Why Utilities Now Mistreat Their Customers

By David Sheldon

* This is a reprint of an editorial published on this site four months ago that seems timely again today.

Why are smart meters now being forced upon us?  The easy answer would be because it is profitable for the utility industry to do so.  It is not hard to conjure up a bogeyman in the big bad corporation.  But Detroit Edison had an enviable reputation, built over many decades, as a reliable provider of electric service, and as a business that treated its customers fairly.  In a free market, corporations, in pursuing their own best interests, tend to realize their own goals by doing the things that best meet the needs of their customers.

But wait a minute – who or what made it so profitable of late for Detroit Edison and most of the other utilities in this country to, all of a sudden, so mistreat their customers?  Why did they all decide to risk their customer goodwill and the security of the entire electric grid on unproven technology?

One must come to grips with the fact that it was decisions by policy makers at the national and international levels that brought all this on us.  There is a breakneck rush to install these cancer causing surveillance devices on every home and business in practically every industrial nation.  How and why were such decisions reached, and how did it happen that essentially the same decisions were being made at about the same time in all these nations?

We all like to believe that democracy matters, that we can elect politicians to carry out the will of “the people”.  In school most of us learned that this country is great because, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, we have “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

But was this ever strictly true?  And if it was once true, is it still true? One of the troubling things about our “democratic” republic is that certain things, at the national level, keep moving always in the same direction, no matter who we elect to Congress or the Presidency.  One of those things, we think, is an inexorable tendency for laws to be passed and policies implemented, often by executive fiat, that chip away at our privacy, our civil liberties and our personal autonomy.

One of the drivers of this is the fact that this nation always seems to be on a war footing – whether it is a cold war or a hot one.  We can have differing opinions as to the wisdom of becoming involved in this or that conflict – but the long run tendency of things is that we have now what then retiring President Eisenhower warned us of in 1961 – the permanent military-industrial complex.  With that we have an increasingly powerful and all intrusive national security state.

But there is another driver that has arisen in the last few decades and that may better explain why the whole industrialized world is seeking to increase its monitoring and control of what goes on in individual homes and businesses.  While most people today do respect our natural environment and want reasonable steps taken to protect it, there is also an environmental extremism that, if not checked and balanced against other values, will lead to a society where our national government, or possibly even a world government, will be telling us all how we must live.

This environmental extremism plays right into the hands of yet another driving force – the belief in some quarters that scientists, engineers and elite policymakers can better manage “society’s resources” than we can through our individual decisions and market forces.  This movement once went under the name “technocracy” and had its heyday in the 1930s.  Our nation repudiated that doctrine then but the “technocrats” never really gave up and are re-introducing their program under the guise of protecting the environment.  It may well be that the real danger to our once free and constitutional republic will come not from the socialists or from the fascists, but from these technocrats – who are neither of the left nor of the right.

Policies have been put in place – particularly in the last 20 years – during the administrations of two Republican presidents and two Democratic presidents, that are based on the notion of practically doing away with private property rights and individual freedom of action.  Instead these policies would establish an order of things where a central government will tell us all where we may or may not live, how much energy each of us may use, how much water we can consume, how much and what kind of food each of us may eat, how much land we can occupy, how much we may travel, and a hundred other things.

All this is being done supposedly in order to radically reduce the world’s “carbon footprint” and to make the world a paradise for every species but our own.  The first President Bush got us started on this program when, at the Rio Conference in 1991, he informally committed this nation, to something called “Agenda 21”.  Because it was an informal commitment and not a treaty, he needed no ratification by the U.S. Senate.  Yet policies began to be implemented by Executive Orders through many federal agencies.  This program continued under President Clinton.

During the term of the second President Bush, laws were pushed through Congress to outlaw the incandescent light bulb, to outlaw toilets with 3 gallon tanks, and then to establish something called a “smart grid”.  It was a comprehensive plan to establish a system whereby government, acting through the electric, gas and water utilities, could monitor and perhaps ultimately control resource use at each and every individual home and business.  Of course we were told at first that these programs would be “voluntary” on the part of homeowners and businesses who would be rewarded with lower rates for their “participation.”

Part of this “smart grid” would be the “smart meters”.  These, when fully integrated with a new generation of “smart appliances” would enable the utility companies to know exactly how much energy we are using at any given moment and even which appliances we are using at any given time.  But we were promised, in the federal legislation, that these smart meters would be voluntary – that they would not be forced on homeowners.

Then came the “stimulus bill” under President Obama.  There was appropriated the sum of 3.5 billion dollars to virtually stampede all the utility companies to convert their meters to smart meters.  This was to cover up to 50% of the cost of the new meters.  The other half would be recovered by having the various state regulatory bodies approve passing those costs on to electricity customers through their monthly bills.

Now let’s step back for a moment.  Was it the people of the United States who wanted this new system?  Did the people create a market demand for the new meters?  Did the people ever communicate to their legislative representatives that they wanted society transformed in this way?  I think we all know the answers to these questions are NO.

And what about the people in all the industrial nations of Europe and South America and South Africa?  Is it just coincidence that the same policies were being quietly implemented in all industrial nations?

We are talking here of ‘smart meters’, but we could as well be talking about so many other facets of the modern surveillance society.  We could be speaking of the over proliferation of cell phones that are bombarding us with cancer causing radiation and constantly, without our knowledge, reporting our GPS locations back to big telephone company and big brother. So how did it all happen?  Was it the warfare and national security state, the global warming crowd or the technocrats?  Or all of the above?  Do we still have “government of the people, by the people and for the people”?  If not, what are we going to do about it?

(Comments most welcome)

 

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2 thoughts on “Why Utilities Now Mistreat Their Customers

  1. Without free market controls, we’re consuming ourselves into slavery.
    Freedom requiers that each person and commercial entity not infringe upon the rights of anyone. We are enslaving ourselves if we accept this tyrannical abuse of technology.

  2. If only more people would realize we are being controlled and our amendments are being taken away then maybe we would have a fighting chance and over come the dictator’s bildeburgers , obama . Home of the FREE,land of the BRAVE!

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