Coca Cola Pleads with Customers to Stop Buying So Much Coke

Hoping to avoid shortages of their flagship product, Coca Cola has begun asking consumers to limit their purchases of Coke. "We realize that we have an excellent product and it's been really hot lately, but please, if you could just cut back a little, it would help a lot," said company spokeswoman Greta Hansel. "We're going to have to stop shipping to stores in certain areas pretty soon if people don't reduce their Coke consumption."

This is the scenario I think of every time I hear an ad from a power company asking me to "save energy." What the hell kind of business asks people to use less of its product? Who would buy stock in such a business? In the real world, if there is less of something available, prices go up so that people use less and it never runs out. Unfortunately, power companies don't operate in the real world. They operate in a world where they have to ask permission from Mommy to raise rates.

So every summer, I turn on my air conditioner and completely ignore the lighted freeway signs urging me to "flex my power." What's the worst that could happen? I'll tell you what. I could turn up my thermostat and sweat it out, and then have a power outage anyway because my neighbors chose not to. So the thermostat stays at a comfortable temperature, and I hope my neighbors fall for the propaganda.

The solution is not for the local utility czar to allow the monopoly power company to raise rates during shortages. That would merely result in more "shortages" ala Enron, where power plants are intentionally taken offline or not built in order to squeeze the consumer for as much money as possible for each kilowatt hour. What may work better might be for people to contract directly with power retailers who then pay a fee to the company that maintains the power lines. The retailer would own the meter at the customer's premises and handle billing.

Since there would be competition among power retailers, there would be no reason to regulate electricity rates. Any concerns about poor people's not being able to afford power could be alleviated through direct subsidies to the poor people in question. Retailers would have every incentive to run at an economically efficient capacity level, with the best balance for peak times of time-of-use metering, extra peaking capacity, and energy storage. The transport providers, through SLAs and/or charging a fixed fee per kilowatt-hour mile or something in between would have every incentive to keep their own plant operational. There could still be problems as long as there is only one electricity transport provider for a given area, but electricity retailers would have a lot more pull than individual consumers to get problems fixed, and the benefit to the retailers of time spent hounding the transport provider would be much higher compared to the cost; suddenly beating up PG&E becomes much more of a private good.

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I freaking love this blog.

I freaking love this blog.

Wait one minute. The

Wait one minute. The providers of the copper to my house are now demanding that my clean power retailer pay them $1 per kilowatt-hour. All this because I use more power than my copper providers can carry. Oh whatever shall I do...

see, now there you go with

see, now there you go with that hateful libertarian agenda! what about the poor and dis-advantaged? what will happen to them , they can't go on unless we subsidize their wastefulness, and i for one will not live in a country where wastefulness is not subsidized.:dizzy:

Exactly what's being done in

Exactly what's being done in New York State. The distribution (or copper) company is still a regulated monopoly; I have lots of choices of sources of electricity. Same thing for natural gas. (The distributor still owns the meter, but that's a technicality; its readings are transmitted to the source. The alternative is for them to certify meters for connection to the grid, which is probably more of a pain than owning them and maintaining them.)

Isn't this just a publicity

Isn't this just a publicity stunt that you've fallen for and now, helped propagate?

Constant - hopefully our

Constant - hopefully our impending upgrade to WP 2.0 will fix the problem.

Nolan - I was not advocating

Nolan - I was not advocating both deregulating power distribution and allowing the distributors to remain a monopoly. I would envision distribution either being handled by local governments or the existing regulated monopolies.

Of course, even an unregulated monopoly distributor would have no incentive to charge prices that high - the grid would be seriously underutilized due to people's conserving power in ways that would normally be considered ridiculous or switching to generators, which cost less than $0.30/kWh to run, even factoring in amortization. As long as the distributor could make more money by building more capacity and lowering prices to the point that the grid is fully utilized, it would be in their interest to do so. Of course, even if the distributor does act in their own self interest, the lower cost retailers may choose not to do business with a distributor that charges the full monopoly price because they could make more money selling their power elsewhere, leaving less money left over from the price the market would bear for the distributor. Even if it's hard for consumers to switch, it would be much easier for retailers.

People often seem to forget that even a monopoly is subject to the laws of economics. A monopoly power distributor still needs to compete with the alternative of not using electricity or using a generator. This will not result in as low of prices as if customers could easily switch distributors, but it's still not an infinite price.

I view it this way. Supply

I view it this way.

Supply production is out of my control, so knowing that the supply cannot meet the demand I try to lower my use of what I deem non-essential power use, I also try to increase my efficiency of use. So I turn off my lights when I don't need them and I use compact fluorescent bulbs. It saves me money overall and I can keep my apartment at my comfortable temperature and watch my home theatre at my obscenely loud volume =)

It also lets the power company deliver their limited supply of power to more people who only care about their A/C, *I could care less about the economics the power company deals with.*

The more humanitarian way to view it though is this. The supply is limited, you cannot control this, but you can control your use by only using the power needed to not be uncomfortable (78degF instead of 72...) allowing more people to have access to the limited supply. Of course, it relies on the group think that everyone will run their A/C just a little less so that more have access to the limited supply of power.

Then I would go on and bitch and moan about how theres not enough power supply to meet demand.

Oh, and I believe my power delivery company gives me a choice of who I want them to purchase the power I use from; in reality it just means you have to purchase at least the amount of power I use from xyz company, you can't deliver specific power to a specific user over a shared line.

man, I haven't commented here in a long time...

Isn’t this just a

Isn’t this just a publicity stunt that you’ve fallen for and now, helped propagate?

Huh? You mean Coke asking its customers to buy less Coke? I think it's Sean's invention - a hypothetical situation to make a point.

As a complete aside to this discussion, I notice that Catallarchy pages often don't load correctly, so that instead of seeing what I'm supposed to see I see portions of the html code. If I reload two or three times it's fixed. This happens on different computers. I use Firefox, if that has anything to do with it.

I haven't seen it happen with any other website, blog or otherwise.