Mid-Ohio Valley residents, and, indeed, all Americans, might learn some valuable lessons from the recent storms and power outages that affected thousands of people - not the least of which is that the regional and national infrastructure is much more fragile and in need of repair than we choose to realize. "Mother Nature" is only part of the problem!
While countries in what we used to call the "Third World" (China, India, Latin America) have been busily building and improving their highways, airports, roads, bridges, and electrical systems, those systems in the United States have been steadily deteriorating via overload and overuse by citizens like you and me. Nothing lasts forever! Everything we build has an "expiration date"! Another factor, however, is the ongoing "thirty-years' war" between Wall Street investors and speculators who believe that certain corporate entities have an unlimited "right" to make unlimited profits - often at public expense - and persons who believe that maintenance of a national infrastructure is part of what President Franklin Roosevelt called "the public good." ...
In the 1920s, certain utility companies combined together to achieve a monopoly on the production of electricity. This posed problems for new customers in rural areas, or those in cities and small communities forced to pay extortionate prices for sometimes inferior services. To counter this, Congress passed the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935, which designated such items as water, natural gas, and electricity as "public utilities." While private companies continued to operate these utilities, certain regulations were instituted that protected consumers from gouging, price-fixing, and other abuses. An offshoot of the PUHC Act was the creation of the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority), a collaborative effort of both the federal government and private enterprise that produced cheaper and more efficient electricity for thousands of rural consumers ... The system worked pretty well for 60 years!
All this changed with the passage of The Energy Policy Act of 1992, enacted along with other Reagan-Bush #41 era efforts to deregulate industries like airlines, communications, and utilities. Released from regulation, electric companies began the policy of selling electricity wholesale, often to distant or even foreign markets and cutting back here at home - a practice that led to the destabilization of regional grids, and events such as the 2000 and 2005 "rolling blackouts" in California, and led to the massive power outage of Aug. 14, 2003 that blacked out a sizable portion of the northeast, including New York State, New England, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ontario, and parts of Michigan and Ohio, placing 10 million Canadians and 45 million Americans in the dark. The heat - like the situation here this summer - was intense. In some areas the power was off for about 14 hours (which might surprise some Washington County residents whose power was off for over a week). Fast forward to the present day as utility companies voluntarily shut down power plants in the Ohio Valley (and outsource jobs in the process) and falsely blame their decision on "EPA over-regulation" - yet continue their practice of selling electrical power on wholesale markets. The antiquated electrical grid system (which still utilizes items like wooden utility poles and 1940s-era condensers) is compromised even more, and "surges" and power-outages become more frequent ... Combine this with a Congress full of rightwing ideologues who spend their time (and our money) posturing about "repealing Obamacare" and obsessing on contraceptives and gay-marriage, yet refuse again and again to pass useful legislation like President Obama's JOBS Act, or the Transportation Act, both of which would initiate infrastructure projects that would create tens of thousands of jobs, and fix some of what is broken in this nation.
Have members of the "business community" forgotten that, without public-works projects like roads, bridges, highways (maintained by public-employees), a properly-regulated system of public-utilities (including electricity), government-sponsored grants and research, and (lest they forget further) public-school teachers who taught them to read and write, there would be far fewer profits for them to enjoy, far fewer customers for them to serve, and certainly no incentive for them to "create jobs"?
Government-created jobs have yet another advantage over jobs created by solely-profit-oriented concerns. Public-works jobs on local, state, or national projects can't be so easily "outsourced" to other nations by "vulture-capitalists" to create quick equity for their investors and owners! Of course, that doesn't stop Ohio's current governor from trying!
Fred O'Neill lives in Marietta.