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Gore Vidal Sounds Off on Solar Power Caper

Posted on Jul 6, 2007
gore vidal
Truthdig/Zuade Kaufman

(Page 3)

Simkin:  But at the same time, when they’re looking over the solar, if a citizen is buying solar, they’re taking their business away from the department.  The department’s losing money.  Why would the department want to help someone take their business elsewhere? ...

Vidal:  We went through all the stages that you’re supposed to go through.  They had been informed.  And we opened the place for them in April to come and fulfill one of their extraordinary rules, and they never came, nor did they say they weren’t coming.  They just wasted our time, and then they made a second date, I think, and that was that.  By then, we were up and going. 

Anderson:  So, essentially, “you’re never able to be fully off the grid” is the moral of this story.

Vidal:  That is what they want; that is what they’ve achieved.  I want to turn it around. ... I mean, just ticking them off is not going to do it!  We’ve got to prove the force majeure and that is the sun!


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Anderson:  If you have a boat and you want to run a solar panel on it, I gather that no inspection is required.

Vidal:  Yes, and a boat can blow up in a harbor and take the harbor with it, too.

Anderson:  Is there any reason why [the department’s] incentive program [for installing solar power] could be of any use to you as a household?  I mean, would they cover for you if a tree fell on your solar panel?

Vidal:  Oh, I’m sure they would not.  They would drop a match after that. 

Simkin:  The incentive is sizable at this point.  It’s getting smaller.

Vidal:  It was big.

Anderson:  I believe I read that 40 percent is about the standard incentive.

Vidal:  I think that something may be made out of it that I’m the only non-greedy person in this place—in this community—who is not trying to grab something for nothing:  “Boy, I really took them!”  I’m just counter their culture, and I loathe their culture.

Anderson:  And it would seem like, at times like this, in the summer, when there is a huge strain put on the system for air conditioning and so forth, that it would be useful for some of the households to not be adding to that strain.

Vidal:  Well, as I said, I thought this was a gift from me to the community, by removing myself from the grid.

Simkin:  Related to that, I mean, if there was a shortage of oil, oil companies wouldn’t be excited about electric car companies rising up—they’d raise the price of oil.  This is how they exert control.

Anderson:  And on top of the incentive for the installation, is there some tax write-off?

Vidal:  There’s something vague, I remember.

Simkin:  It seems like the only motivations that the department has [for promoting solar] are the governor’s declared intentions to get so many people on solar by 2010-2011.  There’s that ... and goodwill to protect the environment, which runs counter to the rules of capitalism.

Anderson:  The bottom line seems to be that the whole idea of harnessing the sun comes with red tape.

Simkin:  If all goes well, the [re-]inspection process is supposed to take two weeks.  The original papers were put in April 20th. 

Vidal:  They won’t come.  And then they’ll stop coming altogether ... every time they don’t come, they say they’re delaying, you know?

Simkin:  And we’re not supposed to use the solar until it’s been inspected.

Vidal:  By what rule?  We can take that one to court!  People have been using solar ever since the first person figured out how to work it to heat the pool!  Everyone’s been heating their pool [using solar] forever, and nobody’s come by to inspect it. ...

Anderson:  At this point, you’re fully back on the grid.

Vidal:  Yep, to their delight.  They don’t want anything to change now. 

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By reagd, January 26, 2010 at 10:41 pm Link to this comment

@ liveoilfree

I’m sure they will be meeting the daytime peak demand not just in terms of los angeles car parts but the electric generating equipment as well.

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By cosmicrose, May 14, 2008 at 11:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It was recently brought to my attention that I was mistaken in my mileage from my place to Yellowstone. It is not more than 1500 miles but rather 1000 miles. I’m not good at guessing using my fingers to measure with on a scale of miles on a US wall map obviously. Please forgive my error. Its still a long way… cosmicly speaking…—<—<{@

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By Ted Baumgart, October 1, 2007 at 4:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We know some of the best installers in solar voltaics and this situation should never have come up. I invite Gore Vidal to visit our house October 6th when our group has its yearly free Solar Open House. We’ve been solar for 15 years in one form and another and share our experience with all who are interested. Our arrays produce more than half our ‘juice’ in our very efficient home. We have so many trees that we split the system into 3 separate arrays to accomplish our needs; one with battery, the others ‘direct drive’, and none hooked up to the grid.  See our non-profit Los Angeles voluteer group of solar homes more closely at Come on the tour, especially Mr. Vidal! We’d love to see you! My wife and I have always loved your worldly perspective. too bad you got double whammied by a crummy contractor AND bureaucrat. Ouch!

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By Ian MacLeod, August 29, 2007 at 8:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I met a fellow about eight years ago here in Oregon who had started a solar power business; the power company drove him out of business. Their inspectors didn’t understand DC power - only AC. They actually thought the DC stuff was inherently unsafe! (The truth is just the opposite). They’re also obliged by law to buy back unused power, but they have a way around that, too: they say the power from a home system has to go through a VERY expensive type of regulator or something because it’s “dirty power” and pollutes their stuff! Amazing, isn’t it? I think people with problems like this need to start taking it to court, and have REAL experts with them; say, a university engineering professor.

Meanwhile, them that’s got shall get…”


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By jQuest, August 28, 2007 at 5:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Utilities are at the same time both partners and enemies of renewable energy.  The may explain their schizo behavior, but what Mr. Vidal fails to mention is that most likely, DPW has paid incentives to partially offset the cost of the PV array.  Perhaps this gives DWP some right to impose their myriad of rules.

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By Inference, August 14, 2007 at 5:09 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In his old age the great poet Robert Frost (“Two roads diverged in the woods and I chose the road less traveled”) was asked by someone if he could give us more acumen before he departs and Frost replied: “I can tell you something very instructive in just three words - ‘Life goes on’.”

You gave us three pages of Gore Vidal speaking but nothing of real significance.  A little disappointing because Gore Vidal is such a rich gold mine - and the gold mine is only 30 minutes away from Santa Monica.

To make up for you failure to “Truthdig” into his gold mind (and enlighten us as we surely deserve to be enlightened), you must go back and interview him again and give us some of the great stuff we warrant!

Such as: “We are beyond law, which is not unusual for an empire; unfortunately we are also beyond common sense.”

And: “There is not one human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise.”

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By Todd Millions, August 7, 2007 at 4:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

fwd too GV-You may want too consider a small battery bank,and load proitity system-then grid intertie.
A 3 kilowatt hour (at 50%)rating for the panels would be about $3000 and AGM batteries are very little trouble (I have used Hawkers for 5 years now).
Next is the priorty switching-
First- charge batteries

Secound-run highly insulated frides and freezers that need no power for 3 day stretches.

Third-sell excess back to grid,which in summer should be just matching the peak,‘I’m a moron and my architect ripped me off so I need air-conditioning’ load.

If when its too hot-take a liter jug that has being frozen down out of freezer,wrap it in a towel and set it under your neck as you lie down.
I’m sure you are of a venerability too recall the old ice block in a basin with the fan behind it -‘room systems’.You may find you heat up less,when you know you’ve enough power too keep going an your own for two or three days without the power lines connected.

This may seem bothersome-but consider the load reductions further too what you already must have done-we are STILL harvesting the low hanging fruit here.

May I also assure from personal experince that the look on a power company ceo - when you tell him to his face that you don’t need him or his crappy coal mafia makes the effort very worth it.
Too bad the oil mafias still have the batteries sewn up eh(since 1973-and anon).
                  Todd Millions

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By twentyfivekwh, July 30, 2007 at 4:17 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

we put solar panels up and got them running on december first, in new york city. i have been in a fight ever since with our utility, Con Edison, who somehow cant read my meter. they kept sending bills with estimated totals. i would call and say i have solar, i’m making power (even in the dark winter days, on average 7kwhs a day, we use about 12.. now we’re up to 25kwh daily). they’d say, your meter is faulty, its running backwards. i’d say PRECISELY. they actually replaced my meter. this went on for months. now i have my very own personal rep for the utility, who is equally clueless about net metering. and, my bill includes a surcharge for RENEWABLE ENERGY! vidal has to be right. why cant i be billed (credited) by my utility properly after 7 months of arguing?? seems incredible that they would consciously want to thwart a 5 megawatt system but can they seriously be that incredibly incompetent?

