Patterico's Pontifications


Is California About to Seize Control of Homeowners’ Thermostats?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:51 am

Joseph Somsel at the American Thinker claims that proposed California regulations will allow bureaucrats to control the temperatures in our homes.

I tried reading the regulations themselves, but my eyes glazed over. So I can’t confirm that Joseph’s analysis is right.

But if it is, it’s time to howl and scream. Joseph says we have until the end of the month to put a stop to this.

You know, there’s a way to deal with shortages. It’s called the free market. If demand skyrockets, so should prices. Higher prices have this magical ability to increase supply relative to demand. That’s the way to conserve energy and avoid blackouts. California should try it sometime. (No, we didn’t try it before; we did half-assed deregulation, which is not the same thing. I explained this back in 2004, here.)

Why don’t we try a free-market solution before we give some Temperature Czar the power to keep our houses warm in summer and cold in winter?

UPDATE: More here.

95 Responses to “Is California About to Seize Control of Homeowners’ Thermostats?”

  1. Hear, hear.

    Ha ha! If I hear one of you Californians talking about how socialist and statist Canada is when Arnold is controlling your Recreation Room’s temperature from his mansion, I’m gonna barf.

    In a friendly and non-offensive way.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  2. i want to be there the day they try to tell 2H6 has the heater set too high……

    i just want to be out of the gun target line. %-)

    redc1c4 (48a20b)

  3. As part of the free market solution, charge different rates for electricity at different times per day. Part of the cost of providing electrical service is the capital cost of building sufficiently large generating plants to handle peaks in demand. Peaking problems occur because consumers pay no price penalty for using electricity during peak demand periods.

    Perfect Sense (b6ec8c)

  4. “Peaking problems occur because consumers pay no price penalty for using electricity during peak demand periods.”

    Well, that and people are actually awake then.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  5. 1) New construction, 2) Yes, the building control freaks intend exactly that. They talk about statewide communications networks for “space conditioning equipment,” with the ability for the state to override the “owner’s” control.

    Sec 112-2-B:

    Emergency Events. Upon receiving an emergency signal, the PCT shall respond to commands contained in the emergency signal, including changing the setpoint by any number of degrees or to a specific temperature setpoint. The PCT shall not allow customer changes to thermostat settings during emergency events.

    It’s like a communist’s wet dream, and everyone else’s nightmare.

    Patterico is right, they tried to run the California power system into the ground by micromanaging it, having failed (barely) at that, they want to try to micromanage every home and office.

    That’s the government rule, if something fails disastrously, it’s just because you didn’t do enough of it, so do more!

    The good news is that things like this will crash the new home market in CA. And commercial building. And drive up prices for existing structures, at least until this gets applied to them as well.

    Wait, not good news, what’s the other word…

    Merovign (4744a2)

  6. Even though I live in the Michigan surrounded by the largest supply of fresh water in the known universe, I have a 1.6 gal flush toilet. (Which of course usually gets flushed twice for a total of 3.2 gal over the old 3.0 gal standard).

    So not only will the eventually become law, I don’t doubt it will eventually go national.

    jpm100 (b48b29)

  7. Just take the damn thermostat’s control leads out of the wall, leave the rest of it hooked up, and get an old thermostat.

    Or get a lamp and aim it at your thermostat.

    Or move to Texas.

    Jem (9e390b)

  8. I can’t believe how California is truly like communist Russia… but you guys voted for it. You don’t even have the self-respect saving device of a decent revolution… rather, a foreign born movie star big government Republican socialist.

    So funny.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  9. Programmable Communicating Thermostat (PCT)

    Section 112 C 2 A
    Price Events. The PCT shall be shipped with default price-event offsets of +4°F for cooling and -4°F for
    heating enabled; however, customers shall be able to change the offsets and thermostat settings at any time
    during price events. Upon receiving a price-event signal, the PCT shall adjust the thermostat setpoint by the
    number of degrees indicated in the offset for the duration specified in the signal of the price event.
    The PCT shall also be equipped with the capability to allow customers to define setpoints for heating and cooling in response to price signals as an alternative to temperature-offsetting response, as described in Reference Joint Appendix JA5

    Using the PDF search function, I could not find a definition for either “price events” or “emergency events” that kick in these regulations. See comment #5 above for “emergency events.”

