NATION E-mail urges a voluntary blackout

A power shortage in Ohio is unlikely, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio says.
Should Ohioans care about power shortages in California -- or is it just the West Coast's problem to deal with?
Are the shortages occurring because Californians use too much energy? Or could the same thing happen here?
National concern or not, an anonymous e-mail on the Internet is encouraging everyone to get involved in a voluntary blackout from 7 to 10 tonight "as an alternative to George W. Bush's energy policies and lack of emphasis on efficiency, conservation and alternative fuels.
"It's a simple protest and a symbolic act," says the e-mail, which has popped up in many computer mailboxes.
The e-mail says there are conservation and high-efficiency technologies available that would pay for themselves in five years if implemented.
Will likely take part: "Since I'm off Thursday, I'll probably do it," said Linda Romeo of Poland. She received the e-mail from a friend in Pittsburgh and forwarded it to about 800 people. "My relatives live in LA, so it affects them. Plus, one friend I sent it to is a big environmentalist.
"I just don't think people in this area understand. 'Oh, the lights go out. Big deal.' I think people are spoiled, and they take everything for granted."
PUCO's comments: Ohio deregulated its electric utilities Jan. 1, so a power shortage could happen, though it's not likely, said a spokeswoman for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.
"At this time, we're not forecasting that something like that could happen," the PUCO's Shana Gerber said. "Right now, Ohio is comfortable with our expected electric generation and transmission systems. However, it's difficult to predict what's going to happen in the electric market.
"Nothing is guaranteed, but the outlook is good."
When California deregulated in 1996, utility companies sold off their power plants. These new suppliers didn't increase their storage capacity because lower supply and higher demand means higher prices and more profit. In turn, California's electric prices tripled in less than two years and a shortage ensued, and the deregulation is being blamed for the problems.
What's different: But Gerber said there are several differences between the deregulations in California and Ohio, which was intended to give customers a choice in who supplies their power and remove the dreaded "monopoly."
In addition, she said, regardless of whether problems occur in Ohio, conservation is always an option, and it saves money.
Teraysa Nadasky of Berlin Center said she lives in the country and just got power last week, but she plans to conserve to save money.
"If you run two things at once, you use more power and it costs more," she said. "I don't run the washer with the dryer or the iron with the dryer. I don't think I use a lot of power, and I wouldn't have a problem cutting back if I had to."
But Bernie Mazerik of Poland isn't buying into the hype or following the advice of the e-mail. She said she agreed with Bush's policies and believes finding more power is the answer to the problem.
"I think these things are all sensational," she said. "They're just to get attention."

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