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Friday, October 9, 2009

The Guardian's Latest Public Power Lie

Posted By on Fri, Oct 9, 2009 at 2:41 PM

click to enlarge Windmills aren't the only things spinning
  • Windmills aren't the only things spinning
The gears of the Ministry of Correct Progressive Thought could be seen clanking into action once again this week on the editorial pages of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, where that newspaper's opinion purveyors tried to convince readers that San Francisco should be pushing ahead full-bore with a public power scheme known as community choice aggregation, or CCA.

The argument in itself is a fair one. CCA, known in its local iteration as CleanPowerSF, would advance some widely held local energy priorities, such as greener power, while making the city less reliant on PG&E -- which for a century has held San Francisco in the vise-grip of an electricity monopoly. Yet once again, the Guardian has chosen to play its readers false when it comes to the hard facts on CCA and public power.

The big lie in this week's editorial concerns the cost of CleanPowerSF. Most reasonable people would expect that electricity from cleaner and more local sources would come at a premium, and independent analysts have concluded that this will certainly be the case with CCA. As we explained in a January cover story, the city controller's office estimates that CCA would drive up city residents' power bills by 24 percent -- and predicts that this burden would fall disproportionately on the city's poorest residents.

No word of that cost increase in the Guardian editorial. On the contrary, that paper's editors, relying on their own calculations, speak of CCA resulting in "price breaks" and a "reduced cost" of electricity.

Just as significantly, the editorial lies by omission. As the Guardian notes, PG&E is now trying to nip CCA in the

bud with a statewide ballot measure requiring a two-thirds local vote

to enact the program. But nowhere is it mentioned that CCA is already facing serious problems in its own right. As we reported here less than two weeks ago, the city officials tasked with implementing CleanPowerSF are asking permission to back off its aggressive goals for clean and local energy.

Mike Campbell, the Public Utilities Commission official directing the program, said he doubts a single bidder would apply for the contract based on the city's current requirements. Yet Ross Mirkarimi, the greatest public power advocate on the Board of Supervisors, said he worries that watering down CCA's goals could lead to a program "almost completely unrecognizable" compared to what advocates had intended.

Whatever your stance on CCA, these are valid concerns and important news developments. Just don't expect to read about them in the Guardian, which once again has chosen to ignore facts marshaled by those on the other side of the political divide.

Image   |   Courtesy SFPUC

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Peter Jamison

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