Banana republics got their appellation during the 1920s, when dictators ruling countries like Honduras and Guatemala made decisions on the say-so of banana growing companies, strictly for the profit of those companies – and usually at the expense of the local citizenry.
Now it is the California Public Utilities Commission that’s threatening to make a major area of state policy-making into a new variety of banana republic. For in decision after decision since former utility company chieftain Michael Peevey took over as its president in 2002, the commission has taken care of big utilities and power producers at the expense of ordinary citizens, called “ratepayers” in utility parlance.
One odious example is the PUC’s order forcing customers to pay most of the bill for fixing the pipelines of California’s biggest natural gas company, hopefully ensuring there are no replays of the 2010 explosion that killed eight persons in San Bruno – even though Pacific Gas & Electric Co. took “responsibility” for the blast.
Another was the decision to let a Spanish company build the 250-megawatt Mojave Solar power project near Barstow – far outside PG&E’s service area – to provide electricity for that company. At the hearing approving this project, strongly backed by Peevey, commissioners openly asserted that Mojave Solar electricity will cost at least double the price of kilowatts from gas-fired plants. PG&E will also profit: Money from its customers will build transmission lines to carry that energy to existing lines in the San Joaquin Valley, with PG&E guaranteed profits of about 12 percent per year for 40 years on whatever those lines cost...