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By richard kobzey, July 29, 2007 at 1:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The god of the Religious Reich owns the sun, silly!  “HE” owns everything.  Don’t you know this by now?

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By Douglas Chalmers, July 22, 2007 at 1:48 pm Link to this comment

Quote #88694 by liveoilfree on 7/22 at 11:56 am: “...NUKE: Downside risk is like a fiery lake of burning brimstone…”

Before the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990’s, the Japanese government was investing in concrete to buy political support from people who had to support them anyway. Now, the cost of those days of smart-ass blunders and clever schemes has come home to them.

If you have a fire and a Chernobyl-style meltdown in a nuclear reactor (or several) and your main city is lost, what kind of a nut are you? But they’ve put themselves and their population in exactly that position. Fortunately, the last few days have only been a warning and a last-minute wake-up call. Some-one ‘upstairs’ - or the ‘Goddess’ beneath out feet - still seems to like them, though.

As with the climate schange scenario, all of this infrastructure has to be re-built up to new standards pronto or replaced altogether with newer technology. All of the chances of doing that in the past when there was a genuine windowof opportunity have been squandered by self-seeking vain politicians. Same in many other countries including the USA!

Come financial meltdown time and these imperatives will still have to be urgently addressed. How will they cope? How much gold they hold in their central bank treasuries will only pay for the graves and funerals for 24 million dead citizens!!! Not a clever move for the Japanese to have done to themselves in 2007 what the USA wanted to do to them in 1945!?!?

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By liveoilfree, July 22, 2007 at 12:56 pm Link to this comment

No energy is free; all of it involves some pollution and some tradeoffs.  But look at the downside risk, if things go wrong.  Let’s assume that all of these work, but look what happens when there’s a disaster:

1. NUKE: Downside risk is like a fiery lake of burning brimstone, with a half-life of millions of years, wormwood and gall.  In addition, Nukes are allowed periodic releases of radioactive Xenon from the containment dome, and are allowed to flush out radioactive waste (like washing off banana suits, or a contaminated room, or pieces of radioactive material) into the Ocean down the outfall.  The states can’t regulate Nuke radiation, they are exempt; the Coastal Commission cannot use the word “radiation”.

2. WIND: Significant risk of bird mortality, and somewhat jocular risk of getting bonked on the head by vanes.  Otherwise, mainly produces at night, when there’s too much electric.  Not much downside.

3. NATURAL GAS: Can be explosions, also, no matter how clean, there’s still emissions, and some old plants have outfalls that kill the Ocean.  Can be pretty clean modern combined cycle plants.

4. HYDRO: Kills a valley, deprives rivers of natural sediment, alters habitat.  Otherwise, a great “peaker” unit, we use Lake Castaic for this.

5. COAL: There’s no such thing as “clean coal”, mercury and radon exposure over millions of square miles.  More radiation released than a Nuke plant.  Half of DWP power comes from coal pollution in other states, to be ended by 2027.

6. GEOTHERMAL:  Well, I guess the devil himself could pop up?  Otherwise, none.

7. SOLAR:  No bad effects, other than the pollution caused by making the panels in the first place; they last up to 100 years, and help protect the roof.  Produces energy when it’s needed, daytime peak.

Nuke energy is the WORST from ALL aspects.  It’s not clean, not even if it works as it’s supposed to.  San Onofre Nuke is allowed to take in and sterilize 2 billion gallons of living sea water (for cooling) each DAY, a massive suction of sea life which shreds, boils and kills it, creating a massive dead zone of decaying sea life.

Only Halliburton, Bush and Cheney are in favor of Nukes. 

We don’t need more energy, off-peak; if we did, put in wind!  As for on-peak, put in more solar and geothermal.

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By Douglas Chalmers, July 22, 2007 at 11:45 am Link to this comment

Note to public utility companies:  Do not go back to nuclear!

Japan must have the worst situation of all now with a catastrophe at hand as a result of political short-sightedness and irresponsibility in planning and construction. So much for the world’s greatest builders of 5-star golf courses. The “yen carry trade” could have ended for sure this week…..

Quote: “A 6.8 magnitude quake, which shook Niigata on Monday and left thousands of homes uninhabitable, was three times more powerful than the designers of the nearest nuclear power plant – Kashiwazaki-Kariwa – had prepared for, or even imagined .....The unfolding crisis at Kashiwazaki has renewed calls for the immediate closure of the five atomic reactors at Hamaoka – an old plant in Shizuoka built directly above a geologically active fault about 100 kilometres (60 miles) west of Tokyo…....

The Hamaoka plant…..presents Japan with its biggest risk of genpatsu-shinsai. A quake there….could smash the reactor and send a radioactive cloud over Tokyo within eight hours: “We would be looking at 24 million victims and the end for Japan.” The seismology community agrees that the Tokai region, which includes Tokyo and Hamaoka, is due for a massive quake ...... If the epicentre of Monday’s quake had been 10 km further to the southwest, the seismology research team at Kobe University calculates that the reactor could have split and unleashed a “terrible, terrible disaster….”

Japan quake not seen slowing U.S. nuclear revival:-
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - “A resurgence of nuclear power in the United States likely won’t be stalled by this week’s earthquake in Japan that shut the world’s largest nuclear plant, industry watchers said…..”

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By liveoilfree, July 21, 2007 at 3:04 pm Link to this comment

Solar in California (should be this way everywhere) depends on the Net Metering law (NEM).  Each rate schedule issued by the utility charges the customer for electric usage.  NEM requires that the utility CREDIT the solar customer for “generation” at the same rate that it CHARGES for “load”.  The solar customer generates electric in the daytime, and that extra electric gets put into the system, perhaps powering 5 or 10 of Mr. Vidal’s neighbors.  At night, the solar customer draws down some of those credits.  We want to charge plug-in EVs at night, using credits from meeting daytime peak demand.

NEM means that the solar customer is a “CO-GENERATOR” with the utility, part of the electric generating plant, only true of solar systems connected to the grid.  It gives the utility extra rights to come onto your property to inspect the solar electric generating equipment, although it generally does not do so.  DWP, for example, very seldom has any need to bother with solar systems in its service area, they just run.  For DWP, it’s a no-maintenance way of meeting peak daytime demand, particularly during heat storms, when there’s little or no wind power.

In this case, the normal approval process was messed up by the “meter lock” phase, unique to DWP, and the fact that it was done out of its normal sequence.  This was a singular, unfortunately very painful event for Mr. Vidal.

Hopefully, this “meter lock” will be removed from DWP process, soon.

When or if the utility grid goes down or becomes irregular (e.g., the voltage spikes), the Outback inverter detects it, and, like all other inverters, shuts off the grid until it returns to the voltage range it can accept.  But the Outback has a battery pack to rely upon, and it draws current from the (48 volt) battery pack to seamlessly pick up the backed-up vital circuits in Mr. Vidal’s home.

The batteries should be sized so that they power the home through one or two days, long enough to reach the next sunny day, so that in the event of protracted outages, Mr. Vidal would have uninterrupted power indefinitely.  In this sense, he’s “off the grid”, but only in the event that the grid fails.

Also in this case, the panels would produce too much energy in the daytime; the batteries would fill up, and, without a charge controller, they would over-charge and fail.  That’s why there’s an MX-60 Charge-Controller on the system, because when the grid goes down, there’s too much power in the daytime, and the panels have to be stopped from burning out the batteries.

The MX-60 is also a Maximum Peak Power Tracker (MPPT); a battery inverter operates at the voltage of the battery, nominally (in this case) 48v; the panels are wired to a much higher (open circuit) voltage of about 120v.  This extra voltage is turned into power by the MPPT, and also improves performance in low ambient light.

Mr. Vidal is to be commended for being one of the “Solar Volunteers”, those responsible Citizens who step forward, putting up a majority of the cost, to help the utility meet daytime peak critical load.  These solar volunteers, while they often have to put up with cities, like Long Beach, which are hostile to solar power, and with tough situations, such as Mr. Vidal endured, are “VISIBLY PART OF THE SOLUTION”.  Most go out and watch the meter running backward!  It’s a great feeling, knowing that you are helping avert outages by generating power when and where it’s needed most.  Thanks to all those, like Mr. Vidal, who persevere in the face of legacy and bureaucratic problems to help solve our energy crises!