    Perfect Sense (b6ec8c)

    Programmable Communicating Thermostat (PCT) Reference Design
    Activities and Documents
    The California Energy Commission (CEC) is in process of proposing code for the 2008 Title 24 Building Standards which will require the installation of programmable communicating thermostats (PCT’s) to enable demand response (DR) in newly constructed and retrofit residences. The capability of installed PCT’s allows utilities and service providers to dispatch air conditioning load curtailments from residential customers during peak periods to address economic or reliability conditions within the electricity grid. This is crucial to the state because during peak times, residential air conditioning accounts for about 15% of the system load – and temporary load reductions of as little as 2% of the system load can address most supply, voltage, or frequency imbalances on the system. California’s2006 July heatwave urgently demonstrated the need for this capability, effecting record temperatures across the state, corresponding records in peak load (50,085 MW for the state on July 24, 2006), and blackouts for tens-of-thousands of residents statewide. The potential for “negawatts” obtainable by aggregating reductions in air conditioning load are important because 5 GW of the peak load, above 45 GW, occurred only 0.65% of the year in 2006. Capacity payments for this amount reserve are likely to cost an order of magnitude more than a statewide PCT system. The UCB team seeks to facilitate Title 24 proceedings and assist the CEC and Title 24 stakeholders by researching technical feasibility, stability, and safety issues which arise from of Title 24 code development and systemic design of PCT networks.
    (bolded portion done by me)

    I think this is what their goal is. It seems to be for A/C only. Until more power facilities are built it might be the only real alternative to avoid blackouts.

    voiceofreason (783b10)

  11. 236 pages?

    Ok, I possess SOME self loathing, but not near enough to read 236 pages of that tripe.

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  12. Scott,
    Go to the link and search for
    Section 112 C 2 A
    Click on the link to JA5
    Click on the link in JA5 and you find the explanation

    voice of reason (10af7e)

  13. We had something like this in Maryland for a while, but not nearly as bad, because it was voluntary. For something like $9 off your bill a month, PEPCO would install a device that could cycle your A/C off for a half hour during peak season.

    This California plan is appalling.

    Attila (Pillage Idiot) (96a8a6)

  14. I am laughing at this as my daughter’s apartment has a broken thermostat, and has been for a long time. The landlord won’t fix as they think they don’t have to provide heat in Los Angeles. The government agencies are worthless and do nothing but employ union goons. Until CA suffers enough to clean house of the watermelons and Democrat statists, things will only get WORSE.

    PCD (5c49b0)

  15. SDG&E has a similar program they called the “Summer Saver”. They hook a black box up to your A/C compressor and during “stage” events, they assume control over cooling.
    Funny thing is, during last September’s heat wave, CalISO hadn’t declared a Stage Event – but SDG&E did.

    Title 24 also regulates lighting in new and remodel construction – a certain percentage HAS to be fluorescent. That’s been in place since ’02 I believe.
    Snagging control over thermostats wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

    I can’t tell you how glad we are to have moved to Texas.

    X_LA_Native (58820f)

  16. Joseph Somsel replied to my post at PW on this here

    I wrote the American Thinker article.

    Some of you got my point – the state creates a problem then takes away your freedom to mitigate the effects of the problem. The RIGHT answer is build some more nukes – here’s a plan:

    The rules on who and when the PCTs are actived have yet to be written. Your local utility will push the button but the big call will come from the California Independent (ha!) System Operator (CAISO), a state agency in charge of running the grid.

    I don’t see where the California Energy Commission has the statutory authority from the legislature to impose this on us. Call your assemblyman or state senator and ask them if they voted for it. I’ll bet they don’t want to take the heat (so to speak.)

    The FM system will use a feature of the system called “Radio Data System” designed into it by FCC rules. So far, RDS-equipped tuners can display the station call letters, song playing and trivial stuff like that. Hackable? Definitely.

    Wait until they start exploiting the HDRadio features that have even more bandwidth for data.

    Darleen (187edc)

  17. vor

    its the wrong answer … but I predict an exciting new market in FM jammers

    Darleen (187edc)

  18. Darleen,

    You are probably right about the jammers.

    As to building more plants I agree but what happens in the interim? I’m not entirely sure I understand how the rolling blackouts work, but don’t they impact the state critical services are impacted such as hospitals?

    voice of reason (10af7e)

  19. Sorry California. That’s what you get for living in a third-world banana republic. In 5 years, Baghdad will have a more reliable grid, with corrupt technocrats manning the switches instead of Governor Baldwin and his cronies. 🙂

    carlitos (2bcbb9)

  20. I’m not entirely sure I understand how the rolling blackouts work, but don’t they impact the state critical services are impacted such as hospitals?

