As every 2-year old learns, \u201cneeding\u201d something is much more persuasive than merely \u201cwanting\u201d something. Almost everyone in the electricity business thinks that more high voltage transmission lines are \u201cneeded.\u201d Congress even went so far as to decree recently that if a new power line is \u201cneeded\u201d and the locals refuse to build it, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has the authority to order it built over local objections. But who are the parents that decide whether a new power line is really \u201cneeded\u201d rather than merely \u201cwanted\u201d? The FERC? The California Public Utilities Commission? The California Energy Commission? The California Independent System Operator? All of these agencies? And on what basis is the decision made? Not long ago the grid operator and the CPUC agreed that California \u201cneeded\u201d another power line to bring more electricity from the Palo Verde hub in Arizona to Southern California. However, the Arizona Corporation Commission--the CPUC\u2019s counterpart--declared unanimously that California merely \u201cwanted\u201d the line in order to siphon off cheap power from their state and denied the project. The grid operator is now considering trying to convince FERC that California \u201cneeds\u201d Palo Verde 2. FERC--now with three Western Commissioners on its board--knows that any decision it makes will trigger a tantrum from one of the kids and understandably doesn\u2019t want to have to decide which one to satisfy. On the Sunrise Powerlink high voltage line planned by San Diego Gas & Electric, even the grid operator and the CPUC can\u2019t agree. The San Diego utility wants to build a second power line to import more power from Imperial County. After its review, the grid operator agreed with SDG&E that the line is \u201cneeded.\u201d \u201cNot so fast,\u201d said the CPUC, \u201cCalifornia Environmental Quality Act gives the CPUC the last word on whether Sunrise is \u2018needed\u2019 or merely \u2018wanted,\u2019 as opponents of the line claim.\u201d A CPUC decision is pending. The grid operator is now upset with the CPUC, and SDG&E doesn\u2019t know if it will get its candy or not. Grandpa FERC may again be asked to referee the family squabble. When you stop and think about it, whether something is needed or not depends on what the options are. If you must pound a nail, then you need a hammer. But must the nail be pounded? Perhaps the wood should be fastened with glue or screws instead of nails. If you assume that California isn\u2019t going to build enough power plants, then perhaps it \u201cneeds\u201d Palo Verde 2. If enough local generation isn\u2019t built in San Diego, then perhaps Sunrise is \u201cneeded.\u201d The decisions hinge on the assumptions. The ultimate problem is that the parents haven\u2019t decided between themselves what they want for the children\u2019s future. Do they want San Diego to grow up dependent on imported power or not? Until the grid operator and the CPUC reach agreement on San Diego\u2019s future, the kid will continue to whine about \u201cneeding\u201d Sunrise. Until California and Arizona agree on California\u2019s dependence on imported power, the interstate squabble will continue. Electricity from natural gas can be generated almost anywhere. All that is required is a gas pipeline to the power plant and neighbors that don\u2019t complain too much about the pollution. Underground gas pipelines aren\u2019t nearly as controversial as overhead 500 kV power lines. Unfortunately, energy from other sources to make electricity isn\u2019t as portable as gas. Coal is heavy lumpy stuff that has to be moved by rail and creates a lot of pollution when burned. If you want electricity from coal, you \u201cneed\u201d power lines to deliver it. Electricity from renewable energy resources is even more \u201clocationally constrained\u201d (new buzzwords in the industry jargon.) Hydroelectricity must be generated where there is water and a place for a dam. If you decide to depend on hydro, you \u201cneed\u201d power lines from the dams to the cities, like the lines California started building a century ago. If you decide that global warming really is a threat and solar power is one of the solutions, you \u2018need\u2019 power lines from the sunny deserts to the cities. Unfortunately, California\u2019s electricity parents--the grid operator, CPUC, and Energy Commission--haven\u2019t agreed on what the state\u2019s electricity future will be. It should therefore come as no surprise that the kids whine first to the parent most likely to give them what they \u201cneed\u201d and that nasty parental disagreements ensue. Over the last decade or so, the conventional advice to parents has been to avoid the necessity for future planning altogether by relying on the \u201cmarket,\u201d as if no one cared about power lines, pollution, or global warming. Not surprisingly, the result has been worse than turning a bunch of bratty kids loose in the mall. If the last ten years have taught us anything, it\u2019s that markets are useful only when you\u2019ve decided what you want to buy. As family guidance counselor, my analysis is that the parents have some growing up to do themselves. The perennial transmission squabbles and whining will continue until the parents get their own act together and agree on the state\u2019s electricity future. As all of us parents know, this is not easy. Nevertheless, when it comes to \u201cneeding\u201d new power lines, parental discretion is required. And no TV until the homework is done.