And thanks to overworked DWP solar staff, who have spent extra efforts to make the solar program work.

Each solar system is preparation for plug-in EVs, and an end to the debris of the oil economy, from oil wars to refinery emissions.

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By archeon of thrace, July 19, 2007 at 11:27 pm Link to this comment

To solar power a home requires absolutely NO rewiring.  All that is needed is a power trasfer switch at the meter or mains entry point/main breaker box that allows the power into and out of a home to be controlled.  These may be manual or automatic. Unless one wants to actively provide power to the grid, there is no reason for any inspections or permits beyond those generally required for “home improvements”.

The electrical authority should not have needed to rip out any wires, because the solar installers would not have installed any new ones, except the ones linking the solar panels to the inverter/regulator.  The cables running from the solar panels to the inverter/regulator/battery charger (assuming the system included batteries) would have been “low voltage” either 12 or 24 volts and would have been outside the authority of the electrical utiltity.  The bank of batteries, the inverter, and voltage controler would most likely have been located close to were the meter/electrical service/main breaker box were located, and only a short mains cable linking the two would have been needed.

Just like banks are not the best people to ask for advice about money.  Utility companies are not the best to ask about energy/resource conservation.

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By JKoch, July 19, 2007 at 12:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Any electrical work on a home can be a touchy matter.  A rewiring or circuit upgrade requires a permit and a licensed electricians stamp, or else you may lose homeowners insurance or be unable to pass inspection when you sell the place.

Installation of a solar system sounds like a fairly significant contract.  Did the contractor fail to apply for a permit?  Presumably, any reputable operator would have done several jobs like this before taking on a VIP’s home in Hollywood Hills.  If the contractor was upright, the work would have passed, or else customers would have complained and got his license revoked.  Ditto for plumbers, asbestos removers, dentists, and any other licenced activity. 

Did Gore neglect to obtain references for the contractor?  Did he get a 2nd opinion from an engineer?  Wouldn’t it have made sense to ask the electric utility or his own attorney?  Were it my house, I certainly would have done that before running the risk of all the trouble he faces now.

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By Marshall, July 19, 2007 at 2:05 am Link to this comment

<<Gore Vidal Sounds Off on Solar Power Caper>>

I wish someone WOULD turn Gore Vidal’s sound off.

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By liveoilfree, July 17, 2007 at 10:19 am Link to this comment

Gore Vidal goes solar (continued)

...The CSI assumes the Solar Homeowner is a trying to rip-off the system, even though putting up most of the money and donating the roof, plus doing the maintenance.  In reality, the Solar Homeowner is a volunteer who guards and enjoys the solar system.  CSI requires complicated calculations of projected performance over the next 20 years, taking over 50 pages of unnecessary red tape and causing problems that did not exist prior to CSI.  Not much of an action-figure, in reality.  More of a red-tapistry.

These problems with the utilities can be worked out; if California is going to meet its renewable goals, they must be.  Hopefully, the Public Utilities Commission has taken note and may mandate fixes, even if the Legislature doesn’t fix the problems itself.

In addition, there are legacy issues with Building Departments such as Long Beach, which harbors an irrational hatred of solar power.  Long Beach requires that the solar panel must not be visible on older structures, as if solar were infected, or ugly.  Hopefully, one by one, these barriers to “going solar” will be lifted.

Every solar system should be hooked up to the grid, whether or not it has battery backup, because the grid is in need of peak daytime power, and the solar system has excess power in the daytime.  Donations of power in the day allow you to draw down those credits at night, when the grid has too much power (and uses some excess power to pump water up to Lake Castaic, for example, just to even out the loads).

There was a debacle with Mr. Vidal’s system, the utility (DWP) came by and “locked the meter” (done only at LADWP, but usually before the system is turned on).  This shut off Gore Vidal’s power.  Before the story was over, a lot of recriminations and finger-pointing, but the lesson is that becoming a solar volunteer does not mean that you will be honored by the utility company—even, as in the case of LADWP, when the utility has an overall policy of encouraging solar power.

Since the election of Mayor Villaraigosa and the appointment of the new Board of Commissioners, LADWP has been pro-active for solar power and for plug-in cars.  But in the preceding three years under Mayor Hahn, LADWP had essentially killed its solar program.  There’s a lot of catch-up to do in the new, revived solar program.

There are two kinds of solar systems hooked up to the grid: grid-tie and battery backup.  Both normally donate to the grid in the daytime, and both shut the grid off when it is erratic or if it goes down (this is called “Islanding” under NEC 1741). But the backup solar system goes to the battery pack and, phase-locked, picks up the backed-up circuits without even a computer glitch.  The batteries should be sized to fit your home load so that you can last at least until the next sunny day, when the panels recharge the batteries.

In Gore Vidal’s case, the normal backup circuits were shut off by the meter lock.  Ironically, what should have been guaranteed power became just the opposite, a blackout.  Hopefully, LADWP will look at this issue of locking the meter, and eliminate that from the solar installation process.  No other utility does this.

To meet the goals set by LADWP Board President Nahai, which include eliminating coal-fired electric from the LADWP power palette by 2027, the solar installation process must be smoothed out, and much more honor and attention must be paid to the socially responsible Citizen, such as Mr. Vidal, who volunteers to “go solar”.

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By liveoilfree, July 17, 2007 at 10:18 am Link to this comment

Gore Vidal Goes Solar!

Living completely “oil-free” is an ideal of survivalists, perhaps.

But you can live essentially oil-free in L.A., using solar rooftop power and plug-in Electric cars.  The oil and auto companies are deathly afraid of this, which is the main reason they killed the Electric car program.

Big Oil and Auto is the reason you can’t get a plug-in car, among all the thousands of models and millions of cars produced by the once-big Detroit auto companies.  Imagine, plug-in cars are real, but you can’t buy even one.

The only time a production Electric car was offered for sale on the free market was for six months in 2002, when Toyota sold to the public the last few RAV4-EV that were left after the program was killed.  If you didn’t get one of these 328 EVs, your only chance was to buy it used.

A typical day commuting, for a plug-in EV driver: starting out with 85.3% of a full charge on my plug-in Toyota RAV4-EV in Seal Beach (we seldom charge all the way to 100%, no need), it’s up the 605 to the 5 to the 101, then into the maze of Hollywood, arriving with 51%.  The return trip ended the day with 79 miles traveled and 25.5% left.  That means the Toyota RAV4-EV traveled about 79 miles on 60% of the charge, or about 130 miles range (on a full charge).  Heavy stop-and-go traffic actually makes driving an EV easier, not more hectic.  Regenerative braking helps regulate speed, and driving in an EV is just cleaner, no fumes inside the cabin because no engine.

One account of driving an EV from 1998: part of the 500,000 miles we’ve put on Honda EV, Ford RangerEV, GM 1997 and 1999 EV1, and .

This day’s drive was just part of the 170,000 miles on our two Toyota RAV4-EV, avoiding about 8,000 gallons of gasoline and saving at least $16,000, which essentially paid for the solar system that powers the plug-in Toyota RAV4-EV.  No gas, no smog check, no oil changes.  No oil, no muffler, little brake wear, no oil leaks.  And we get our household electric for free, too.

In the day, we produce peak power, for which our utility (SCE) gives us extra credit; at night, we help the grid by charging off-peak, although we COULD charge directly from the solar array…and sometimes do.

You can’t buy a production plug-in EV right now, but you can still install a solar rooftop electric system to make the power it would use.  And to reduce the need for new electric power plants.

The reality of plug-in cars and solar power:

The thing that was special about today was it was the final “approval” of the solar system of legendary writer Gore Vidal.  The inspector was supposed to be there between 1PM and 3PM, naturally, it was 2:55.  But I spent the time listening to Mr. Vidal, Bob Scheer, the journalist, and K. Anderson, associate editor of

And several others, who were thinking of ways to improve the political climate for installation of solar power.  Right now, the Solar Homeowner, who volunteers to “go solar” and puts up the bulk of the money to do so, often winds up fighting the system to get the right to go solar.  But in Germany, not only is there encouragement, but the utility pays for excess power donated to the grid.  USA does not have a uniform regulatory framework for solar, including: 1. Net Metering Law; 2. Partial Rebates; 3. Solar Rights Law.  The most important is net metering, not all states have even that.

