Ratepayers, consumer advocates, power suppliers score Davis’ speech

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The Associated Press

Ratepayers and consumer advocates found themselves in rare agreement Thursday with big power companies on at least one segment of California’s energy crisis – few had anything good to say about Gov. Gray Davis‘ proposals to resolve it.

The governor, in a dinner-hour address to Californians, again criticized federal regulators for failing to cap wholesale power prices as the state’s utilities went billions of dollars in debt during the past year.

But Davis, who has maintained for weeks that the crisis could be resolved without sharply increasing electricity rates, added he now believes such increases are unavoidable.

While one of the state’s largest power suppliers, Duke Energy, accused Davis of “pointing fingers or trying to create villains,” consumers complained that he wasn’t doing enough to rein in the big power brokers.

“This is not a plan, it’s a complete surrender to the energy companies and Wall Street interests that have taken over our electricity system under deregulation,” Doug Heller of the Santa Monica-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights said of Davis’ support of rate increases.

He called on one million Californians to call the governor’s office in Sacramento on Friday and simply say, “No.”

At Liberty Tobacco in San Diego, where customers gather nightly to puff cigars and watch the news, several complained that Davis’ five-minute speech was too short on specifics.

“He ought to be offering some kind of concrete aid right now,” said Ron Hawtree, 49, a mechanical engineer from San Diego.

Jack Raudy of the Renewable Energy Creditors Committee suggested that if Davis and other officials pushed to have the small generators of renewable electricity, such as the windmill and geothermal operators that he represents, paid the $1.5 billion the state’s cash-strapped utilities owe them, they could step up and help California out of its energy crisis.

“He were are sitting, with the opportunity, if we could just get our back pay, to increase the state power grid quite a bit,” he said.

And while Davis preached conservation as an answer, all those at Liberty said they have been cutting back since San Diego Gas and Electric Co. sharply raised rates last summer.

“I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do,” said Jim St. Leger, 44, a software developer from San Diego.

At a bus stop in West Los Angeles, Marvin Korngut complained Thursday night that Davis and other officials waited too long to act decisively on the crisis, predicting that will come back to haunt them.

“I don’t think Governor Davis will make it in next year’s election because of his actions with the energy crisis,” the 68-year-old retiree said.

Not everyone agreed on that point.

“I think the governor inherited the problem and we need to keep that in mind when we judge him,” said Jay Shuttleworth as he waited for relatives outside a restaurant in Old Sacramento.

“The bottom line is we’ve had it good for so long,” the 27-year-old high school history teacher said. “I don’t mind paying a rate hike.”

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