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Friday, June 10, 2011


Profits first

An amusing lead to a San Jose Mercury News article on PG&E, with emphasis added:
In the most extensive independent analysis of PG&E since the Sept. 9 San Bruno catastrophe, an expert panel's report Thursday scathingly criticized the utility, finding "multiple weaknesses" in its natural gas-line operations and accusing the company of putting profits ahead of public safety.
Putting profits first, imagine that! In truth, the only reason public safety is in their equation at all (or its equivalent, consumer safety, in the equation of any company) is the potential financial impact of being sued for neglecting it. If there were no such things as lawsuits, or loss of customers (which wouldn't worry PG&E or other public utilities with their captive markets), safety wouldn't figure in at all.

And, as a reminder, this is actually a legal requirement for most companies (publicly-regulated utilities may be somewhat different, I'm not sure). That is, they are required by law to maximize shareholder profits, which is the reason they exist. Capitalism at its "finest."

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