California has all three, but the new Schwarzenegger California Solar Initiative (CSI) has spawned more problems than it’s solved, and led to at least one emergency fix so far which has not yet dealt with the most severe problem…[continued]

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By Polite_Society, July 17, 2007 at 12:35 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Welcome Home, Mr. Vidal!  Welcome to a “front line” of incompetents staffing everything from JC Penney’s catalog sales division to the blue-jacketed, fearsome airport TSA.  I don’t doubt for one minute that you, specifically, are being harassed;  just think what might happen if Gore Vidal happily lived off the grid and published an essay about how well it’s going, how easily the transition was accomplished - why, you’d have the Californians who can still read up in arms demanding the same freedom to abandon the grid.  We can’t have that!  THEY can’t have that, and they won’t stand for it.  So they’ll slowly grind you down with the same tactics with which they grind everyone down:  scheduling (but never keeping) appointments that tie up YOUR entire day;  sending utter morons to your home, with all the presumed authority of cops with a warrant;  bouncing you hither and yon with unanswered phone calls and assurances (when you finally DO get to speak to a human being) that, whatever your problem/complaint/inquiry is about, some entity other than the one you called is responsible.  (Haha, just thought of Lily Tomlin’s “Ernestine” character ‘calling’ you on Laugh-In!)

This country IS sick, Mr. Vidal;  where once upon a time we were served depraved indifference, now we are force-fed malicious meddling in every aspect of our lives.  But you already knew that… you’ve been the sole champion warning us of horrors to come for decades.  Alas, most of them have arrived.

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By IncPen, July 16, 2007 at 1:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


A nanny-state liberal finds out what it’s like to live in a world of his own imagining and finds out it’s not so great.

I bet you still think Nationalized Hillary Healthcare® is a great idea.

Right Gore?

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By Alex Fraser, July 14, 2007 at 3:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I suppose that we shall have to suffer 60 years of the lame arguments presented here on the subject of solar power that we’ve had against universal health coverage.

  Mr. Gore, a great American, and a significant American novelist and essayist, has this snafu because the deregulated power companies have set up a plan which gives them profit from the greatest free source of power in the Universe—The SUN!

  Get wise you guys, or wear a hat.  Unless you are invested in Utilities, your brains are becoming addled.

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By Alex Fraser, July 14, 2007 at 3:41 pm Link to this comment
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I suppose that we shall have to suffer 60 years of the lame arguments presented here on the subject of solar power that we’ve had against universal health coverage.

  Mr. Gore, a great American, and a significant American novelist and essayist, has this snafu because the deregulated power companies have set up a plan which gives them profit from the greatest free source of power in the Universe—The SUN!

  Get wise you guys, or wear a hat.  Unless you are invested in Utilities, your brains are becoming addled.

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By vegbob, July 14, 2007 at 12:06 am Link to this comment

mr vidal you are living in california not america that is the problem

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By jim crawford, July 12, 2007 at 1:35 am Link to this comment
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And three cheers for the Enron boys, who caused last year’s blackouts to begin with via their manipulations of electricity supplies and power grids, and out of which they made more multimillions, getting Schwarzenegger elected to boot by making everything look as though it were all Gray’s fault… 

  Of course, Enron being one of Dumbya’s biggest contributors wouldn’t have anything to do with the subsequent fact that almost no repercussions have occurred because of the criminal behavior of this gang of thieves.  But then the Bush family being the most successful and malevolent crime family ever in existence in either America or Saudi Arabia, one would expect no less from them.

  And since when is an eight day blackout not as good a reason as any to have a tantrum?  The DWP was very lucky that they weren’t having Molotov cocktails thrown at their front doors.

  And the solar power company got the work inspected and approved and then the DWP came back and reinspected it?  What sort of bull ship is that, Theseus might have asked.

            jim crawford
              Westwood   NJ

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By Emil Lawton, July 12, 2007 at 12:03 am Link to this comment
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Sorry, Gore Vidal has a tantrum because he does not understand how things work. First, DWP is a municipal utility and NOT part of any capitalistic plot. The new commissioners are well known and proven environmentalists. Others have already described why uninspected installations may be a danger to others as swell as your property. There is not plot to drain every last bit of oil since the DWP has adopted a RPS or Renewable Portfolio Standard to have 20% of our energy be from renewables by 2020. 
Jusst because you do not understand the technology, is no excuse to act like a nincompoiop. Intentionall ignorance is not a good but a sin!

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By Alex Fraser, July 11, 2007 at 1:57 pm Link to this comment
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Sinister implications to one side, Gore, the power companies have to preserve their markets, or gain added profit from new ones.  You don’t expect these Corporatists to give away power, do you?

  Sue the hell out of ‘em!

            Alex Fraser—Macresarf1

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By Valley of the roses, July 11, 2007 at 12:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Dear Mr. Vidal:
          I have nothing but admiration for your comments and keen insights into political and
deep governmental manipulations. I fondly remember when you took on that character with “tongue in cheek and the weird gaze” on TV I believe it was in the sixties.  One of you tried to stick a pencil into the other, don’t recall which one. I do miss
these encounters. I would say that this individual
won on effort, you won on intellect.
    I can understand your frustration with our great bureaucracy, however, an initial investment in
time to find out what the basic rules of the behemoth are, by your installer, might have mitigated some of your problems.  I myself try not to approach every bureaucrat as an adversary, but time is making me cautious.  What you do in your
house if it is a single structure should be no one’s
damn business if you do not infringe on a neighbors rights or potentially endanger others or yourself,
see the electrical wiring code for your state and city wiring.
  Bureaucracy in order to retain its power has to
meddle and show how much they are needed.  A good point is the temperature of coffee: “Remember the injured lady who apparently thought it safe to pour HOT coffee into her lap”.  Or what later turned out to be deliberate manipulations with the power grid by Enron to cause blackouts with following increases
for their supply of electrical power.  I believe all we have to do is follow the money-trail. That
includes paying off inspectors etc. etc.
  One final comment on a different matter in your
article:  “sort of like Hitler”, the only passage in your article which pertains to this statement is
your mention of “April 20” that was his birthday!
  Please keep up your articles on Government Hypocrisy some folks might learn something if they still or ever knew how to read (some individuals never made it past TV).
  May the Sun shine upon You for many more years

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By Mariam Russell, July 11, 2007 at 11:56 am Link to this comment
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BillC, Sugah, Mr Vidal was talkin ‘bout bureaucrats who have been instructed to cause as many problems for some parts of the public who are preceived as problematical, causing problems for the kind corporations who control our lives.

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By Gloria Picchetti, July 11, 2007 at 8:42 am Link to this comment
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I hope Gore Vidal’s solar power passes inspection ASAP. We need as much clean power as possible. I wish I could buy ton’s of stock in utilities just to vote against the board. If you can’t beat them, buy them.

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By Sheriff John, July 11, 2007 at 7:22 am Link to this comment
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There is nothing more frustrating than dealing with a bureaucracy. I have been and am, a recovering bureaucrat. Mr. Vidal will eventually achieve his goal. He is too well known and too unhappy to ignore. Having a voice through TruthDig won’t hurt either. He needs to be hooked up to the grid so he may sell poiwer back to DWP or reduce his grid bill. DWP may be a PITA but their charge is to protect all within their grid and see they have adequate power to run their home and businesses. This will all be resolved in 6 months, we can hope. Good luck Mr. Vidal, don’t give up.

Sheriff John

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By Bill Czechanski, July 11, 2007 at 6:41 am Link to this comment
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I find this article lacking in detail, uninteresting and the ramblings of someone who doesn’t have the slightest idea about solar power or electricity.

GV should stick to his literature and stay away from anything technical.

