Readings — From the August 2004 issue

California Reamin’

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From recordings of conversations between Enron energy traders obtained by the Snohomish County, Washington, power utility in May. The conversations took place during California’s 2000-2001 energy crisis, which saw wholesale energy prices rise by 490 percent while the state suffered regular blackouts and power shortages. Enron, formerly the world’s largest energy trader, filed for bankruptcy in December 2001 after a series of accounting scandals and is currently under investigation by the Justice Department; charges have been brought against thirty former executives and associates for questionable trading and accounting practices. On June 3, California attorney general Bill Lockyer announced plans to sue Enron for manipulating California’s electricity market during the crisis. 

Tom: Serious shit goin’ on out in the West, man. Clinton steppin’ in and stuff. 
Matt: Oh, yeah, you see this shit? Fuckin’ nutty, huh? 
Tom: The price caps? 
Matt: The price caps! 
Tom: Fucking bullshit. It would take care of all the weak. Get rid of ‘em, and then you know what? The people who are strong and understand how it works will stick around and—and—no, prices aren’t going to stay at a thousand bucks forever.
Matt: Right. 
Tom: —but it will until the people get out who don’t know what the hell they’re doing. 
Matt: Tell you what—you heard this here first: When Bush wins—
Tom: Caps are gone. 
Matt: That fucking Clinton, he’s fuck—all these fuckin’ socialists are gone. 
Tom: Yeah, and you know what? If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re fucked. See you.
Matt: Where’d you see that Clinton was, ah—
Tom: It just came out of Reuters: “Clinton Takes Steps to Ease California Power Crisis.” 
Matt: There’s no crisis. 
Tom: Fuck ’em, right? 
Matt: We fuckin’ export like a motherfucker. 
Tom: You getting rich? 
Matt: Tryin’ to. I just, you know—You know what pissed me off so bad about fuckin’—the fuckin’ caps. 
Tom: Oh, fuckin’ A it does. It’s just crap. It’s completely crap. It—it just goes against everything our country’s about. 
Matt: I feel like we’re in a Third World country. There’s friggin’ no—there’s no free market. It’s like a Third World country. 
Tom: How can they do that? They can’t do that, I don’t think, really. They can also be sued. You can sue the fuckin’ government. Fuck ‘em. 
Matt: Oh, shit, I gotta go into this meeting. So, anyway, see ya.

 *** 

Steve: This is Steve. 
Paul: Hey, man. So, everything is cool. 
Steve: Done, huh? 
Paul: This is a—a freak show. But this is where California breaks. 
Steve: Yeah, it sure does, man. 
Paul: Yeah. So, ah, what we need to do is to help in the cause of, ah, the downfall of California [chuckles], and economic decision-wise, you guys need to pull your megawatts out of California on a daily basis—
Steve: Yeah.
Paul: —whatever you have, and sell it in the bilateral market. Yeah, what I’ll do is—let’s get Tom on the phone—me, you, and Tom, or you and Tom, or whatever and just say, hey, ah, and sell the scraps into California, like five megawatts, two megawatts, that type of thing. 
Steve: Okay. 
Paul: Thanks, bye. 

*** 

Jeff: Sonny. Start awaking, man. 
Dane: Hey, sonny, what you doin’? 
Jeff: Just calling you. 
Dane: Sonny, you’re such a good guy. 
Jeff: Ah, you know how it is. 
Dane: Sonny, I want to know how much money did you make last week when it got hotter than shit down here. 
Jeff: Sonny, I just hope you had your air conditioner running thinking of me, baby. 
Dane: I had it on full blast. 
Jeff: All you fuckin’ southern California people. 
Dane: Well, I heard—I heard San Diego’s pissed, because they’re buyin’ their electricity on the open market now and their electric rates doubled recently—right? Is that the problem? 
Jeff: Yeah, well I—my problem is, is that they just don’t know how to hedge themselves early on, so fuck ‘em. 
Dane: So are you making money off it or not? 
Jeff: Oh, yeah. 
Dane: Did you—did you sell off electricity at like some insane price last week? 
Jeff: Yeah, 500 bucks. 
Dane: Sweet, sonny. You were just rollin’ in it? 
Jeff: Oh, it was nice! 
Dane: They just dumb-asses? 
Jeff: Sonny, it’s an auction, man. 
Dane: So—well, what’s wrong with people? 
Jeff: Sonny, they’re just dumb. 
Dane: Sonny, you should figure how to do this with your own money. 
Jeff: I’m tryin’ to.

*** 

Kevin: Robert. 
Robert: [laughing] Kevin. 
Kevin: Oh, I can’t handle it anymore. 
Robert: I can’t either, man. Yeah, it’s unbelieva— businesses with these power prices and these fuckin’, ah, gas prices, they can’t do it. They can’t—this is like a recession waiting to fuckin’ happen and we don’t even know what the fuck is going on. 
Kevin: There was a guy yesterday, he’s—he’s some consultant or whatever. He came in, he—and I didn’t even meet the guy. I was sittin’ here, and he’s like, “Yeah, you know, I’m in California now and my energy costs have gone from 100 to 500 dollars a month. It’s unbelievable. I don’t know what to do.” I just turned from my desk; I just looked at him, I said, “MOVE.” I go, “Look, don’t take it the wrong way: Move. It isn’t getting fixed anytime soon.” 
Robert: You know, man, it’s unbelievable, it’s like that’s the best thing about it. That’s so beautiful. 
Kevin: I just fuckin’ laugh. 
Robert: What else can you do, man? 
Kevin: I don’t know. There’s nothin’ I can do, man, I just do the best I can.

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