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Losing Power In California
By: Sarah, Age 17 Posted: 01.24.01
A student from San Francisco, CA, writes about how the rolling blackouts in California changed life for local students. If you have a story about how a news event affected your life, contact us.
As a result of recent state power company deregulation, Californians have recently faced skyrocketing energy prices and a diminishing supply of electricity.
When the state's energy reserve drops below one percent, the regulatory Independent Systems Operator declares a Stage Three alert. This means that the utility companies may cut off the flow of electricity to certain blocks on their grids, resulting in "rolling blackouts" that last for approximately two hours.
Certain customers such as hospitals, law enforcement agencies and electric transit lines are exempt from these blackouts. Schools, however, are not exempt.
San Francisco's George Washington High School lost power during final exams. Washington senior Max Siva was working on his final in American Democracy class when the lights went out. He said the sudden lack of power did not affect class activities.
"The lights went out, and we kept taking our finals," he said, adding that school administrators instructed teachers to keep students in their classrooms.
At the city's prestigious Lowell High School, half of the second floor hallway and classrooms have no windows. In an unrelated power outage last year, the teachers who occupy those rooms taught by candlelight. Those same teachers say they plan to use the same techniques if the lights go out again.
I've been lucky, and have not yet found myself caught in a darkened building or in an elevator stopped between floors, as did two University of California law students.
Nevertheless, I have felt the effects of the state's power crisis. When my friends and I made a dinner party to celebrate the end of the semester, we ate by candlelight to conserve power. While practicing for my driver's license test, I am forced to treat blacked-out traffic signals as four-way stops.
Many Californians don't take seriously the rolling blackouts or the power emergency. The state transit authority continues to leave decorative lights illuminated on the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge, noting that the lighting only costs $10 per night. Even so, turning off the lights would be a show of solidarity with the citizens who will lose power temporarily over the next few weeks. It would set an example for every Californian who thinks that his lack of conservation is unimportant because he is only one person, or it only costs a little bit of money.
The local media have conducted "man on the street" interviews that overwhelmingly show that citizens of the state do not believe the power crisis is real.
I believe if every person did his part, we could be out of this mess.
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