    Not necessarily. A sophisticated enough grid can keep the power on in the hospital and the grocery store while cutting it off in all the adjacent “non-essential” businesses and homes. (Disclaimer: I am talking about Illinois where there is liability to the power company for some types of monetary damages caused by the blackout.)

    nk (4bb3c1)

  21. but I predict an exciting new market in FM jammers

    Or you could just open up your thermostat and clip off the antenna. I predict the internet will be full of instructions on how to do it within hours of the law being passed.

    nk (4bb3c1)

  22. NK,
    Thanks for the explanation.

    voice of reason (10af7e)

  23. Californians continue to vote for Collectivist bureaucrats, they only have themselves to blame for the Collectivist governance they put into power.

    Elections matter.

    syn (9c2583)

  24. I think its time for North California and South California. At least half of the residents could escape this bureaucratic tyrany.

    jpm100 (33ce8e)

  25. Commercial customers indeed do pay higher rates for higher usage periods, they all have a Demand meter and if they have a high demand during general high demand times, they get a demand charge that feels like a horse stepping on your foot or face.

    BTW CA, get ready cuz your gobernator aint gonna allow that electricity generated by our coal plants to cross the border there. Please try to remember that fully 49% of all electricity generated in the nation comes from coal fired plants.

    Ya’ll thought that Grey was a skunk, wait till all your energy comes from sources already sold out. I can only imagine, what 20 40 cents a KWH?

    Grey pulled a fast one along side the Enron folks, you were all told that all generating stations were cranking full boar. Well they were not, Glen Canyon was running 2 out of 8 gens, the Navajo plant was running one of 3 units! I know I saw them every day. That story was the facts during your alleged “energy crisis” declared by Grey.

    BTW if this so called PCT becomes real, CA will see a massive rise in space heaters and window A/C units. None of which will be talking to that t-stat. Anybody suggesting such regulations should be biotch slapped and thrown out of that job!

    TC (1cf350)

  26. I’d be more in favor of a coastal California and inland California split.

    papertiger (c9b193)

  27. More from the author…..

    The choice of PCTs or blackouts is a false choice. Certainly PCTs do have usefulness in off-normal grid operations but just who should the electric grid serve? The state? The distributing utilities? The generators?

    Or you?

    If the grid is to serve you, why isn’t adequate electrical generation being built to meet your demands? That’s the real question and the real choice. Didn’t our governor first get elected on just that issue?

    Setting your thermostat is just the first application for PCTs. They will have multiple channels so that one can forecast clothes dryers and dishwashers built to new efficiency standards that mandate communications with your PCT. The state will then be able to block use of these heavy household loads during “price events” or “emergency event” too.

    The latter conditions are as of yet undefined.

    My question to Patterico, as a lawyer, was, does the California Public Resource Code (25000) give the California Energy Commission the power to impose PCTs? In other words, did our Legislature enact a law authorizing state control of consumer’s household loads? Did the Governor sign that law?

    How many elected officials will publicly stand behind PCTs and state control of a home’s appliances and HVAC?

    Let’s ask them!

    Joseph Somsel (86528e)

  28. Hmmmm. I don’t much care for the idea, but such a thing *might* be better than rolling blackouts. In a “lesser of two evils” kind of way.

    If I could set a nominal heating/cooling temperature and an acceptable emergency range (say +/- 2 degrees), and if they gave me a discount for opting in, then yes, maybe. And if it sucked too bad, a little tinfoil around the thermostat would fix it…

    I would rather they turn down my cooling than turn off my electricity. Much, much, much rather they do that. Of course, if they just turned down YOUR thermostat, that would be OK, too.

    If course, I’d also rather they build new nuclear plants and that my roof was more conducive to solar, but I really hate having my power go out.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  29. PCT, nothing a cold wet rag or burning candle near the thermostat could not manipulate. Not to mention an increase in sales of wall ac units, space heaters and burning fireplaces. Just another ridiculous liberal policy that will lead to more wasted energy and pollution.

    xray (8cfb7a)

  30. This is honestly, the most idiotic, fascist, piece of legislation I’ve EVER seen proposed in the United States of America. Moreso, even, than HillaryCare.

    The argument that one should go off the grid if they don’t like it, is asinine. Those people PAY for that power, so the government has no business telling them what to DO with that power. If I want to run up my bill to $400 a month just so I have boiling hot water coming out of my tap, it’s MY business how high I set my water heater.

