Wednesday, September 18, 2002

From the "Well, Duuuh" files:

California Energy Crisis A Sham

State officials say California's energy crisis -- its blackouts and sky-high power prices that cost California billions -- was manufactured by key power companies that hoarded energy supplies to make more money, reports CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales.

Overall, the companies kept more than 30 percent to 50 percent of their power off the market. During some of the worst moments of the crisis, they held back even more -- anywhere from 55 to 76 percent of production -- all in an effort, whistleblowers told CBS News more than a year ago, to cut the power supply and drive up prices.

But the companies denied allegations of manipulation.

"It's preposterous. It never happened," said Duke Power Company's Tom Williams in June 2001.

And they're still denying it today.

But CBS News obtained records showing federal regulators have power plant control room audio tapes that prove traders from Williams Energy called plant operators and told them to turn off the juice. The government sealed the tapes in a secret settlement and still refuses to release them.

Now, tell me again how hard price caps wouldn't have solved this problem...

Here's what Bush said at the time:

"The California crunch really is the result of not enough power-generating plants and then not enough power to power the power of generating plants." —George W. Bush, Jan. 14, 2001"