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Got lights?

My computer just came back on. We were going to have work anyway because they have a generator.

The Real PC
Friday, August 15, 2003

Forgive my ignorance.
How long has new york been without power? All of it? No power at all?
wow.

An Aussie Chick
Friday, August 15, 2003

Toronto lost a lot of power. Everyone walked home. We lost all transportation and the radio personalities were recommending beer-with-friends over traffic-jam-from-hell. Lots of people downtown work in Greater Toronto Area (30-1hr drive) and I can't imagine how they got home.

I went to try and find a mini gas stove but they were already sold out. Your average icecream is now whipped cream. Most stores, especially large stores, including gas stations, had to shut down because they can't do jack with their Point-Of-Sale dependent on electricity. Most mom and pops made a killing in sales yesterday because they could deal in cash with a little calculator. Even the ATMs are a problem, most of my coworkers are now scrambling (like the rest of the Toronto folks) to get some $$$.

The worst real life story I witness yesterday was some little mom and pop had their food delivered today. Their large supply of Korean perishables was stuck in customs according to the distributor. But "miraculously" the supply is delivered a few hours after the black out. Guess the distributors cleared the red tape in a hurry. *smirk* Without a fridge to put the food in, that little store is f*cked (and stuck with the bill).

Li-fan Chen
Friday, August 15, 2003

And that, right there, is the problem of applying "free market forces" to utility companies - they never get stuck with the bill for the chaos they cause.

If ConEd had to pay for the damage done during that outage, you bet they'd fix their power grid in a hurry - and make sure stuff like that is less likely to happen.

Groby
Friday, August 15, 2003

A superpower with a Third World electricity grid... Still, at least it's not (gasp!) state-run.

Superboy
Friday, August 15, 2003

Groby - how is this a "free market" problem? You'll have to explain how a state-run power grid would have to pay for the damage they caused, or why they should even care.

If power was truly competitive, then the first power company that dropped the load like this would come back up to phones ringing off the hook to cancel service - *that* is how the free market punishes incompetence.

(which see: Joel's comments about ease of switching and switching back to encourage people using your product)

Philo

Philo
Friday, August 15, 2003

Philo -

And having 3 redundant power suppliers for every Watt used would be an efficient allocation of resources how? Some industries are run better by monopolies. No one has 3 different sets of power lines running into their house so they pick and choose where they get their juice from.

As an aside on privatization, how many shareholders have the technical experience to determine if the power co.'s failure models are adequate? And who among them has the legal standing to act on it? I certainly don't know.

Devil's Advocate
Friday, August 15, 2003

If you have three power suppliers from which to choose, you can bet the price would be cheaper and that all three of them would not go out simultaneously.

runtime
Friday, August 15, 2003

It's definitely an effiecient allocation of resources if it costs less than the total cost of a major power outage every 30 - 40 years.

John Wilson
Friday, August 15, 2003

There's a significant difference between the power generators (where having multiple suppliers is a good thing) and the power transmission grid (where having a monopoly is the best way).

It's like the difference between a bus company and a highway. You can pick the bus you want, but they all use the same roads.

The electrical power grid is the single largest, most complex machine ever built. These things are extremely annoying, but personally I'm amazed they only happen every 20-30 years rather than daily. I'm not saying that we shouldn't try to make sure it doesn't happen again, but useless flailing about free market economies don't help anything.

Chris Tavares
Friday, August 15, 2003

Philo -

This is a "free market" problem, not a problem of the free market :)

In other words, sarcasm got totally lost. I'm referring to the common US attitude of saying that the free market fixes all your woes, and then exempting the major competitors from these rules.

If we really had a free market, the power outage would not have happened in the first place - companies actually would realize that it's costlier to keep medieval technology around and risking a major outage, than fixing things.

As it is right now, there will be a huge outcry for an update to the power grid. In turn, the power companies will complain that that's too expensive, and the government will "bail them out", as it is so fond of doing.

And the people paying the cost of this are the ones who already got hit by the cost of the outage, not the ones who are responsible for it in the first place.

So, either make the power grid state run, or let the free market do its work. Don't have the "free market" suck up the earnings and have the government  pay for the losses.

Groby
Friday, August 15, 2003

Groby,

Supposing the power company were state run...How would that have made things different?

State run power companies would still fight for funding and likely would never get as much as they wanted or even needed.

It's highly unlikely they would be any more efficient.

The taxpayer is still footing the bill.

And when the whole thing blows up, the taxpayers will end up footing the bill for that, too.

Get Over Yourself.
Friday, August 15, 2003

Philo: Power isn't competative.  There's a high barrier to entry in the market, relatively few energy providers, high pressure to consolidate, and a very inelastic consumer demand.  In short, all the elements necessary for price-fixing and undersupply problems.

Alyosha`
Friday, August 15, 2003

A good thing nobody is thinking of outsourcing to New York. All these unreliable infrastucture problems you don't get in good ol' India :)

----"No one has 3 different sets of power lines running into their house so they pick and choose where they get their juice from. "----

Actually, they do, or did when I was last there, in Beiruit. You needed the three to have power twenty hours out of twenty-four.

Stephen Jones
Saturday, August 16, 2003

GetOver -

If they /were/ state-run, at least we'd be honest about who's paying the cost. The way things are right now, management at the power company makes a pretty dime and the public pays the cost of any problem.

In other words, it already is state-run - but only on the loss side.

Hardly the ideal solution now, is it?

Groby
Saturday, August 16, 2003

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