    And the whole, “it’s not that big a deal” thing is missing the point. This is one of those things where you give them this power, and pretty soon they’ll be telling you how often you can watch your T.V…how many hours you can run your computer…what hours you can light your home…how cold you can set your refrigerator (and who want’s lukewarm beer?)…when you can wash your dishes… and then you’ll begin to get a list of appliances that are home-approved…hey! The government says your house only needs 1 refrigerator! Senator Dumbass says you don’t need that stand-alone freezer. No need for that humidifier…here’s a pack of silica gel.

    I don’t want to give away ANY of my freedoms. Because that means I’ve given away ALL of them.

    otcconan (9904d6)

  31. “And the whole, “it’s not that big a deal” thing is missing the point. This is one of those things where you give them this power…”

    I don’t know, dude. Your other examples are frightening, but I think the government telling me how warm my body should be in my home is a pretty big deal.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  32. Southern California Edison’s free market approach is a baseline monthly rate and the more electricity you use over the baseline, the higher the per kilowatt charge.

    Currently 200% usuage over the baseline is billed at .41 per KWH!

    I live in an area that gets very hot during the summer and our monthly baseline is only 450 KWH per month. I reach the 200% rate every June, July, August and September.

    The highest bill I am aware of is a neighbor in July of 2006 and it was $1700.

    The PCT would be mandated by Title 24 and some of it’s regulations are very resonable. For instance, two years ago, the code for all new and remodel central, air conditioners required units to have a SEER of 13, which is about a 30% increase in efficiency from the previous requirement of 10.

    PC14 (f74534)

  33. and burning fireplaces.

    San Francisco has already outlawed wood-burning fireplaces from new construction (which L.A. is looking to adopt), and Los Angeles is currently working on a proposal to outlaw the use of existing wood-burning fireplaces (how that would get enforced I’ve no idea).

    X_LA_Native (58820f)

  34. VOR –
    I agree that this might work for this problem in the short run. I worry about the other problems to which a solution like this might be attached. Give the socialists in Government an inch and who knows where it will go. The only imagination they seem to possess is in finding new ways to gain more control.

    quasimodo (edc74e)

  35. Hey – this is great! And with the final push to digital TV almost upon us, look at all the soon to be available frequencies for Uncle to communicate with all our homes and appliances and electronics and dental implants. Microsoft in our cars? Awesome! Does the windshield turn blue during a head-on? Next CalTRAFFIC will disable 33% of ignitions 30 min before rush hour.

    rhodeymark (1aaf2a)

  36. Thanks for pointing that out! I’m calling the California Energy Commission now about it. And thanks to the American Thinker.

    Bradley J. Fikes (ff1d66)

  37. the state creates a problem then takes away your freedom to mitigate the effects of the problem.

    Right–jack up population by immigration, then legislate the law-abiding sector to death to pay for all the consequences.

    In related energy news, a lawsuit to name polar bears as a threatened species, thereby halting all oil development that “might” impact their habitat. Not to worry, we can always buy oil from the ME! Polar Bears or Energy Independence?

    Patricia (f56a97)

  38. Sacramento plans to ban wood burning next year. The plan calls for “neighbors” to watch each other’s chimneys, because obviously the police have better things to do.

    So, which of your neighbors seems a likely candidate for “nark”?

    mojo (8096f2)

  39. Mojo,

    So I would get a citation if my house catches on fire?

    So kind, those government types…

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  40. No offense meant, folks, but I hope they ram it up your er down your throats as hard as they can do it.

    Voters need to learn a lesson, and efforts to prevent them from feeling the worst of the state’s abuses will only delay the moment of clarity that they need so badly. After watching California attempt to dictate national education, energy, defense, economic and energy policies via lawsuits and threats, it’s a relief to the rest of us to see your citizens getting a good healthy dose dose of their own medicine.

    Enjoy sweating for a while kids. You’re getting the no-power-plant-building, environmentally friendly, more-carbon-neutral government that you asked for. Hey, maybe if it works out, they can put smart chips in your cars, so that your gas pump will tell you when you’ve exceeded your weekly CO2 cap. “Hey big fella, don’t you think you’ve had enough gas for one night? Put down the nozzle, and I’ll call you a pedi-cab, alright?”

    It’s possible that this may create some awareness of the statist monster that is being constructed, but I suspect it’s more likely that your lovely ‘moderate’ politicians will instead use the state created energy and power shortages as an excuse to loot some corporations. With a little luck, they can maybe even drive some of those eeeeee-vil Mother Earth Rapin’ corporate fat cat power companies out of the state, and put their facilities under public utility control. That’ll fix things.

    “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”
    H.L. Mencken

    Al Maviva (89d0b6)

  41. Well. How’s about we save the PCTs for those who voted in this crowd?

    Don’t look at me.

