George Bush's energy plan (if you can call it that) is not just about lining the pockets of his oil company buddies
- it's about making California pay for voting Gore, writes Greg Palast

Greg Palast
Guardian Unlimited

You nasty-minded readers probably believe George Bush's energy plan is just
some pea-brained scheme to pay off the president's oil company buddies, fry
the planet, and smother Mother Earth in coal ash, petroleum pollutants and
nuclear waste. If that's what you think, you've overlooked the vicious intent
of the whole programme. It's payback time - and Bush intends to make California pay.

Let me list California's sins.
First, California voted Gore.
Second, California's governor, Gray Davis, is an intelligent, popular Democrat
  who could whup little George's butt in the next election.
Three, California voted Gore.

Keep in mind that the entire excuse for this polluters' wet dream of an
'energy plan' is that there is an energy 'crisis' in California. We are told
that there is just not enough electricity and gas. Even the Democrats and the
New York Times agree that there is an energy crisis in California, which is
evidence enough to conclude: There is no energy crisis in California.

In case you need more evidence, check this out. In December, the lights went
out in southern California, the price of electricity jumped 1000% over the
previous year and the price of natural gas jumped 1000% in one week.

Power shortage? Nope. The California power grid operator reported that, just
over the California border at the 'Henry Hub' gas pipeline switching centre,
you could buy plentiful gas for $1 (£66p) a therm. A couple of miles down the
road in California, the price was $10.By golly, it turns out the two power
merchants that controlled the biggest pipe into California simply blocked
part of the tube. Result: panic, price spikes and black outs.

Market speculators made half a billion dollars on that cute little manoeuvre.
In all, says last week's report by Dr Anjali Shiffren of the grid system,
"monopoly rents," "economic withholding" and "physical withholding" were
responsible for artificial shortages and excess charges of $6.2 billion last
year - half the state's light bill.

In other words, California did not run out of energy, it ran out of supplies
of government. Until two years ago, California regulated electric companies.
Then Mr Davis' predecessor, a Republican governor, 'de-regulated' energy, and
the state became a pricing predators' picnic.

Governor Davis' own plan to end this faux crisis is a combination of re-regulating
electricity prices and de-privatising part of the power system. In other words,
Davis's cure is one part realism, one part populism and one part so-she-lizm.

Texas Power trading corporations (TXU), Reliant and Enron (Bush's numero uno
campaign donor), would bleed profits under the Davis plan. Now that's a
crisis. So, the vice-president, Dick Cheney, the man we Americans pay to
think for Dubya, drafted a plan to deal with the Davis crisis.

Until January, Mr Cheney was CEO of Halliburton Corporation, the USA's
largest oil-drilling services company and builder of nuclear plants.Mr Cheney
wants us to drill more oil and build more nukes.

This won't do squat for California, which does not have oil-fired power
plants and cannot put more reactors on earthquake faults. But then, if I may
remind you first, California voted Gore.....

Greg Palast, columnist for the Observer's business section, is author of
Democratic Regulation, published this week by the United Nations.

At you can read and subscribe to Greg's columns and view
Palast's report for BBC Television's Newsnight, "Bush Energy Plan - Policy or Payback?"

You can still view BBC TV's, THEFT OF THE PRESIDENCY, at BBC Newsnight;

Read A BLACKLIST BURNING FOR BUSH The (London) Observer;,3858,4103063,00.html



US media failures at SILENCE OF THE LAMBS;

and on Bush family finances: BEST DEMOCRACY MONEY CAN BUY;

Privacy Policy
. .