Like a long-time lover with all the irritating quirks and genuine charm, the energy industry is something you can?t live with and can?t live without. It has the allure of power?as in its sway over society. It is rich. Even when it?s crying poor, energy still counts for tens of billions of dollars in California. It can be hot when it?s in the mood for some solar and geothermal activity. It can whisper dirty little secrets of coal and nuclear. And it keeps you toasty on those nippy nights. I want to whip the metaphor into a frenzy and say that, um, the industry is scared of commitment, but I will restrain myself. I will say, however, that it is just plain reticent. OK, so this is not the year for a big diamond ring. ?I have never seen the industry so scared,? an executive told me. Enron?s flameout. PG&E?s bankruptcy. Merchant generators hemorrhaging red ink. Nasty allegations from politicians and consumers. Utilities trying to wheedle back into cost-of-service with as few regulations as possible. Yet California remains a good place to do energy business. While most wholesale generators are uncomfortable, at best, with their bottom lines, it?s not the California part of the business that?s really steaming them. Most were burned in many different ways during the energy crisis, and the state wanted to dump merchant generators like so many heartless gigolos. Although the relationship has gone through the ringer, it?s worth kissing and making up. And ?fessing up and freshening up. Here, the energy industry is in a no-lose situation. We?re not talking about an iffy industry that?s manufacturing cutesy, stuffed toys that are as disposable as last year?s candy. It?s a commodity that society cannot live without. Think of the industry?s rapprochement with the golden-haired state much like pleasing a valentine. OK, maybe you don?t want to wear that stiff tux, but your sweetie thinks you look adorable in it and you get your grumpy self squeezed into it in order to please. You make a few concessions. You spend a little money on pretty stuff. So you end up in a long-term relationship that you can live with?because, practically speaking, you can?t and don?t want to live without each other. Pleasing the different interest groups calls for the same skills used in keeping a good relationship. You can make investors happy by keeping within your budgets. They do not want to hear that you?ve lavished bonuses on well-endowed colleagues when they?ve been standing by your side all these years wearing cloth coats. Investors can also be wooed by lowering their perception of risk. The old cranky coal plant may put out on a regular basis, and they?re used to the sooty predictability, but the sweet young trophy solar array might be less trouble, have more longevity, and be a social asset. You can make politicians happy by getting them reelected?not so much by pitching in with generous contributions, although that never seems to hurt, but by making it easy for them. Most politicians hate the business because it?s too complicated. Show them a way to please voters with action on renewables. Make customer relations (billing, customer service, and even charity) show that consumers are getting something for their money. Don?t just plop a big dirty power plant down on the neighborhood?make nice, make it as clean and quiet as possible, and build a new school while you?re at it. Make regulators happy by making them feel important. Let them be involved with your life. Don?t redact your bankbook; they?ll think you?re hiding an illicit affair. Invite them into your workshop?they probably won?t want to get all greasy and won?t understand much of the technical terminology, but the gesture would score you points. Environmentalists aren?t easily seduced, but you can get a lot of mileage out of honest effort. They?re a somewhat fickle lot?give ?em wind power and they complain about dead birds; give ?em geothermal and they complain that it ruins historical values. In California, you need environmentalists like you need motherhood and apple pie in most of the rest of the U.S. If you?re just not up to a grand gesture like mounting photovoltaics on your rooftops, at least offer dry cooling instead of making fish chowder out of the local marine life. Push that LNG terminal out offshore a few miles. And stay away from that other paramour, coal?it?s just a floozy in cheap underwear. And remember this Valentine?s Day, while you might have to work on the relationships part, the industry still has it pretty good. Whining is not sexy; wining and dining is.