    Patterico (8b8bae)

  42. That should likely read “for those who voted this crowd in”

    Scott Jacobs (425810)

  43. Scott,

    Yes, that would be less ambiguous.

    If you’d heard me *say* it, it would have been clear.

    Patterico (dcde8a)

  44. I’ve actually said on more than one occasion that I think we in all the other states should outlaw immigration from California. Californians are screwing up their state and leaving the mess behind to screw up ours, and it really pisses us off. Once the mess that is California is fixed, we can revisit the immigration issue.

    Andy (f69840)

  45. On a related matter, the California PUC recently adopted a program that provides substantial funding to make energy conservation “a way of life.” The program includes funding to promote the development and adoption of regulations at the local and state level that mandate various energy conservation measures.

    This is government by bureaucracy, not by the people.

    kim little (dbe341)

  46. As an energy policy, “conservation” sounds so pleasant, noble, smart, and painless.

    Here’s the second case (after CFLs) where the citizens get to experience exactly what’s down that path – government control of more and more of your life.

    I think I’m feeling pretty much what Al Maviva said, only I feel the need to be polite in my public writings.

    Joseph Somsel (bea526)

  47. Joseph:

    My hat, if I had one, is off to you. I am following up on your story, and it checks out. Kudos to The American Thinker.

    Bradley J. Fikes (ff1d66)

  48. I’m not in favor of the A/C regulation, but disagree with some comments on this site that imply that any government control is bad. Let’s take the comments on woodburning in fireplaces. The American Lung Association says, “In most areas of the country, woodburning from fireplaces and woodstoves is the largest source of particulate matter air pollution generated by residential sources.” The air quality in Los Angeles is better than it used to be, but the health risk is still dangerously high, the worst in the nation. Why shouldn’t LA regulate a major pollutant source? A case in point is London, whose “Killer Peas Soup Fogs” finally ended when Parliament outlawed the burning of soft coal for heat in the city. This followed the events of the week beginning the 5th December 1952 when 4,000 Londoners died in the worst air pollution disaster on record. Should not London have banned coal burning in the city?

    JayHub (0a6237)

  49. Company I worked for is developing a “rainwater saving system”.

    A glorified barrel, really.

    I swear to you, we put “water saver” and “Green” on it, and we could charge a large percentage of californians $200 for something that will likely cost us 25 bucks to make and ship.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  50. Scott Jacobs, you know that collecting rainwater is actually illegal in many states. The surface runoff is in some states a water right that homeowners usually no longer have.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  51. I swear to you, we put “water saver” and “Green” on it, and we could charge a large percentage of californians $200 for something that will likely cost us 25 bucks to make and ship.

    Nah, Scott. You gotta consider Albert Hammond’s warning: It Never Rains in California.

    Steverino (e00589)

  52. I can hardly wait to watch these things get hacked, again and again. The commenter who said “get it over with; Californians have a lesson to learn” is oh so right; they still think “cold shower” is just a metaphor!

    {It’s not like the state busybodies will stop at the control of mere air.}

    ras (fc54bb)

  53. If this passes, I’d suggest investing in companies that sell sledgehammers–they’ll become a very popular consumer item.

    M. Scott Eiland (b66190)

  54. JayHub:

    I’m not in favor of the A/C regulation, but disagree with some comments on this site that imply that any government control is bad. Let’s take the comments on woodburning in fireplaces. The American Lung Association says, “In most areas of the country, woodburning from fireplaces and woodstoves is the largest source of particulate matter air pollution generated by residential sources.”

    Woodburning fireplaces are probably the only source of particulate matter air pollution coming from residential sources. So? What percent of total air pollution are fireplaces, and what is the impact on health and the environment? And which enumerated power in the state or national Constitution gives the government the power to “fix” said problem?

    carlitos (2bcbb9)

  55. p.s. Solar will be attacked by enviros just as soon as solar actually becomes viable. Solar would be a distributed technology with no need for self-important bureaucrats running peoples’ lives from the center. If the self-anointed learn that they can get away with running your thermostat, no way they’d give up such control afterward.

    ras (fc54bb)

  56. When the enviros learn just how much mercury is in a CFL bulb, it is going to be hilarious to watch the confusion.

    California has been screwing up its power generation market for some time now. A few years ago, Steve Verdon had some great discussion of it on his blog ( the first places that the Oregon nut showed up by the way – presaging her performance with Jeff G. ) It is only going to get worse because California voters have allowed the clowns to run its legislature for so long.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  57. SPQR,

    It’s a simple choice for the clowns as to which they’d rather do: admit to past mistakes or grab for more power. They’ll continue until stopped.

    ras (fc54bb)

  58. Carlitos, as you probably know, a state’s police power is the source of regulatory authority over air quality. If you’re going to say that police power doesn’t exist, even for the State of California if not the federal government, contrary to centuries of Anglo-American legal thinking, then I don’t think we’ll be able to discuss the issue, since we’re starting from such different premises.

