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SOUND OFF: Of utility rate hikes, opinions and condors — not all in the same question

20210517-bc-condors

California condors "50" and "24" jockey for more wing room at their home at the CALM Zoo on Alfred Harrell Highway. The California condor is the largest flying bird in North America with a wingspan of 9½ feet. California condor populations are rising, thanks to growing adoption of lead-free ammunition.

Reader: My opinion on your article about PG&E rate hikes ("Electric utilities try for smooth customer experience during transition to variable rates," May 16): I believe that an "international expert" on rate hikes does not impress. Mentioning percentages without a real base is deceptive. It would have been better to say that the true rate increase would be a TOU 4th tier fixed from 4 to 9 p.m. and talk about percentages and rate increases, and then explain the way to benefit from the rate increase is with solar panels, or any other way you can invent.

Who said that there is the option to opt out? The CPUC has already given the go-ahead to start in areas around LA county (SCE). There does not seem to be an option to opt out.

Now, explain how anyone other than the utilities is going to benefit. Also, explain how the poor are going to be able to pay the new rate.

Include, if you will, how the CPUC is trying to benefit the ratepayers. This seems to be a utilities bonanza and a political program.

It is apparent that this is a big price gouging program. Where's our CPUC protectors? No wonder people are leaving California.

This program does not benefit me.

— Leslie Nelson, Bakersfield

Peterson: I asked Business Editor John Cox to field your question, Leslie, as he was the reporter on this story and is much more knowledgeable on this topic than I am.

Here's what he had to say:

First of all, thanks for reading The Californian. We could have presented the story's figures in any number of ways. I chose percentages because they're more easily understood, concise and compared across utilities — plus, the relative difference between peak and off-peak prices is really the heart of the matter.

To address your assertion about the lack of an opt-out option, all I can say is that representatives of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and Southern California Edison assured me their customers are free to decline to participate in time-of-use pricing.

Your questions about who benefits brings up a more fundamental matter that maybe I should have dedicated more ink to. Not only does it cost utilities more money to buy electricity during hours of peak demand, but their failure to reduce that load increases risks of rolling blackouts as supply struggles to keep pace. That's partly because of dual challenges during 4 to 9 p.m., when most of these "TOU" rates rise. It's generally the hottest time of day, when people are more likely to switch on air-conditioning. It's also when California's photovoltatic solar installations go offline for the day. As the state tries to lower its dependence on petroleum- and uranium-fueled energy, and until there's enough power-storage capacity to make "green electrons" last the night, we need to find a way to get by on intermittent power generation — or face the consequences.

Additionally, besides being an attempt to improve the resiliency of California's power grid, TOU rates offer consumers potential savings. People able to reschedule their appliances to run outside hours of peak demand will be rewarded by paying less money per hour for their electricity. For some people that's not an option, and they might be better off opting out. I would also add that low-income customers and others on subsidized rate plans are not automatically placed on TOU rates. But they can sign up for them if they want.

•••

Reader: I read with interest the Robert Price "Viewpoint" ("Kern County's birth rate has dropped 13 percent since 2015, and there will be consequences,") in Sunday's newspaper. It occurred to me this should be more appropriate for the Opinion page than the front page. After copious stats and numerous quotes from "experts," he seems to agree that we need to "make more babies," duh!!!

I disagree; by the time that generation of taxpayers arrives in the workforce, there won't be any need for their services as the oil industry will be gone and there won't be much agricultural need for employees since they aren't provided the infrastructure necessary to deliver the water to allow farmers to grow crops. The opinions expressed are my own.

— Jack Roth, Bakersfield

Peterson: Just as you wrote, Jack, that the opinions expressed in your note are your own, so too are the opinions of Price his own. That said, we very clearly label Price's columns with the word "Viewpoint" to show they are expressing Price's opinion, as opposed to a straight news story. We further signal his work is opinion by publishing his photo, which we don't do with news stories.

Should his column be on the Opinion page rather than the front page? I don't think so. Price is one of the most followed journalists in Kern County, his writing is excellent and his opinions — whether you agree on baby-making or not — are clearly articulated and make people think. Fits the bill for the front page, in my opinion.

•••

Reader: I was going to send you an email for Sound Off or whatever to gloat about being one of the few Americans to have personally seen a California condor after enjoying John Cox's great read ("Hunters, ranchers become front line in efforts to save California condors," May 17) in TBC.

Before I got so bold, I thought I'd corroborate with someone who might share the same memory: Jim Foss of Kern River Golf Course. I used to play a lot of golf back in the early eighties. I remembered the tall eucalyptus trees at Kern River Golf Course and California condors. He replied sadly to me that they were turkey buzzards. Not condors.

Oh well. I was about to be so proud of myself. At least they look alike. In a way.

— John O'Connell, Bakersfield

Peterson: John, your email gave me a good laugh. I'm not a bird expert, so who am I to judge?

I remember as a teenager growing up in San Diego what a big deal it was that some of the very few remaining California condors were going to what was then called the San Diego Wild Animal Park to be protected and bred, and hopefully keep the population from extinction. It was almost a point of pride that they were coming to San Diego for protection.

I agree that John Cox did a great job on the story about how hunters and ranchers are playing an important role in keeping the California condors from going extinct.

•••

Peterson: A heads-up that the Sunday, May 30 edition of the newspaper will not include Parade magazine. No, we didn't forget. There are just particular holiday weekends when Parade does not publish and distribute. Next up will be July 4. 

Executive Editor Christine Peterson answers your questions and takes your complaints about The Californian’s news coverage in this weekly feedback forum. Questions may be edited for space and clarity. To offer your input by phone, call 661-395-7649 and leave your comments in a voicemail message or email us at soundoff@bakersfield.com. Please include your name and phone number.