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By Jonah, July 10, 2007 at 8:19 pm Link to this comment
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Hey Cosmic Rose,

I own some land just a little farther east of you (Okanogan Highlands). I really have to tell you how much I admire you and what I am sure you have worked hard to develop. It is my intention to one day accomplish something along the same lines. Extremely well done madam…and thank you (along with Chuck) for chiming in and educating many of those reading this interview. Maybe GV might even learn a thing or two. One can only hope…


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By Cosmic Rose, July 10, 2007 at 5:04 pm Link to this comment
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To answer Middle American: A grid intertie system serves as BOTH a stand alone system and a grid connected system. You get the best of both worlds with such a system IF you have a battery bank back up and a DC disconnect. The batteries are one of the most costly parts of a stand alone system. If you have a grid intertie and the power goes out… you simply switch to stand alone power. I have friends that have this capacity that live in town. I don’t because I live quite a distance from any power lines in the middle of the North Cascades Wilderness by choice. I wanted to learn how to be self sufficient. You don’t have to live like a caveman in order to be able to afford a renewable energy system. don’t. Unfortunately most have no clue how to conserve unless forced to do so. My system ensures that I must prioritize my energy useage. Air conditioning is out of the question. That’s why my home is constructed of cordwood…is south facing… and has skylights to maximize passive energy capabilities. It is over 100 right now as I speak. I don’t even own a fan yet I’m comfortable as long as I don’t step outside… that is why I have a pool. There are incentives for both manufacturers and homeowners and if you are interested in looking into these visit DSIRE: The Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy…  the second link down on this page I include it due to the other valuable links on the page.

To Chuck the electrical dude: The house WAS for sale but I took it off the market a while back after I realized the treasure I already had versus the nightmare I might be tempted to buy into. Not to worry… this area seems not to be affected by the so called real estate crash as most are running to the hills to extricate themselves from the RAT RACE. We are presently confronting over- development here since outlanders have discovered the area. I appreciate the compliments on my home. I’m more than 1500 miles from Yellowstone. Many of my neighbors that live in town who used to be completely off the grid… are now grid intertied because it is much more beneficial to be. This is a relatively NEW option and we apparently live under the law of the west here… which means there are far fewer laws.

I am not without neighbors that I can visually see through the trees and I’m getting more all the time.
Less than a mile as a bird files) they are putting in a development where they homes cost a million or better. Gated Communities… that will in fact have power brought almost to my doorstep.

I was actually supporting your statements when I said Gore Vidal could not have an off grid system for various reasons ... many being the ones you outline. There is obviously a great deal of mis-communication on Gore’s part in this interview because he doesn’t grasp the terminology of the technology. I’m ALL FOR supporting and perpetuating grid intertie systems as much as I am for living as self sufficiently as is
possible… considering one’s capability to do so. When it comes to renewable energy and being environmentally aware… work with what you have to work with… but do something/anything toward that goal or else deal with the consequences of your inaction. You have touched on some of the most basic and cost effective changes one can make to do their part in your responses. I’ve not simply been talking it but I’ve been walking this talk for a long time now. Thus… I find nothing you have said that I could disagree with… cosmicly speaking. Bottom line is that Gore Vidal doesn’t know what is going on with the technology he is seeking to implement… and he might have done better not to pursue the state incentives if he didn’t care to adhere to all the red tape included (no pun intended).

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By middle.american, July 10, 2007 at 10:32 am Link to this comment

Why does it have to be either a grid-tie system or off grid?  Why can’t a home have a second breaker box that splits off most all of the homes outlets and lights for use with a solar system with battery bank.  That could then leave only power hungry 50 amp service (air conditioners) on the grid or with a separate grid-tie system.  Assuming you have propane for water heaters and a gas furnace.

In this manner even a modest solar setup would be useable.  A solar water heater could be installed along with propane for heat.  I even have an electric/propane refridgerator in case the electric cuts off.  My meager 4 battery system at least keeps the lights on for a week and will run the fan motor for a propane furnace.

I suppose the main concern would be getting the tax break for such a system.  The main benefit would be in the instance of a black out of which I’ve had several.  Having lights, hot water, and some electronics available goes a long way to remaining comfortable, secure as well as informed and entertained due to the abilty of having televisions and computers up and running.

I suppose I do understand the neccessity of inspections on grid-tie systems and perhaps even on off-grid systems due to possible hazards if wired wrong.  At least a certified electrician should have to sign off on a solar setup.

The question is… Where are the federal tax incentives for manufacturers and homeowners?  Why aren’t we moving subsidies for the coal and oil giants into solar production?  Just imagine the energy independent effects of four solar panels on every roof in America.

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By Mariam Russell, July 9, 2007 at 7:36 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“The sun shines for everyone and cannot be blocked or controlled or destroyed,” said Luis Bérriz, director of CUBASOLAR (the Cuban Society for the Promotion of Renewable Energy Sources and Environmental Respect) to Granma International in 1999.

Enrico Turrini, founding partner of EUROSOLAR and honorary member of CUBASOLAR, is convinced that within a few decades, Cuba could receive 100% of its electricity from solar energy.

In conversation with this weekly, the Italian doctor also stated that these renewable energy sources could see a major development within the industry and tourism sectors on the island.

From an article in Granma International.

Obviously they do not have the bureaucrats tutored to make things difficult…..or maybe, since California is the home of Bechtel, who tried to make the collection of rainwater illegal in Bolivia, they really do think the sun shines only for them.

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By Chuck the Electrical Contractor, July 9, 2007 at 5:19 pm Link to this comment
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To Cosmic Rose:  I looked at your house, and it’s very nice! But too close to the Yellowstone Caldera for my taste.  Good luck selling, too, as we are in the middle of real estate crash.  May not affect you (hopefully, and I mean that) though, since your place is very specialized.  What I said holds, though.  You are completely off the grid because you are out in the sticks surrounded by trees, not other houses.  I appreciate your technical understanding of your system, and your post was well-worded to help non-techies understand, but I repeat, MOST municipalities in California (where I hold my license)require homes within their boundaries to be hooked up to the grid. If it is not, the house can be condemned. These laws were made to protect neighborhoods from squatters. Now, Gore could Technically remove himself by installing the batteries and simply shutting off his main breaker. But he would have to leave the power drop hooked up and the meter in place.  Besides, people who live in the city should WANT the grid return system.  It pays for the equipment over time, and there’s no better feeling than sticking it to the man and making him pay YOU for a change! Besides, if everyone who could afford it put up an array that fed the grid, then offed their suv’s and bought something that got at least 30 mpg, we would be free of reliance on foreign oil, and then some. I read recently that if every home in America changed out just 5 standard bulbs for CF’s, we could quit importing oil.  I don’t know if that’s true, but I’ll bet it would be enough to quit buying it from Saudi Arabia.

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By Cosmic Rose, July 9, 2007 at 11:33 am Link to this comment
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The problem here is mis-communication and perhaps Gore Vidal not totally understanding the technology and or terminology he and others are using in this instance.

I have lived off the grid utilizing solar and wind technology for the last decade. Solar systems were originally created for off the grid applications but recently they have evolved to included what is called a grid-intertie system. These are solar and wind systems that permit the end user to harness free energy sources to send power into the grid. The utility companies then basically purchase this power if it is in excess of what is being used by the end user. This is done by a process called Net Metering and it is quite technical in that the power systems that are grid connected MUST be to code using specific requirements.

It is obvious that Gore Vidal doesn’t fully grasp that his system is NOT a stand alone off grid system. If it were… he would be receiving no incentive from the state or the federal government to install it. Any time you put your hand out to accept a government incentive (subsidy… assistance) you MUST adhere to major pain in the astrals rules and regulations that you would not otherwise have to deal with. If Vidal’s system were not a grid intertie system he also would not have to deal with all the red tape that comes with becoming your own power company basically. In essence a solar/wind system that is hooked up to the grid… is creating power and sending it into that grid to be disbursed. Why would the utilities try to keep this from happening when they need all the power supplies they can get?

The issue is in how this system has been installed… what type of equipment is being used and if it has been installed to meet all requirements. For example a normal off grid inverter will not function properly in a grid intertie system. You must use a specific type of inverter for this set up. Some solar panels are not UL listed. You can use them for an off grid application but NOT with a grid intertie system. You need a battery bank to store excess power collected in an off grid application… you don’t with a grid intertie because the grid acts as your storage mechanism.  There are too many variables to mention that would make installing an off grid system different than installing one that will be hooked up to the grid.

I doubt that Vidal is running an elevator in an off grid system without needing a basement full of batteries and an entire roof full of panels… ok… so that might be a little exaggeration… but not much.  Bureaucracy and red tape is a progressive pain in the astrals for anyone these days however there is a cure. DISCONNECT from it completely like I have and don’t imagine that the government is going to ever give you something without asking MORE in return. You’ll know when they are serious about the environment when they offer incentives for OFF GRID applications. You can see my home here…

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By TJ, July 9, 2007 at 11:01 am Link to this comment
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Perhaps Mr. Vidal’s better option would have been to completely remove the house from the grid ... tell the power company to take down their lines.

