Smart Meters Part 3

“In Memphis we have had an incredible supply of energy in the past 13 years,” says MLGW’s Chris Bieber. “TVA has enough resources to meet the peak,” the VP of Customer Care told me.

Bieber and his assistant talked about the state of energy in the U.S. and our city. Bieber has held his post here since 2000; longer for Mrs. King. A few years back they began to look into Shelby County’s energy use.

“Tennessee consumes about 30-36% more energy than any other state,” they found. And at the top of the list of energy hogs is Shelby County. “Shelby County is the heaviest user in the state,” Bieber says. It’s not a situation he likes.

“The rest of the world wants our lifestyle and the planet can’t take it,” Bieber says. He hopes that smart meters will solve some of the “problem.”

Bieber references the book “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (also titled Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive)” a 2005 book by Jared M. Diamond, professor of geography and physiology at University of California, Los Angeles. “It describes five societies that didn’t adapt and died out,” Bieber says.

And according to Wikipedia, “Diamond’s book deals with “societal collapses involving an environmental component, and in some cases also contributions of climate change, hostile neighbors, and trade partners, plus questions of societal responses” (p. 15). In writing the book Diamond intended that its readers should learn from history (p. 23).”

Bieber agrees. “We as a society for the good of the planet, need to keep it healthy. In North America we have 3% of the world’s people and use 30% of the world’s energy.” It is a statement repeated by Barack Obama.

He hopes the smart meter helps save us. The goal is for all of us in Shelby County to be using them by 2020.

But is the situation really that desperate? Bieber himself says that TVA has provided us with ample energy. Why wouldn’t that continue in the future? This stance also assumes that no new sources of power will emerge (even as we are finding abundant stores of natural gas in the U.S. and we have abundant coal) and that no innovations will be found. What about the Keystone pipeline able to bring us cheap energy from a friendly country? It is there waiting for us to use it. Ditto ANWAR.

Environmentalists like to frame the issue as an ethical one. Although Bieber did not say people who use too much energy are greedy, the implication is there. It is not one conservatives agree with. If there is an ethical question to ask it is why the elderly, home bound and sick should be penalized for the heat they require in the winter and the cool they need in the summer, particularly since energy sources are available. The smart meter will hit them hard as they are also usually home bound, requiring a steady amount of heat or cool. Others who are working and gone from their homes will benefit by using smart meters to control the temperature when they are gone.

People already get the idea that you use more energy, you pay more. Do we really need a smart meter to tell us that?

Next: The City Council’s role in the smart meter debate

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