    As to woodburning specifically, I certainly agree that there is a pragmatic issue with regard to its regulation, a cost benefit analysis. It makes no sense to regulate it in the Idaho Panhandle, but whether it makes sense in the LA Basin is another story. I don’t have the answer to whether it makes sense in LA, of SF for that matter, but if your position is that no government should have the right to do this, that London should not have been able to tell its citizens to stop burning soft coal, then we’re not going to agree.

    JayHub (0a6237)

  59. Andy–

    The problem isn’t the folks coming out of California, it’s the people California let in over the years….

    (5th Generation Californian)

    Kevin Murphy (805c5b)

  60. BTW, at $100/bbl oil, anyone who has a south-facing sloped roof should be putting solar in as we speak. Long past the point of positive economic benefit, not to mention independence.

    Kevin Murphy (805c5b)

  61. And lastly, RDS (which is an FM subcarrier at about 52KHz deviation) is very nicely blocked by a little tinfoil. One of those times that tinfoil is actually useful against government control rays.

    Kevin Murphy (805c5b)

  62. Don’t forget that one of the planks in Arnold’s Global Warming legislation is to require that car owners keep their tires properly inflated. All of this is going to create a large number of new jobs – thermostat police, light bulb police, and tire police (roaming the parking lots of California to check tire pressures).

    Mace (a7e648)

  63. Before long I’ll be doing more time in jail for disabling my thermostat… inadvertantly… than a gangbanger gets for witness intimidation.

    SteveG (4e16fc)

  64. anyone who has a south-facing sloped roof should be putting solar in as we speak.

    Well, there’s HOA’s….

    Darleen (187edc)

  65. Just speaking in generalities, but a portion of California’s issue is not so much peak generation capacity, but more a distribution issue on the state wide scale from my readings of what I can find.

    Some areas have less than peak load capacity and during that period import power over the grid cross connects.

    From my understanding it is that those cross connects are not of sufficient capacity to transfer the necessary power to keep from having rolling blackouts in the effected area. Another aspect of it is that in the effected area, usually the last generators brought on line to meet demand are the least efficient/ most polluting of the generator power inventory.

    daytrader (ea6549)

  66. “Higher prices have this magical ability to increase supply relative to demand. ”

    And the amount of magic depends on the elasticity. Which is the problem, and the pain, of just trusting the market to give us answers. That and it tends to price people out.

    stef (16fb1f)

  67. Just let the free-market work…

    Never happen as long as the Progressive Watermellons control Sacramento and most of the large counties.

    What’s wrong with CA?

    Dan Walters, who writes on state matters for the Sacramento Bee, did a column this week marking the demise of working government in CA to the 1978 passage of Prop. 13. He got it wrong!

    The actual points IMHO of the turn to the worse are:
    The change to a full-time legislature in the late 60’s: Now, our Humble Servants, had too much time on their hands and were constantly looking for ways to “protect” us.
    The importation into the state & government, of the nannie-staters under the tutelage of one Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown.
    It was from these two events that gave us the incredible run-up in property taxes resulting in Prop. 13 and other voter-passed initiatives that have ham-strung the setting of legislative priorities, and the subsequent disaster of a government that tries to do too much, and has slowly chased the productive tax payers out of the state in favor of the non-productive tax users.

    All things being equal, I’ll be out of here in 2010!

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  68. stef, we have already seen what happens when the California legislature tries to mandate faux deregulation of the electricity supply by keeping residential rates low, they bankrupt utilities and have blackouts.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  69. “stef, we have already seen what happens when the California legislature tries to mandate faux deregulation of the electricity supply by keeping residential rates low, they bankrupt utilities and have blackouts.”

    I think the problem with the dereg was that prices were high, not low. And could be made high by taking capacity off line.

    Elasticity tells us that the solution wont neatly be made by price movements. And that price movements are going to be quite costly indeed.

    stef (bc6a1d)

  70. One of the points I touched on in the American Thinker piece is how thermostat adjustments will obscure price information to potential investors much like rent control deters new apartments.

    We’ve never really straightened out to what degree California’s electric market is regulated or deregulated. That in itself deters investment.