Their only concievable reason for concern is that excess power was not properly connected to the grid.

In other words, rather than cooperate by selling excess solar output to the state, if the state is going to be obstructionist, simply remove yourself from it. Then there is nothing there for the law and their rules to grab hold of.

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By Chuck the Electrical Contractor, July 9, 2007 at 6:41 am Link to this comment
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It was very difficult to see exactly what Mr. Vidal’s
problem was, because he knew absolutely nothing technical, being dedicated instead to hyperbole and innuendo.  Which is what makes him so interesting as a writer and speaker, but renders the description of his situation nearly useless.
  I will say that most municipalities require a house to be on the grid.  These laws were passed long ago to fight squatters, empowering the local authorities to condemn houses without active electrical service, and then evict the residents.  If you want to be truly off the grid, you have to move to an unincorporated area, where you can have a well, septic tank, and any kind of alternative energy you want.  If the property you are on is zoned as agriculatural, you don’t have to get permits for anything in many areas.
    In Gore’s case, he not only must be hooked up to the grid, but is wise to do so, since it is true that your meter will run backwards during much of the day, if you have enough solar panels.  The other thing you need is an automatic shunt that will block power being generated by the panels from going through the power drop, transformer, and high-tension lines in the event of a power failure.  This is extremely important!  If this is not properly done, you could kill a lineman trying to repair the system during a power outage. This is why inspection is absolutely necessary.  DWP should only be inspecting for puposes of determing the value of the incentives, and to ensure that the safety shunt is properly installed.  The local building office that issued their permit (assuming they got one!) is responsible for making certain that the rest of the electrical installation is up to code.
    Understand this: If a new electrical installation exceeds the carrying capacity or tolerances of the existing system, the existing system must be upgraded.  Gore said his house was built in the twenties, and I can tell you that grounding requirements have changed extensively since then.  If his original meter and main is original, it is a fuse system, as circuit breakers were not used then in residential construction.  This would be unsuitable for the system and the shunt.  See, it’s not at all hard to imagine how these problems occur when people don’t get all their facts first.  The contractor is always to blame, believe me.  If he had gotten all the right info, then followed the rules, then made sure to get it finalled before activation, then all of this could have been avoided.
  I am in sympathy with the Libertarian sentiments expressed above, and generally agree that government is incompetent, and overbearing, corrupt, and inefficient.  In this case, though, we’re talking about the reasons that houses burn down, and firestorms in the Hollywood hills get started.  I wouldn’t want to be his immediate neighbor with his system improperly installed.  That’s why these rules get made: proximity to others.  If anyone wants to avoid regulation, take the advice I gave above: move to agriculturally zoned land, and do your thing.
    By the way, since there are no SUV’s on Mars, Saturn, and Pluto, and Scientists have determined that all the other planets are warming, too, I suggest we will soon have much larger worries than where our power comes from.  If it’s system wide, we aren’t making it happen, which means we’re not going to be able to stop it.  Cheers!

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By ardee, July 8, 2007 at 4:59 pm Link to this comment

#85045 by Phrost on 7/08 at 9:34 am
(Unregistered commenter)

#85009 by ardee on 7/08 at 6:54 am
(237 comments total)

The Bush administration has done one very important thing, in my opinion. It has pointed out most clearly that unbridled and unchecked capitalism is far too costly and far too unethical to be allowed in essential services.


!?! the vice president is one of the higher ups in a major oil company. bush himself made money off of that “unchecked capitalism in essential services”. So did his father. Remember Enron? They were buddies of this administration too. Where were they located again?

I’d suggest googling the phrase “lip service” and paying close attention to the definition.

Hey Phrost, about that reading comprehension thingie…you fail. Did you honestly think I was SUPPORTING this administration, or, in your desire to rail about something or someone, did you just skim the surface and fail to think about what was said?

But thanks for the corroboration of my point, even if it was unconscious.

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By sejanus, July 8, 2007 at 4:15 pm Link to this comment
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I live off Cahuenga and had a similar encounter with the DWP. I had to run the house main underground and the regulations specified that a 1/2 inch yellow nylon pull rope be used. Home Depot was out of yellow pull ropes that day so we used a blue and red one instead. DWP gigged the whole job. Apparently the color of the rope lying in the conduit was important.

The pipe was open at both ends and I could have simply pulled a new rope through but they had us dig up the conduit and go through the whole inspection process again.

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By raster44, July 8, 2007 at 3:15 pm Link to this comment
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Funny how city inspectors will come in and not understand part of their job. I unstalled a gas fired on-demand water heater system about 20 years ago. I had a 50 gal quick return gas hot water but it seemed to fail after about six years for each one. After the second one went due to the hard water from our water treatment plant, even though I would drain the sediment from the bottom of the tank monthly. It would corrode the glass liner and cause it to leak.

I had asked about the On-demand heater and the code officer said I needed to have it inspected after installation. OK, I installed the Unit, just connecting the gas and the vent and the hot and cold water pipes. Nothing leaked, it basically replaced the old hot water tank. Inspector came out and I explained how the heater worked and showed him the instructions about installation and he said I had to have a professional install it. I told him no one who I called installed these and as far as I knew, I was the one who was the professional as I had installed it. I had to get a plumber and have him come out and certify the unit installation before it could be inspected. He couldn’t inspect it without a tag from a qualified plumber. I got on the phone and called six local plumbers and they said that they didn’t install these units. He even talked to one of the plumbers on the phone as he knew him quite well. The city inspector made me go down in the basement and turn off the gas to the unit. He said to call him when it was certified by a plumber.

After he left I went down and turned the gas back on and ran the hot water to actify the unit and check if it was working OK. Went upstairs and have never called the inspectors office or done anything to the unit and it has performed perfectly for the past 20 years. We have all the hot water we need at all times and I have checked the bleeder valve and no sediment is discharged from the unit.

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By Felipe Garbanzo, July 8, 2007 at 2:59 pm Link to this comment
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While we’re heaping abuse on one SoCal bureaucracy, let us not forget the LA City tax on the self employed, a sham if there ever was one.  You cannot get a consistent answer out of this bureaucracy and if they decide you owe them money based on rules they make up every week, woe unto thee!

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By Oh'Really, July 8, 2007 at 2:57 pm Link to this comment
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Old man complains about an utility company!  Quick, hot to the presses. Laughing on the inside.

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By The Falcon of the Adirondacks, July 8, 2007 at 1:24 pm Link to this comment
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Gore Vidal should sue the DWP and individually every asshole who came to his house and disabled his system to leave him to die of a stroke in the heat without air conditioning.

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By Hokum, July 8, 2007 at 11:45 am Link to this comment
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Sounds as if Vidal left out most of the story, such as the parts involving how he failed to use standard wiring and such….

My crocodile tears are falling.

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By j-m, July 8, 2007 at 11:21 am Link to this comment
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I support Gore Vidal 100%. He is an American hero and beloved author and human being. It is time that the American people stand up to the governmental establishment that desires to keep us in chains and do nothing but line their pockets with greed. Solar power is our right to have and no one’s right to own, and the Department of Water and Power, the City of Los Angeles, State of California, or the United States should have NO authority to keep us from using it, or taping into it. Stand up to those who are against Global Warming, and do NOTHING to protect or heal our environment. Boycott the businesses that DO NOT support Live Earth or the healing of the planet. Those corporations who advertise on media that does not tell us the truth, deserve a boycott against their products. Stand up and don’t let fear control you. Be strong and united in defending OUR planet and Mother Nature. Support Gore Vidal, is a loving and wonderful human being; one that vidal to the peace and happiness to our humanity.

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By Sufi, July 8, 2007 at 11:09 am Link to this comment
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I’m curious, is this solar power system entirely independent of the grid or is it made to subsidize commercially available power?

I only ask because there is an issue about what is kind of like a power backwash into the grid from independent energy sources that are linked in… which can blow out transformers and damage other peoples services. They are tightly regulated.

What is really preposterous is the way power companies charge people who use these sources. In many cases it ends up costing more to run solar panels because you end up reimbursing the power company for the service you WOULD have used. It very effectively discourages many people who, say, aren’t Gore Vidal and don’t have time and money to spend fighting it.

