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Off Peak

Can cream cheese bring together California lawmakers, or will the state's power crisis spread?
Fortnightly Magazine - March 15 2003

The Bagel Politic

Can cream cheese bring together California lawmakers, or will the state's power crisis spread?

At Fortnightly, we care about what you care about. And we know you care about solving the problems that bedevil the California power market. So we sent a crack investigative team to discover what the stumbling blocks to creating a vibrant, liquid, manipulation-free California market really are.

The answer surprised us. It wasn't a complete market redesign, a return to regulation, or any other of the suggestions you see bandied about in the press. No, the real problem, we discovered, was meetings. More specifically, the fact that people want to place all kinds of conditions on their attendance at meetings. Witness all the wrangling when a certain Western power trading association wants to have a meeting to discuss simple things like legislation, public relations, and politics.

"I'll only come if there's donuts."

"Some of us prefer bagels. If you serve those, count us in. Oh, and don't forget the cream cheese."

"What about coffee? I can't meet without coffee."

"Brewed coffee is so passe. We need lattes. With soy."

"Food choice is a very important issue for the industry. I will be attending."

"As far as the food issue goes, we remain committed to a fair and balanced approach to resolving this thorny problem. Any withholding or manipulation will not be tolerated!"

"The rhetoric on food is getting out of hand. We should all just calm down and see if we can't discuss the issue of donuts vs. bagels in a calmer fashion. As always, we are looking to be part of the solution. Perhaps a long-term contract with a bakery offering a good mix of bagels and donuts to meet our requirements?"

"What about apple fritters? They're more nutritious than bagels or donuts."

"If we start worrying about nutrition, customers will have to pay much higher rates for even basic food like bagels and donuts."

"I'm not sure I'm willing to pay $3.49 per apple fritter, even if it means I'll live longer."

"There needs to be room for direct transactions between the bakery and the end-use pastry eater, unregulated by the Bakery Commission."

"With the impending war, I expect the price of flour to increase significantly, and as result increase the price of baked goods. Can we consider forward contracting with a baker so that we are insulated from such volatility in the flour market?"

"Perhaps we should appoint a blue-ribbon panel to resolve the donuts vs. bagel issue."

"No, just call California Sen. Dunn. Perhaps he'll be available for this important issue! But if past performance is any measure, he'll mischaracterize the facts regarding fritters in this donut vs. bagel crisis. He'll probably blame the wheat growers for withholding arable land."

"Well, I'm pretty concerned about the supply of donuts, bagels, and fritters. I think I'll self-provide. I hope I don't have to pay a fee for that privilege."

Forget the high-priced consultants, the expensive studies, the California PUC, or the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. What the California power industry really needs