July 16, 2001

Excerpt from Lewis Tagliaferre's online column

The following is an excerpt from Lewis Tagliaferre's online column "Bottom Line Energy Issues."

National Power Grid Finally Discussed
Missing from all the energy fingerpointing has been discussion about expanding and upgrading the nation's transmission lines into a true national grid to permit power to flow in accordance with market principles. Now, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham has discussed proposals in the Bush-Cheney plan to develop a national electric grid modeled on the interstate highway system, but without federal supports. He called this move a necessary step toward creation of a free energy market and stated the current regional model is "why electricity deregulation has failed to work properly." Amen.
For example, if a power-generating company in New England wants to sell electricity in Ohio, it must negotiate with many transmission line owners to use their lines to get it there, pancaking rates upon rates and driving up delivery cost and risk. Currently, there are only three regional grids: The Western Interconnection, the Eastern Interconnection, and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

The Bush Administration wants a national grid so states can bring in power from any direction. In some states, like Florida, there is insufficient line capacity connecting through adjacent states. Believe it or not, only two transmission lines allow power transfers between Texas and the Eastern Interconnection, but no connection at all with the West. Such issues would need to be addressed and solved in a national grid policy because consumers, producers, investors, and regulators all have a stake in the outcome. One daunting technical challenge will be finding a way of synchronizing thousands of generators so their outputs do not cancel each other. It will be like conducting a symphony orchestra with each musician located throughout the country.
The Lower Colorado River Authority in Austin, TX, is getting a head start in an agreement to build up to $500 million transmission projects to help improve capacity and reliability of the grid in South and West Texas. A tax-paying affiliate company called LCRA Transmission Services Corp. will finance and own the improvements. Ohio-based American Electric Power will build and maintain the transmission projects, according to the Public Power Weekly report.

Lewis Tagliaferre is a contributing editor to Please forward your comments and questions directly to him at .lewtag

Leaping Lizards
Silent for over 40 years, the St. George vs. the Dragon mechanical clock, which sits atop Jersey Loew's Theatre in Jersey City, NJ, sprung to life this summer. Friends of the Loew's, a dedicated volunteer organization based in Jersey City, renovated the grand old clock as part of its overall revitalization of the beautiful 1929 movie palace. The clock, made by the famous Seth Thomas Clock Co. in Thomaston, CT, is one of a handful of animated clocks in the United States.

Hurriedly installed in 1929, the clock was set in place without its shock-absorbing springs. Eventually, the massive bell that chimes the hour caused damage to the terra cotta cupola housing the clock. The clock was silenced during the 1960s to prevent further structural damage. Fortunately, all the original parts remained intact - right down to the wooden clock hands frozen at 6:30. Volunteers, with the help of experts from Lebanon, NJ-based Antique Clock Gallery, dismantled the clock and carefully refurnished the pieces.

Now in perfect working order, the fearsome dragon breathes fire (with a red light bulb), gnashes its jaws, and menaces St. George, who, in turn, parries and thrusts his lance hourly. The "re-clocking" ceremony featured a performance and an art show from the students of the visual and performing arts department of City College, Jersey City, in the theater's ornate main lobby space. Theatrical shorts and the 1960 science fiction film, Time Machine, were also shown.
The newly restored clock marks a fresh beginning for the historical and beautiful Jersey Loew's Theatre as a not-for-profit arts center and adds a bit of whimsy to downtown Jersey City. The New Jersey Enterprise Zone Authority, New Jersey Historical Trust, and municipal government provided funding for the project.

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