The <i>Grid Vine</i>

By Published On: May 7, 2005

April showers brought May flowers to Dr. Snarky Sparks?s examining room, and her patients carried in many other objects?many far less nice?starting with the letter ?F.? That includes fortunes, fanatics, fauna, friends, and perhaps, if we are lucky, some freedom. The annual checkup of her most-padded patients has her considering angioplasty. Some of those darn CEOs just continue to grow in girth. According to a recent fat test conducted by the Forbes laboratory, included in the top ranks of those making megabucks are the heads of Calpine, Duke, Edison International, and PG&E Corp. Sempra head Steve Baum?s 2004 salary was $13.5 million, and the scales further tipped by about $18 million in stock. Calpine?s Peter Cartwright?s salary was $10.7 million, and more padding was provided by $6 million in company stock. Duke Energy?s Paul Anderson?s salary was $6.5 million, accompanied by about $4 million in shares. Edison?s John Bryson?s salary weighs nearly $7 million, plus he?s carrying around $9.8 million in stock. PG&E new CEO Peter Darbee?s salary is $4.7 million, and he holds stock valued at $6.4 million. Snarky has tried to encourage these fellows to lighten their load because she so worries about the stress to their hearts and big toes. But alas, she has yet to get them to spread the fat around or abstain from those second helpings. A former obese patient has, however, shed megapounds. Last time I examined Enron, it broke the scales, but that all changed following a crash diet. (Please note, this doctor does not recommend famine.) Recently, Snarky got a preview of an in-depth health file on the Smartest [Fanatics] in the Room. Seeing up close in Sacramento?s Crest Theater how Jeff Skilling and Ken Lay lied through their teeth without blinking an eyelash was a reminder of why it is so important to keep a close lookout for troubling health signs. The new movie never used the phrase ?allegedly lied,? but I?ll add it here to avoid malpractice suits. One of the most interesting parts of the film was a scene in which Kenny Boy quickly stepped in to fill the shoes left by Skillings?s abrupt departure as the company headed off the the cliff. Lay tried to fool Enron workers, and they just weren?t buying it. During the Q&A with stony-faced employees, Lay was asked, ?Are you on crack?? The follow-up was, ?If you aren?t, you should be.? I suspect that some power plant employees elsewhere may have wondered whether they had been drugged recently. A large fauna squeezed into an intake tank at an L.A. power plant, according to the Associated Press. It appears a 300-pound sea lion mistook ?power plant? for ?Pier 39.? Workers did not find the procedure for surgically removing a sea lion from the plant in their operating manuals. No sluggish sea lion he, Joe Desmond slipped over from his post as energy czar to CEC chair, filling in the seat vacated by Bill Keese. Snarky had heard rumors for some time that he would land on the CEC but was not quite sure what motivated the leap. Joe moves at the speed of sound and capitalism. The agency has harbored more languid types in the past. Meanwhile, being the front man on the Frontier Line power line has won him name branding. One utility lobbyist recently rolled her eyes when commenting on the very long Western line. ?It is another Desmond,? she said. Arnie also filled the slot on the California Public Utilities Commission left empty by the unsuccessful appointment of Steve Poizner. The governor named John Bohn, a native Californian, as the fifth CPUC member. Bohn?s got quite the CV, although his background appears not to be directly related to the energy or telecommunications business. He received a law degree from Harvard and was a Fulbright Fellow at the London School of Economics. Of particular note to Snarky is Bohn?s involvement with the Council for Excellence in Government, which is a big promoter of electronic access to government. The council, for your edification, recently held a three-day conference assessing future policy issues and promoting civility and mutual respect (the governor and first lady were there too). Now isn?t that something! In addition, Snarky knows that defending freedom of information is critical to maintaining good health. Still, it continues to be a big battle to convince those with the keys to the door of that important fact. For instance, she?s spent more time than she would like trying to get electronic filings from the CPUC, which relies on pre-Internet policies to deny some open access. But back to Bohn: Since 2001, he?s been chair of a global financial advising and consulting firm, GlobalNet Venture Partners. He was cofounder of an Internet-based petrochemical trading exchange, now called Chematch, from 1997 to 2000. Wonder if he can help kick-start a green tag trading program? Bohn also was a head honcho at Moody?s Investors Service and president of the U.S. Export-Import Bank. Bohn was also special assistant to U.S. Treasury Secretary Don Regan in 1981. He worked for the giant PR firm Burson-Marsteller to ease public fears about the introduction of the Euro currency. The list for the 67-year-old Bohn goes on. According to our governor, ?The PUC needs people like John, who understand the power of technology to reduce prices and improve services.? Perhaps that means another vote for advanced metering. In his first CPUC meeting this week, Bohn recused himself from all energy issues and abstained from all other agenda items except the commission?s broadband report. Speaking of the CPUC, Snarky is so pleased that a confirmation hearing has finally been set for Dian Grueneich. She has been between a CPUC rock and a hard place while in commission limbo. Many hope she?ll start voting more independently once confirmed. While riding the uncertain LNG seas, Sound Energy Solutions has been busy winning friends and influencing foes. In addition to planning to sell its imported fuel to power plants, it also wants to pump it into vehicles from its proposed terminal in Long Beach. Cliff Gladstein, a former aide to State Senator Tom Hayden and now an environmental consultant to SES, lined up letters of support to FERC for the terminal from a wide range of businesses and public agencies, such as the Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District and a San Bernardino County public transit agency. Their common interest is in an affordable supply of natural gas to run heavy trucks and buses that must meet air-quality standards, Gladstein explained. Meanwhile, as state officials fretted about how the federal energy bill could strip state LNG permitting authority, gas exporters met recently under the banner of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum in Trinidad and Tobago. Some have compared the forum to OPEC, but interest was reportedly lower than in past years, with only a few nations attending and Russia dropping its level of participation to observer status. Russia?s move came right after Gazprom penned an agreement to supply Sempra Energy LNG terminals in Baja California and along the Gulf of Mexico. Really racking up foes is Congress member Richard Pombo, running roughshod over regulations that have even a hint of environmental protection, and more so when it affects his family?s pocketbook. Staffers of Mr. Pombo, head of the House committee with jurisdiction over the Interior Department, pushed to knock out environmental protections to minimize the slicing and dicing of birds in windmills. And wouldn?t you know it, Mr. Pombo?s parents rent out their Altamont Pass property to wind farmers and have reaped hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Stockton politician also increased the enmity of coast-loving citizens when his 2003 plan to void the ban on offshore drilling reared its ugly head again. Provisions smelling like ones in his State Enhanced Authority for Coastal and Offshore Resources Act were included in a bill aimed at increasing the production of natural gas.

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