I looked out my window one night this week and saw not a single light.
It was the most widespread blackout I had seen since my childhood days during World War II in Oregon when we were anticipating an attack on the mainland following Pearl Harbor.
Sky rocketing energy prices were bad enough.
But, shut off the Christmas tree lights! Never!
Gray Davis (the name fits the near blackout conditions lack of power is spreading across the state) was reported to be in a holiday mood when he lit the tree at the state capitol last week.
The lights stayed on the 56-foot white fir for just five minutes.
Then, the governor pulled the plug to save energy.
I was not thinking about electricity as I crawled around the roof Sunday putting up the Christmas lights.
I was not even thinking about electricity when I discovered some sore leg muscles from climbing up and down the ladder a few hundred times.
It was the Christmas Spirit and all those great light displays the neighbors put up weeks ago that drove me.
In Kingman the tree on Radar Hill has been on since Thanksgiving.
It comes on about seven p.m.
by timer and I have heard many comments about the late turn on time.
Citizens did not tell me that the timing is done to save energy, but it makes sense.
The lights go on after families have cooked supper or dinner (depending on where you come from in this country) and after the peak power period.
Electricity is funny that way.
No one has figured a way to store generating capacity for later use.
A cold night or a hot afternoon can push power usage beyond the capacity of the generating sites while excess goes to waste a few hours later.
I am sure the roller coaster power use over a day creates a unique guessing game for decision makers in the industry.
But, I wonder how many individual power users have connected some other public policy decisions with the results we see today.
That includes restricted holiday lighting in some areas.
Higher prices for gasoline, for electricity, for natural gas and anything that is transported from place to place are part of the single issue of the environment during the past 30 years.
The shutdown of aluminum plants in the Northwest and the loss of jobs are tied directly to energy scarcity.
I believe we are a country divided on issues because we try to put parts of the same problem in separate boxes and look for different solutions in each box.
There is a direct link between the power shortages in California and the Sierra Club.
There is a direct link to the political activity of environmental organizations and the polluting by some industries.
There is a direct link between the pollution in Phoenix and Los Angeles and each one of us insisting on driving our own car.
Too many of us want to live in the same large cities.
Getting the entire problem placed on one roundtable with all the stakeholders gathered together would be a great first step.
California has not built a power plant in more than ten years, partially because of conflicts on what kind and where to build.
They would prefer to build all generating facilities in Arizona.
They get the power.
We get the pollution.
In the Northwest, some would have many dams breached to save the salmon.
I like salmon AND electricity.
I see a need for farm irrigation in the region and barge transportation of wheat from three states.
Why not find a solution that all can embrace?
NO new refinery has been built in the U.S.
for more than 25 years.
Two existing in California will require billions to modify before they can refine oil again.
In the meantime, oil from Alaska will go to Japan.
Drilling for oil and gas in most of this country has ceased while policy has stressed "clean burning natural gas" as the fuel of choice.
Guess how expensive natural gas could be?
And, if it is not too personal, are you as wasteful of energy as I am? I go when I want, run the hot water too long, and leave the lights on.
I even use extra heat in the garage so I can keep the cat litter pan out of the house.
Pappy does not need the extra heat, but he does need an open door to get to the litter box.
I pay the bill so I have the right to waste the electricity.
Or do I?
I am going to leave the Christmas lights on.
I am also going to enjoy all the other beautiful light displays around town.
The Grinch won't steal this Christmas just to save a little electrical energy and the natural gas, coal or waterpower used to generate the electricity.
Like my holiday diet, saving energy can wait.