    I’ve been critical of our deregulation scheme since B-school in 1996 when, in a paper, I predicted shortages and high prices. (Got an A+, btw.) I elaborated on that theme here:

    Today, I’ll take what we can get! Anything that works, please! A major problem is the construction lag – it takes almost a decade for a major project to come on line.

    One ambition of PCTs is a real time pricing scheme. There are pros and cons but I suspect that the residential market will reject it. To win (ie lower total electric bills) requires the average family to radically reorganize their life style. Think the laundry will get done after midnight to save 25 cents a load? Why are the cell phone companies spending so much $$$ advertising “any time minutes?” The answer is that time is THE scarce resource for most Americans these days.

    I suspect that most residences will see their electric bill INCREASE under real time pricing.

    Joseph Somsel (d8c059)

  71. Well from my viewpoint, this fits into fighting the symptom , not the disease.

    If people want to be environmentally sensitive they are welcome to it, but eventually if not done in moderation side effects occur and impact other areas. Similar logic can be applied to policies on illegal immigration and it’s side effects.

    As long as California wishes to load up their elected offices with those supporting those agendas the side effects will show up in all sorts of places in all sorts of ways.

    Most outsiders view California power structure as enabling to the results we are seeing now.

    All things being equal, if there is a backlash are a final realization that these side effects are starting to effect the moderates, then you will see the pendulum swing and to what ever extent some will be elected to at least slow down the rush to one side or the other on agendas. To expect reversal would be to optimistic.

    daytrader (ea6549)

  72. Stef, you are confusing the residential rates with the supply prices. California claimed that suppliers were manipulating the ISO market to cause the crisis but those allegations were found to be largely unfounded. Still it was shown that the ISO’s market clearing process was so badly designed that it could be manipulated.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  73. Daytrader, A little side bar here. What assets do you day trade? Are you long term profitable?

    Sorry for the tangent.

    PC14 (f74534)


    krazy kagu (484aa9)

  75. Well, that turned out to be a nice story for yours truly.

    Kudos again to Joseph Somsel at the American Thinker, who actually had the stamina to read the whole document and find the buried lede.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  76. When the enviros learn just how much mercury is in a CFL bulb, it is going to be hilarious to watch the confusion.

    Not as much as you would think. I won’t try to convince you. If you are interested you can check it out for yourself


    voiceofreason (ac6b00)

  77. Voice of reason, you misunderstand. I am not a chemophobe but the environmental groups are.

    Interestingly, environmental regulators are already starting to overreact to flourescent lighting – as they do with so many things.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  78. A couple of comments. When I saw the American Thinker story yesterday (I’m in London right now), I thought “Could that be true?” This discussion was great. The solar thing was complicated a couple of years ago by a proposal to change the “net metering” law, which would have diminished the value of solar PVUs. It would have changed the law so that reverse metering, on days when the homeowner’s panels generated more electricity than he used, would only be credited at wholesale prices while the draw from the grid would be charged at retail. I never did learn what happened to that proposal but it slowed my interest in investing $30,000 in solar PVUs. It seems that environmentally useful concepts get tailored to the benefit of somebody other than the poor slob tax payer.

    Secondly, those who are saying nasty things about California voters should understand that California is being run by the equivalent of the British “Rotten Borough” system of the 19th century. Gerrymandering has ensured safe seats for BOTH parties and the Republicans helped make that the law to protect their own minority status. I’m edging toward the exit, like a lot of middle class Californians who lost that particular battle years ago. I already own a home in Arizona but am distressed to see the “New Hampshire phenomenon” starting there. In the 1970s and 80s thousands of Massachusetts residents moved to New Hampshire to escape the tax hell they were living in. Unfortunately, they brought their voting habits with them.

    Mike K (b08209)

  79. BTW, vor, your own link shows the kind of overreaction I’m talking about, note the instructions on cleaning up a broken bulb.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  80. SPQR,
    Thanks for clarifying. Since it is a .gov site I am not surprised that they leave no room for error, even in how to clean it up.

    A few years ago I had the dubious additional duty of building manager at one of my Air Force assignments – glorified title for being in charge of getting cleaning supplies, Light bulbs, recycle bins and the like. For a short time they were actually packaging up flourescent bulbs in a special way and boxing them up for shipment to central sites. Took about six months of silliness before they stopped doing that.

    voiceofreason (ac6b00)

  81. First, my acknowledgement to Mr. Fikes’ excellent article (at his link) and my thanks for his effusive compliments. As to stamina in reading engineering regulations, it’s what I do for a living – these were relatively straightforward as engineering codes go.

