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Smart Meters Draw (Misguided) Opposition from Left and Right in California

smart meters
As the government and utility companies have continued to work towards modernizing our energy infrastructure and ushering in the era of the smart grid, they've met with surprisingly strong resistance across the political spectrum. The backlash against wireless smart meters has been particularly strong in California, where Tea Party conspiracy theorists and overzealous left-wing Luddites have found themselves on the same side of a battle to keep modern electricity meters out of their homes. Pacific Gas and Electric has been installing wireless smart meters in homes across northern California, but activists have gone to great lengths to cease the rollout, including blockading the company's garages.

The meters originally sparked outrage because residents claimed they were reporting artificially high electricity usage, but those accusations were quickly debunked after several studies confirmed their accuracy. Once that tactic was shot full of holes, the Golden State's activists changed their arguments. Suddenly Tea Party activists were arguing that monitoring the electricity usage of appliances was a violation of privacy rights. (This coming from the group that demands President Obama turn over private medical documents to prove he isn't a secret Kenyan Muslim!) Meanwhile, bleeding-hearts were voicing concerns about potential health issues and the potential for harm to people suffering from electromagnetic hypersensitivity (E.H.S.), a disease that has been repeatedly shown by medical studies to be a figment of the sufferer's imagination.

The anti-smart meter crowd has won some traction with local officials, though. The Board of Supervisors in Santa Cruz county extended a moratorium on installations, and officials in Marin County have outright banned their installation in its unincorporated areas.

The truth of the matter, however, is that there is little evidence that the low levels of electromagnetic radiation emitted by wireless radios have harmful health effects, and there is even less evidence that E.H.S. actually exists. And while we understand the desire to protect your privacy at every turn, especially against a powerful corporate entity like Pacific Gas and Electric, there is very little information that utility companies can glean about you or share, simply by using a smart meter. The meters report broad usage trends, help identify peak hours of usage and, when paired with appliances that can communicate with smart meters, identify potential energy hogs in your home. The live reporting of electricity usage will not betray to the utility companies or the government that you spend the hours of 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. watching furry porn followed by marathon sessions of the '700 Club.' True, these updates will require some trade-offs from the consumer. Ultimately, though, a smart grid will help us lower our overall energy consumption and help prevent massive power outages, like the one that struck the northeast in 2003.

Tags: california, ehs, electromagnetic hypersensitivity, ElectromagneticHypersensitivity, ems, green, politics, privacy, smart grid, smart meters, SmartGrid, SmartMeters, tea party, TeaParty