For my first post I'll recount what's going on with my home state of Vermont.
You know, we used to have a real nice arrangement up here when I was a kid. People were largely free to find their own way and do their own thing as long as they didn't annoy the neighbors too much. Then, in the 60's the liberals down in Mass and NY discovered our "pastoral paradise" and began flooding up here to escape the rat race in the big cities.
Of course, being liberals they took one look at how we conducted our affairs and immediately decided we "hicks" didn't know what we were doing. Further, they assigned to themselves the authority to correct our mistakes, whether we wanted them "fixed" or not; regardless of if they were even mistakes in the first place. Being largely a conservative populace and traditional, decent folks, we allowed them to infiltrate our local and state governments. They seemed sincere, and besides, true conservatives don't have that much interest in regulating their neighbors, telling them what they can/can't do.
Decades later, the progressives are so entrenched that we may never return to common sense in governance in my lifetime. This is the latest in the advancement of the Liberal/Progressive "we know what's best" agenda:
The further encroachment of government and bureaucracy on our private lives and personal liberties has taken it's next big step. The so-called “Smart Grid” system for efficient management of our electrical usage has taken the next step with the installation of “Smart Meters” in the Burlington area, with the intention of installation proceeding state wide over the next few years.
For those who don't already know, “Smart Meters” are replacements for the standard mechanical dial-type electrical meters we already have on our homes and power poles. Currently, workers from the utility companies make a circuit of a service area and note the readings of the meters, calculate our energy usage for the previous month and send us our billing statement. With these new meters, there will be no need for the workers to stop and read the meter. These meters will send the information wirelessly to the technician at the roadside, or to a central data site. These meters will also monitor your energy usage, supposedly to give businesses and individuals “the information they need to reduce their energy usage and their costs”.
The idea is that the combination of “Smart Meters” and the “Smart Grid” will enable electricity providers to more efficiently manage delivery and avoid the risk of grid failure (blackouts and brownouts) during high-demand periods. Sounds good so far, right?
Here's the part that has worms crawling out of it. This same technology will also allow utilities and different departments of state government access to records of your personal lives; how much power you use & when, potentially giving them the ability to limit your usage in the name of the public good.
Here's how it would work: Let's say the Dept. of Natural Resources or the PSB has adopted standards for what is considered “sustainable” energy use. The ability to monitor individuals' energy usage will allow them to isolate those who are using more than their “fair share”. The first knowledge you would have of such monitoring would be the “friendly reminder” you receive in the mail from the State alerting you to the situation: “Dear <your name here>, Our records indicate that your energy usage is much higher than the average for your area. As part of our on-going effort to ensure the availability of power for all Vermonters, and to help you manage your energy usage and reduce your costs, we have included a list of several steps you can take to reduce your consumption of energy and reduce your utility bills. Following these steps will help us ensure that we can continue to meet the power needs of all. Thank you for your cooperation. Signed, <your friendly government bureaucrat>”.
Time goes on. You decide for yourself that you want to keep your home at a comfortable 68 in August. You want to be comfortable and besides, it's your money and you can afford it, right? This would lead to a second, likely much less friendly notice from your friends in government requiring you to comply with their energy conservation mandates. After all, you don't have the right to use more power than your neighbors. THEY are cooperating; THEY are doing their part to ensure that everyone else has electricity; THEY aren't being selfish and greedy. You are given a set deadline by which time you are to bring your consumption with-in the proscribed guidelines.
Well, now. You aren't going to stand for this. You come from a long line of native-born Vermonters. No one has the right to decide for you what you can and can not buy with your own money, or how well you are to be allowed to live, or how comfortable you can be in your own home. We're not in the middle of WWII. There's not been any passage of a rationing law.
You decide: “Here's mud in your eye! It's my life and my home and I'll live as well as I want and can afford.” You don't send this response (you're not a complete idiot). You simply make the decision to ignore the illegal demands of the state.
Then a few weeks later a curious thing happens. Sometime around the end of the 3rd week of the month, your power goes out! You contact your utility company and, after getting the runaround for several minutes, it is finally admitted that the decision to cut you off was made at the order of the government (the utility itself doesn't mind how much energy you use, as long as you pay your bill) in response to your refusal to abide by their earlier demands.(A second alternative to the above is that the State will impose a fee for "over consumption" similar to the fee they want to impose on Vermont Yankee. This revenue wouldn't go to the utility, it would go into the same "green energy" fund the extorted monies from VY ends up in, to help pay for even more government regulation and "green initiatives" to offset the social impact of greedy energy hogs like yourself. Actually, given the State's hunger for money and power, this alternative seems the more likely of the two).
You can avoid this invasion (for a while) by paying a fee in order to be “allowed” to keep your mechanical meter. Doesn't sound so good now, does it?
On a macro level, control of the grid without providing for more electricity generation or increased capacity will inevitably lead to rationing in other ways. Let's say it's July/August and energy usage is forecast to be exceptionally heavy. In order to prevent problems from occurring the government (through the utility) needs to prioritize energy availability and usage, most likely giving greater weight to population and industrial centers and to public infrastructure. To accomplish this they would have to restrict energy availability to the more rural and remote areas in favor of “essential needs”. Anyone care to wager on which side of the equation we in the Kingdom would find ourselves? Also, don't forget that when the merger deal and sale of Vermont's two biggest utilities to a Canadian consortium goes through (and it will go through) any influence of localities will have been eliminated. Yell and scream all you want, our market is too small to matter when balanced against the much bigger markets of Boston, NYC, and other metro areas.
Some of you may decide to go “off grid” and install alternative personal energy generation stations such as solar and wind. If you've got the cash, do it fast. I have no doubt that if it becomes a big enough issue, the State will quickly issue regulations requiring that any such personal power generation stations be tied into the grid, which will give them the ability to not just regulate your energy usage, but to also confiscate some of the power you generate when the State has “need” of it.
This isn't just a concern with my little state of Vermont. The "smart grid" electricity management systems are being promoted and installed nation wide. Along with the concurrent push for "Smart Growth" urban/suburban/residential development policies (see: Agenda 21), this all seems to me an ill omen for the future of individual liberty and property rights.
It won't happen all at once, or even in the space of a year or two, but don't doubt that “Big Brother” is beginning to flex his muscles. Get back to me if 5 or 10yrs and tell me how wrong I was.