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The Daily News of Los Angeles

TIMES of crisis like California’s current energy shortages test our leaders’ skill to sail the ship of state safely through the storm.

Concerns are rising that the good ship California will founder as the leadership in Sacramento continues to be preoccupied with the politics of the power crisis rather than navigating a clear and effective course.

Gov. Gray Davis bears the bulk of the responsibility. In the absence of an effective conservation policy, he has ordered law enforcement officers throughout California to become “power police.”

Their job will be to make sure that shopping malls and car dealerships are making a “a good faith effort” to cut down nighttime lighting by half.

Anyone found using too much juice faces fines of up to $1,000 a day.

How the officers will distinguish a good-faith effort from a bad one is anyone’s guess. Police officials say they are neither trained for the task, nor do they have the staff or time to do it in more than a haphazard way.

As Harvey Rosenfield, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, put it, the plan won’t work “because there aren’t enough cops and there are too many light bulbs.”

Californians will only start reducing their power consumption when they feel the difference in their pocketbooks. If the state raised the price of all excess power use – beyond what families and businesses truly need – real conservation would soon follow.

But with one eye always watching the polls, Davis doesn’t dare suggest anything that might sound like a rate hike.

So he steers a treacherous course, desperately hoping that the power cops will bail him out.

It’s a loony plan that won’t save enough power to avoid serious shortages in the heat of summer. Stronger measures and much stronger leadership are needed.

Consumer Watchdog
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