SmartMeters: Who has the power?

By Howard Glasser

If you’re waiting for somebody else to do something about this, don’t hold your breath. Meanwhile we’re all being led like sheep to the slaughter while being portrayed by the industry that would commit genocide as a fringe group of misguided, uninformed, conspiracy theorist, tin hat lunatics that also believe in alien abductions. Smart Grid Industry trade publications say that “The proliferation of anti-SmartMeter citizen groups is a direct result of the lack of community outreach by the utilities in the smart meter rollout.” They add, “Utility companies need to make their case for SmartMeters to the public and they need to hone their PR skills.”

We’re being treated like uneducated idiots. Worse yet, we’re being ignored because this crime’s being committed in broad daylight while we watch and do nothing and PG&E and the CPUC are confident they’ve got local government’s hands tied and the ratepayers right where they want them in their pocket.

Now’s not the time to give up and lay down because they’re just getting started. This deal was made in back rooms and a long time before you knew about it and there’s a lot of catching up to do. It took a lot of time to plan something this big.

It involved the cooperation of utility companies and regulatory commissions and buy in from every level of government both here and abroad. It crossed party lines and international boundaries. An alliance was formed, stakeholders were rallied, meetings were held, an agenda was issued, lobbying groups were activated, campaigns financed, politicians elected, promises made, t’s crossed, votes cast, lips zipped, bills passed, capital raised, wheels put in motion, science bought, marketing commissioned, brochures printed and then one day as if it all happened overnight while we slumbered, global deployment was under way.

This isn’t a new story. In matters where government and business have a great deal of money at stake, they’re going to protect their investment and their interests will not necessarily be yours. If there’s enough money to be made, the entities that control world markets will stop at nothing to achieve their goals and if they’re caught doing wrong, the penalty is always worth the price.

“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.” Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1854

Corporations aren’t in business to be nice. They exist to return a profit to their investors. None of this should come as a surprise. What isn’t about money these days? If it’s not about making money, it’s about lobbying money or laundering money or hush money or payoffs or bailouts or rip-offs or rate hikes. Without a financial incentive, industry doesn’t care and the policy makers won’t listen.

It’s not and never has been about getting government and corporations to respond for moral or ethical reasons or even because they’ve been backed in to a legal corner. It doesn’t matter what corner they’ve been backed in to, they have enough money to buy themselves out and enough political muscle to win.

SmartMeters are not about going green or conserving energy or reducing greenhouse gas emissions or saving polar bears. It’s about how our money finds its way in to a utility company’s pockets.  The utility companies aren’t doing this for your health or for the environment.

This isn’t about Green Power but the power that’s wielded over a citizenry stripped of its rights and that the CPUC would see buried to meet industry deadlines and increase shareholder returns while leaving us in the rubble of PG&E’s twisted machinations. It is and always has been about the money. It’s about having enough money to turn big money into mega money because as anyone with great wealth can tell you, you can’t ever possibly have enough money.

This isn’t a game for amateurs and the players are not easily identified. It’s not like they’re wearing jerseys that say, I’m the quarterback. They’re well-protected. You could be standing right in front of them and not know it. You may have even voted for them. They have speech writers. They have people who run around after them with erasers when they falter. They have marketing agencies and makeup artists. They’re packaged and sold like commodities and even when they’re in plain sight, we’d never guess what they’re up to.

Forty-seven years ago, a voice stepped forth out of the crowd and uttered these words: “There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!” Mario Savio, University of California at Berkeley, Dec. 2, 1964.

Who will step from the crowd now and lead us forward and who will stand with them? If you still believe in America and you want change, you’ll have to stand up for it and it’s going to take more than letters and a handful of people on the courthouse steps. It’s going to take numbers too big to ignore. Organize and mobilize or lose the chance to get back your country.

Howard Glasser,  Kelseyville

Original article “Smart Meters: Who has the power ” was published in the Lake County Record Bee on 5/31/2011

2 thoughts on “SmartMeters: Who has the power?”

  1. Thank you Mr. Glaser for your clarity and how the “power structure” strategizes. I keep hearing old Ben Franklin’s words in my head, We have a representative democracy, but the price will be eternal vigilance. Eternity is now so lets continue our vigilance until every human being on earth has his or her basic human needs met. Only then will war end. Alan

  2. Here’s an action people can take.
    NPR’s Science Friday program had a segment today on the smart grid
    titled “Building A Better Electric Grid”, which gives away the bias.
    All 3 guests were with businesses making money from the smart grid.

    One of them with OPower.com bragged they “try to get as much information as they
    can” on customers, such as county assessor data, to combine with the complete
    smartmeter data they get from utilities, on which they do analytics to
    figure out what appliances customers have and how they’re using them, and
    “under cover of the utility send messages to customers”. When asked a softball
    question about privacy he said “people are realistic that data is out there”,
    “utilities need to provide a new level of service in the information age”, his
    company will be serving 10 million customers by the end of the year, and not a
    single customer signed up to get the messages they send out. Nobody commented
    on the contradiction between the last two statements, nor the contradiction with
    another guest’s statement that the smart grid is about giving customers choices.
    Nobody asked what other uses this company may make of the data, on which
    there’s the potential to make lots more money (note Google makes $billions this
    way). Their product overview webpage says they use all communication channels
    including email, but doesn’t say how they get people’s email addresses.
    Their targetted messaging webpage says they will not suggest costly options to
    low-income customers but doesn’t say how they get their income.

    I’m all in favor of the goal of conserving energy and providing consumers
    info to do that, but there’s something a bit amiss about redefining that to
    mean treating customers as targets to be invaded and spammed and pushed to
    sign up for programs that benefit the utility, rather than empowering
    citizens to be in control of their lives (and be in control of information
    about them), and make decisions based on criteria of their choosing.

    While the show focussed mostly on the smart grid rather than meters,
    when a caller raised the issue of EMF sensitivity to the meters the guests
    dismissed it with “experts say there is no major health effect”, “the levels are
    lower than cellphones”, “people dont like change”, “fear of the unknown”, etc.

    I thought the program’s website http://www.sciencefriday.com used to have a
    way for people to post comments on the website but I don’t see that now; the
    contact page has their email and phone. It wouldn’t hurt to call on them to
    air the other side of the story, especially if there are specific people who
    can be suggested that are knowledgable, verbally articulate, and willing to
    speak on the show. As of 2004 it had 1.5 million listeners.

    Rebuttals to some of the points proponents make can be found at
    http://bluegreenbytes.com/w/emfsmart

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