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Consumers pay the price for energy crunch

by JESSIE MULDOON | July 20, 2001 | Page 2

SAN FRANCISCO--Customers of Pacific Gas & Electricity (PG&E) are fearing the arrival of their July electricity bills. While the state's energy crunch has eased some, they'll still be hit with a rate increase of up to 36 percent.

Consumers are still paying the price for California's electricity crisis--even though everyone now admits that profit-hungry power producers caused it.

In July, the chief judge of the federal government's energy regulatory agency agreed with California's plea for a rebate from the energy companies that manipulated prices. But the judge limited the rebate to $1 billion–far less than the nearly $9 billion that California asked for. And even that amount might not get to consumers--since the power producers are owed more than $1 billion.

Gov. Gray Davis says that he'll fight for a just settlement. But no one should trust "Give it away Gray," as he's known to his many critics.

For example, three new power plants have gone online in California this summer, to much fanfare. But the companies that run these plants got a sweetheart deal–long-term contracts to sell power to the state at a fixed rate of $70 per megawatt hour.

That sounds good next to the $3,800 per megawatt hour that Duke Energy was able to charge at the height of the crisis. But it's still double the average $35 per megawatt hour from before the crisis.

California's energy crisis is far from over–because power bosses are far from finished with making superprofits off consumers.

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