City that Never Sleeps could get an early bedtime


WASHINGTON, AFP

Extreme weather conditions in New York City or failure to find new sources of energy to meet increasing demand could bring the City that Never Sleeps perilously close to blackouts, the U.S. energy secretary acknowledged Sunday.

“For this summer, we have some areas we are watching closely, where the margins between demand and supply are pretty close,” Spencer Abraham told CNN television, noting that New York City is among the areas being monitored.

He said the Big Apple “should be OK … because I think they’re going to bring enough new energy on line to offset (possible blackouts). But if you have unique situations — the breakdown of generators or particularly long heat waves — that will put New York City’s margins very tight.”

On Tuesday, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani spoke of the pressing need to forestall such a scenario.

“We are the financial capital of the world in a technological age,” Giuliani said in a speech to the nonprofit New York City Partnership group.

“The computers we work on and the stock markets that move the world are powered by electricity. A serious power failure in New York City would have instantaneous international implications,” he urged.

Noting that the city’s population has grown by almost 700,000 in the past decade — translating into an increased demand for electricity — Giuliani said that energy conservation, the development of new power plants, transitional price controls and deregulation are paramount in preventing an energy crisis in New York.

“A situation like that of California — where the regular possibility of blackouts is high — is simply unacceptable in New York,” Giuliani declared.

California has experienced a series of rolling blackouts since late last year.

California’s power problems are the culmination of a number of factors, including mechanical difficulties, warmer-than-expected weather, the lack of wind for the state’s electrical windmills and a short supply of the water needed to run turbines at power-generating plants.

But the state’s crisis also stems from its partial move to a deregulated energy system, which allowed power generators to charge market rates for wholesale electrical supplies while restricting what utilities can charge customers.

Abraham said California is a symbol of the United States’ long-term energy woes.

“If you don’t increase supply as demand keeps going up, then you confront the problems California’s got today,” Abraham warned on CNN.

“We’re trying to pick up the mantle now and bring about some policies that will increase supply over the next 20 years so that Americans don’t have to confront these kinds of crises in the future,” he said.

Echoing comments made earlier in the week by President George W. Bush, Abraham told ABC’s This Week on Sunday that the United States is now facing “the greatest energy crisis we’ve had in 20 years.”

At the heart of the crisis is a projected 45-percent spike in demand for electricity expected over the next 20 years, he said.