam Trotter / AVT