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By Jonah, July 8, 2007 at 11:00 am Link to this comment
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Mr. Vidal’s little tantrum does everyone a disservice in my opinion. It’s highly doubtful he is “off grid”. Most utilities will buy back energy generated by Solar systems during the day if not used (the meter spins backwards) and anyone who is contemplating solar would be wise to consider this form of setup in that it works both ways. If you need more power than your system provides, you get it from the grid. So in that case, you are still required to get fully inspected and signed off by the utility BEFORE it is even fired up. This apparently did not happen and the fault would lie with the electrician (who most likely worked for the solar installation company as a sub-contractor) who violated the electrical code/requirements. They may have disconnected his system for safety/legal reasons but it’s doubtful they entered his home without permission and stared yanking wire out of the wall. :rollseyes:

I also have a problem with anyone who uses the old “Nazi” analogy so loosely. Shame on you sir.

Without knowing the full details, I will withhold further supposition but let’s just say I find Mr. Vidal’s petulant diatribe very self centered and full of what I consider to be misdirected blame.

I hope a real solar expert will chime in here so that those considering Solar (as we all should) will not be turned off by the misinformation presented in this interview.

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By Phrost, July 8, 2007 at 10:34 am Link to this comment
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#85009 by ardee on 7/08 at 6:54 am
(237 comments total)

The Bush administration has done one very important thing, in my opinion. It has pointed out most clearly that unbridled and unchecked capitalism is far too costly and far too unethical to be allowed in essential services.


!?! the vice president is one of the higher ups in a major oil company. bush himself made money off of that “unchecked capitalism in essential services”. So did his father. Remember Enron? They were buddies of this administration too. Where were they located again?

I’d suggest googling the phrase “lip service” and paying close attention to the definition.

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By Infopro, July 8, 2007 at 9:33 am Link to this comment
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Fire Simkin.

It’s his fault for not doing what I guess is his job to assist the gimp. (his term not my attack)

There is no company in this country coming into my home without me, or my representative being there to oversee the visit.

Vidal seems to have been having a bad day when this reporter came for the story, and Vidal was ranting. SO not all facts are clear here.

It sounds to me like a building permit issue. If the inspector comes in to see something done without a permit, he can make you pull it back out. Wires, wood deck, concrete floor even. You need permits so its on record that work was done by professionals.

The guys who put the system in surely knew this. That CEO himself was there! So Vidal is slipping a bit in memory of the details here.

Also, where are you putting the extra juice the panels pull in? Got a basement full of batteries? Of course not. So, you need to be “on the grid” to dump the extra not used.

Not sure about California, but don’t they buy that back from you out there? I bet they do.

What concerns me is, Vidal states they go down in his basement whenever they want. Bull.

If they do, time to change the locks. And like I said, fire the assistant. He’s worthless.

Now, if you want to look at this thru “I hate bush” glasses, fine. I’m with you there. I hate him as well. I say we plug his butt into the grid and flip a switch.

I’d also be down in that basement looking for bugs/transmitters that ‘bush’s brownies’ have planted to keep tabs on Vidals every move.

Cut the line to the street, fill the basement with large batteries to hold your extra juice, and for crying out loud, get a building permit next time Mr. CEO of the solar panel co!

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By ardee, July 8, 2007 at 7:54 am Link to this comment

#84958 by Ugly American on 7/07 at 10:32 pm
(Unregistered commenter)

Remember this the next time you hear somebody arguing in favor of goverment services aka monopolies and how great they are.

What a stretch, I hope you didnt hurt yourself? I suppose you prefer the type of private enterprise that has cost the taxpayer billions in Iraq and delivered next to nothing? Or perhaps you worship at the feet of the health care industry that leaves the US in 35th position in deliverance of care to us all?

The Bush administration has done one very important thing, in my opinion. It has pointed out most clearly that unbridled and unchecked capitalism is far too costly and far too unethical to be allowed in essential services.

I still think that all the travails of Mr. Vidal can be laid at the doorstep of his political positions against Bush and rampant greed.

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By Amatuer Bob, July 8, 2007 at 5:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

My Grandmother who lived until her late 80’s succeeded in Nagging my Grandfather to death, because she was not intelligent enough to be effected by any of his verbal retorts, they all just rolled of her back, as if they never happened. He died in frustration, because he could not communicate, with her, and consequently could not defend himself.

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By Ugly American, July 7, 2007 at 11:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Remember this the next time you hear somebody arguing in favor of goverment services aka monopolies and how great they are.

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By mighty thor, July 7, 2007 at 11:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“[utility companies] have no intention for anyone to use solar power so long as there’s a drop of oil anywhere in the world.”

electricity is primarily generated by burning coal int the U.S., not oil. and if you’re in LA the source could even be nuclear.

i doubt this is a oil conspiracy, since only the very rich could afford this kind of setup anyway. more likely the inspectors were unfamiliar with the setup and shut it down for perhaps what they thought were safety reasons.

people are dying in iraq so you can drive your SUV up into the hollywood hills. solar power (are those panels derived from petroleum products?) helps offset greenhouse gases from burning coal, has nothing to do with big oil.

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By Spinoza, July 7, 2007 at 10:28 pm Link to this comment

There is a bureaucratic mentality that is not necessary.

The question should have been, does the system as installed work?  Is it reasonably safe. End of story. It doesn’t matter what the rules are. Rules are made to be broken. If the system didn’t work the municipality was not going to pay for the correction. A nod and a wink are a necessary part of how a reasonable society has to work.

Further the need for conformity is unnecessary. If someone wants a round house and everyone elses is retangular the person wanting the round house should have his way.

On-the-other-hand,if city planning was involved, conformity might be necessary because a particular style of architecture is being used as part of street design or if everyone was required to put in solar panels than the overall system might best be designed to not stress the load on the system, especially if all of the houses are tied together to a central system for backup.

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By Louise, July 7, 2007 at 5:31 pm Link to this comment

Dear SellerJPL,

I can empathize with your natural inclination to defend the utility company’s, particularly if you follow the rules.

You suggest Mr. Vidal’s problems stem from him not following the rules. So, I have a question for you. Since you have had no hassles, you will have to base your response on the guidelines you are trained to follow.

If you are instructed to inspect an installation, are you empowered to enter the home owners premises without permission and rip out ALL of the wiring?

What exactly IS proper procedure when someone is sent out to inspect an installation?

If the inspector is unsure about the safety of a system, can’t he simply cut the power source to the house until the inspection is complete and if necessary, repairs made?

Cant the power supply be shut off without entering the home?
Are you required to notify the resident before you do?

As I read the article, Mr. Vidal is upset because his power went out without notice and they ripped out his wiring, in spite of his objections.

I would be too, and I’ll bet so would you.

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By G. Anderson, July 7, 2007 at 2:44 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Recently I have been dealing with a lot of despair about the world, and the morons who run it.

It seems that despite all their wonderful talk of freedom, they are busy turning us into slaves. Because they value slaves more than free people.

They have done their best to make us all dirt poor, with the guile, that would put a bank robber to shame.

The rules, the laws and restrictions that people must endure have become incomprehensible to me, on my worst days, and on others I vow to fight them with my last breath.

My Grandmother who lived until her late 80’s succeeded in Nagging my Grandfather to death, because she was not intelligent enough to be effected by any of his verbal retorts, they all just rolled of her back, as if they never happened. He died in frustration, because he could not communicate, with her, and consequently could not defend himself.

This is the problem with trying to expect anything from the Octopus like DWP.

The last time I talked to them, I had to slowly spell, the last name Garcia, because the person on the other end of the phone, didn’t know how it was spelled.

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By SellerJPL, July 7, 2007 at 1:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If only someone would have explained the program to Gore prior to the installation this could have all been avoided.
There are two sides to each story and yours is a typical short sided one!
Each rule and regulation has been in existance since solar PV cells were invented.
Home use is a costly and worthwhile event, if you can pay for it.
The incentives come from federal tax credits, I know you disagree with anything in the federal arena, but still it’s there.
LADWP, Edison, PG & E and SMUD all have incentives to install solar.
Next time follow the rules and regulations and you will not have the issues you are presently dealing with!
I install these in LADWP, Edison, PG & E and the SMUD electric zones with no hassel.