    I’m pleased that Mike K picked up on the solar price rigging going on. Here in Silicon Valley one sees status symbol solar panels on McMansions being subsidized by apartment renters.

    California governance is heading for a crisis. Our governor came to office to fix a power shortfall and a budget deficit. His term may well end with the state in about the same sorry condition.

    I called my assemblyman and my state senator and asked them “Did you vote for this law?” I called the Governor’s Office and asked them “Did the Governor sign this into law?” I suggest other Californians do the same.

    Joseph Somsel (3591b2)

  82. voiceofreason, an acquaintance of mine works environmental compliance at a local government agency. His tales of the contradictory requirements of the different municipal, county, state and federal agencies enforcing environmental, building code, fire code etc. make Catch-22 seem like a children’s fairy tale.

    Here is some more silly alarmism, it is going to be a wacky century …

    SPQR (26be8b)

  83. Bradley Fikes: Where did/will your story run in the North County Times? Just curious.

    Not Rhetorical (73be22)

  84. SPQR,

    That was a funny link, thanks.
    This won’t give you much confidence in the bureaucracy but I once worked with a guy who really believed he had been abducted by aliens. He was convinced that tachyon rays were emanating from computers and electronic equipment so he bought a CD (from one of those places that sells crystals to channel energy) that was supposed to deflect the rays and put it on the back of his computer.
    The scary part was that he held a position requiring one of the most sensitive security clearances we have. The security manager showed me in the regs where it stated that “belief in alien abduction in and of itself is not cause for denial/suspension of clearance.”

    voiceofreason (ac6b00)

  85. Not Rhetorical,

    My story is on the Web now. Just click the link. It will be in the print edition tomorrow. Comments are already beginning.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  86. I did read it — good story, and good for you jumping on it so quickly. I was just curious if it was on the front page, inside local, etc.

    Not Rhetorical (73be22)

  87. Joseph, if reading such regulations is routine to you, once again my compliments. Few reporters have the knowledge to read such regs, and to find the operative sentence in all that verbiage. Even Patterico confessed to being in over his head.

    I have a post up about this at my own group blog. The main point is that bloggers (and online writers and commenters) and journalists can be allies. But too many dinosaurish editors don’t want to look through Galileo’s telescope. I pity the reporters who have to work for them.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  88. Not Rhetorical,

    I don’t know for sure, but think it will be on the front page. At any rate, it’s on the front page of the Web site, which to me is more important anyway.

    As for jumping on it so quickly, that was mandatory for me, or else someone else (besides the American Thinker and Patterico) would have it.

    It will be interesting to see what happens at the Jan. 30 meeting. I suspect it will be well-attended.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  89. Patterico–

    The basic problem with market pricing is that it is never allowed to work. So many groups get some exemption from tiers and high prices (can’t throw granny out in the snow, now, can we?) that only a few (read: everyone that pays taxes) are affected while the rest go on their merry way.

    As long as we’re talking pipe dreams, though, how about solving the supply problem with nuke plants and home solar? But no, we’ll probably just go on with “green” solutions like the City of LA’s massive coal plants.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  90. Great stuff, Bradley. I did an update and a new post about it.

    And kudos to Joseph for getting the ball rolling.

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  91. Kudos, Bradley. I didn’t realize you were a reporter. Thanks for covering this story. While not a Californian, I despise assaults on freedom anywhere and, besides, I plan on visiting Cali again to see friends — I don’t want to be bloody uncomfortable when I’m there!

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  92. Thanks, Christoph. I mention my reportorial status from time to time. My beat is business, with a focus on technology. I was just doing a routine blog perusal when Patterico’s post grabbed my attention. Pays to be attentive.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  93. #

    Daytrader, A little side bar here. What assets do you day trade? Are you long term profitable?

    Sorry for the tangent.

    Comment by PC14 — 1/7/2008 @ 7:55 pm

    Stocks, bonds, currencies, debt , options, futures contracts and almost dozens of other obscure instruments most would not even recognize.

    Been trading for about 15 years so far have had 3 losing days. Average day somewhere above mid 5 figures to the good.

    daytrader (ea6549)

  94. Also I must note without being tacky, just noting reality, one of those loss days was 9/11 due to the step drop in the markets and major execution issues closing out positions.

    daytrader (ea6549)

  95. Daytrader, I’ve been trading for over 20 years and your performance is by far the best I’ve ever heard. Can you email me as I’d like to ask you a question? and I’m feeling the quilt about this distraction to the thread.

    seminarco7 at

    PC14 (f74534)

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