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By Louise, July 7, 2007 at 12:44 pm Link to this comment

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Who out there doesn’t recognize a typical mid-last century Water Heater? You know, that round thing that has a faucet on the bottom, is clearly marked water heater and has copper pipes going in and out.

Back in 1960, we bought a new home. The house was approved for financing and insured. We had a walk-through, closed on the loan and moved in.

Six weeks later, came a knock on the door. The man identified himself as a county building inspector, showed me his work order and his ID. He was there to inspect the “proper installation” of the water heater. I was a bit surprised and told him so. After all, the gas company had to inspect it before they would turn on the gas. The insurance underwriter had to inspect it before insuring. The bank had to inspect it before closing. And the builder had to have everything inspected to pay off the construction loan.

He explained the county building department was running a little behind schedule.

Eight weeks according to the date on the work order.

So I let him in, took him to the basement, opened the door to the utility room and stood back so he could go in. He went in and stood there for a minute looking at the square thing and the round thing then turned to me and asked, “Which one of these is the water heater?”

After I identified it for him, he said everything looked OK, asked me to sign the work order stating he had inspected, [which I did, along with dating it] he left, and I had a good laugh.

My story is funny. Vidal’s is not. But the one thing they have in common is gross lack of qualification on the part of the Inspectors.

I personally do not think the problem is “too much” government. I think the problem is too many dummies working for the government. [Dummies who will go to great lengths to cover each other’s arss’s by the way] I mean gees! Look at how much trouble we’re having getting our congressers to understand what’s going on in the White House!
Duh ...

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By DennisD, July 7, 2007 at 12:30 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When dealing with a quasi-government entity the real story would have been that everything came together as planned. This qualifies as a non-story.
84681 by great_satan - The “Brazil” reference is perfect.

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By sara, July 7, 2007 at 11:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

if solar panels were installed on rooftops of all the highrises from california to florida, all along the sun belt, one wonders:
how much cheaper would gas be?
how much energy could be sent back to the grid and relieve the NE from freezing in the winter?
how quickly wd the need for oil wars cease to be a necessity?
how much longer will the geriatric replicant few be allowed to crank up the rate of destruction of this once wonderful country to make a fortune they will never be able to spend?
btw: my string of consciousness is a reflection of my concience.

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By great_satan, July 7, 2007 at 9:10 am Link to this comment

#84769 by Verne Arnold
  “Hello, is it just me or is this article incomprehensible?”

  Just you, Verne. Okay, its a pretty casual interview, obviously barely edited, so the dialog kind of drifts, like any conversation would if it were transcribed. But its comprehensible, but maybe because I already read the shorter report. You posted at 7:55 Am on a Saturday, try again in the afternoon.

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By Verne Arnold, July 7, 2007 at 8:55 am Link to this comment

Hello, is it just me or is this article incomprehensible?  I don’t get it…why was this such a big deal?  Solar…whatever…this interview left me completely confused and it made no sense.

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By Tony Vodvarka, July 7, 2007 at 6:56 am Link to this comment

Regarding Mo, yes, there is often two sides to a story but the electric utility industry, especially in Callifornia, long ago ran out of any sort of credibility that might give it the benefit of the doubt when it spouts techno-speak.  All praise to Gore Vidal, a true American patriot, our century’s Tom Paine.
    Tony Vodvarka, Hartly DE

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By BooBots, July 7, 2007 at 5:09 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If Vidal ever got his socialist dream, he would find this sort of government hellaciousness the norm.

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By ---, July 7, 2007 at 12:45 am Link to this comment

Mr. Vidal,

As someone deeply concerned about our environment and involved in environmental activism for years, I commend you for transitioning your home into being solar-powered, and I empathize with your stress.

Your experience with government bureaucracy appears to be another example of the need to shrink the size, cost, and power of government at every level. 
It’s no surprise this ordeal would happen.  It’s big government as usual. Government is FORCE. 

Big government is never reasonable. It’s all about control; extorting money from us to pay for wasteful inefficient oppressive bureaucracy.  I believe in individual liberty and personal responsibility—and am against government control over our lives. We don’t need government to take care of us or to “protect” us from ourselves. We need freedom to live our lives as we choose.

Many are aware how unjust much government regulation is.  You are not alone in how you feel, though in the midst of such a disturbing experience it may seem like it.

There is a political party who is for small government - the Libertarian Party.  It is the political party truly devoted to the U.S. Constitution, and the party dedicated to shrinking the size-cost-and power of government at every level.  We oppose excessive regulation…we are for small government…a government truly of the people.

We want a man such as yourself to harness the sun’s power relatively if not completely free from regulation, just as we want many other government regulations which oppress the people to be abolished. We are for small government.

As Libertarian candidate for president, I am dedicated to eliminating government control over the personal and economic lives of the American people.  I’ve shared my message of liberty with millions nationwide in the past few months, and have also heard stories like yours—the common denominator—government exerting force to maintain control over the lives of Americans.

I oppose government control and government greed.  I want Americans to control their own lives free from government intrusion. Your experience apparently exemplifies big government bureaucracy; the Libertarian Party wants to shrink the size and power of government at all levels.  (We are also the third largest political party in the United States, larger than all other third parties combined.)  I now view every political election as an opportunity to be a voter of integrity—-I follow my conscious—and vote as if my vote would decide who is elected—I have become voter of integrity (actually thanks greatly to your books and essays which were a great influence upon my awareness of the corruption of our government).

I want to be part, and encourage all readers, to be part of putting us on a path to a freer and better America…an America where citizens are not persecuted and victimized by governmental tyranny.  Perhaps you may use this experience to ponder the real cause of regulations you view as oppressive - big government.  Disturbing examples of governmental bureaucracy and control over people’s lives in many areas is why I am a Libertarian.  I want to get government out of our lives as much as possible. 

Mr. Vidal, I empathize with you. It pains me to realize the stress you’re experiencing due to governmental regulation and intrusion upon your privacy and life.
May your ordeal be resolved to your satisfaction.

Thank you for speaking out.
I wish you well.

Christine Smith (Colorado)

For those readers who reject ever increasing government control, I invite you to my political campaign website:


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By Jim Slater, July 6, 2007 at 11:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


If anyone can make a public spectacle out of those rotten bureaucrat-rat bastards, it’s Gore Vidal!

Keep up the great work.  There are some of us out here that think you are one of the few, and very few, that won’t shrink from telling the complete truth.

Again—GO GET’EM GORE!!!!! 

Jim Slater
Oak Point, TX

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By great_satan, July 6, 2007 at 8:36 pm Link to this comment

I knew when I first saw “Brazil” it would come to this. Where is Harry Tuttle when you need him?

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By Mo, July 6, 2007 at 6:13 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

LADWP burns natural gas and oil to make power, no oil is consumed.  You can install a bank of batteries in a closet, solar panels on the roof, and disconnect from the grid completely, without a need for LADWP inspection.  Unless you have batteries you’ll still sit in the dark next time the grid goes down, with or without solar.  Most homeowners forego expensive batteries, spin their meters backwards in the daytime, in effect using the grid as a big free battery.  This means you are storing your property in LADWP’s property, and inspecting the installation is crucial for your neigbors safety as well as your own.  Call the Long Beach Building Dept and ask them about the quality of Williams solar installations.  There are always two sides to every story.

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By, July 6, 2007 at 4:46 pm Link to this comment

That’s Right, IMPEACH & JAIL cheney & bush



That Is Very Cool, & mostly Pollution Free at…

help create en, THEN

Run 4 PResident Of Planet Earth .com at…

Peace, Love & Later, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

YUP… I’m Running & U Can 2

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By ardee, July 6, 2007 at 4:35 pm Link to this comment

Mr. Vidal, If you think this experience is harrowing try dealing with either the IRS or the Franchise Tax Board!

I might conjecture that the name Gore Vidal might play more of a role in this bureaucratic nightmare than discussed in the article. Vidal is not exactly a supporter of the administration ( not exactly!) and someone, somewhere, noting the name of the applicant for a solar installation might have rubbed his hands together and said,” now we’ll show that lefty!”.

It is my understanding that, although one goes solar, or turns to wind power for that matter, one is still on the grid. I work for a public utility and we buy the excess power generated by solar or wind turbine installations.

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