Some reasons why the electricity in Puerto Rico is not working

by on October 13, 2017 at 2:26 pm in Current Affairs, Economics, Law | Permalink

  • The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) declined to ask for help from mainland electric utilities in the days after Hurricane Maria, instead turning to a small Montana-based contractor to carry out grid restoration practices.
  • Earlier this week, PREPA CEO Ricardo Ramos told E&E News that his bankrupt utility did not reach out to munis on the continental U.S. because he was unsure it could pay them back for assistance. About 90% of the island remains without power weeks after the storm hit.
  • The American Public Power Association (APPA), the trade group for U.S. munis, confirmed that mutual assistance programs were not activated, but said PREPA had already contracted with Whitefish Energy by the time the trade group convened a conference call to coordinate aid. PREPA did not respond to requests for comment.

Here is the full story, and here is a related piece, via Brian S.

1 Bernard October 13, 2017 at 3:41 pm

“Some reasons why the electricity in Puerto Rico is not working”

yeah, reason is sorely lacking in the PR analysis. yesterday, wacko leftist San Juan Mayor Cruz directly accused Trump of “genocide” in PR

Major U.S. news outlets now solemnly report that 80% of PR population has no drinking water — a blatantly ridiculous statement (they would all be dead by now without drinking water)

death toll in currejt northern California fires is almost as high as high as PR Hurricane deaths and will very likely exceed it by wide margin

2 Brian Slesinsky October 13, 2017 at 5:42 pm

Look beyond the statements of politicians and instead look for what reporters on the ground are saying.

Regarding “no drinking water,” that’s a matter of poor phrasing, but it still means that most Puerto Ricans have no running water and they have to go find water somewhere. That’s something that hasn’t happened in the rest of the U.S; it’s unlike any other disaster recently.

I’d take that bet on death counts. That number comes from governments. The California state and local governments are doing fine; there is some confusion with missing people but that will be fixed quickly. In Puerto Rico, the local government is in disarray, so it’s going to take a lot longer to go back and fix the statistics.

3 Bernard October 13, 2017 at 9:37 pm

well, mainstream reporters on the ground are spouting the same dramatized superficial hype as the biased politicians.
Hurricane Maria has been gone for over 3 weeks — adequate time to get a reasonable damage assessment. PR is not a big place — less than two-thirds the size of Connecticut; plenty of aircraft.helicopters available to survey and assist supposed “remote” areas. (PR National Guard has lots of aircraft, personnel and resources, but you hear nothing on the news about what they are doing). PR is a tropical island loaded with fresh water; running water in your home is very very nice, but hardly an unpredictable deficiency after a major hurricane. PR infrastructure and economy were a total mess well before any hurricane due to incompetent/corrupt internal self-government. PR current difficulties are comparatively trivial relative to the horrors experienced by its neighbor Haiti — with endless suffering and hundreds of thousands dead from natural disasters. Reason and rational perspective are useful tools in life’s challenges.

4 Brian Slesinsky October 14, 2017 at 12:13 pm

You can’t count dead people using aircraft.

5 Bernard October 14, 2017 at 5:44 pm

Helicopters & light aircraft can easily land around PR and talk to locals about their missing and dead

This notion that PR contains wildly remote, inaccessible areas is nonsense.
Puerto Rico is approximately 30 miles wide from north to south and about 90 miles from west to east. Highest PR mountain is only 4400 ft.
It’s no more difficult to access PR interior areas than to access interior of Connecticut or Vermont after a big storm.

Death toll in California is now 35; Puerto Rico 48. Many California areas are still truly unreachable with raging fires; Puerto Rico has had weeks to tally deaths.
Main point is that the PR situation is exaggerated to better beggar extra mainland resources.

6 Art Deco October 13, 2017 at 3:58 pm

Steve Sailer has long had an attitude about Puerto Rico, maintaining the place was a study in failure theatre (even though one of Latin America’s most affluent territories). Sometimes his thesis looks better than others.

7 The Anti-Gnostic October 13, 2017 at 6:22 pm

Its government put $73 billion on a credit card. I’d look affluent too.

8 Steve Sailer October 14, 2017 at 1:05 am

Depopulating Puerto Rico could flip swing state Florida permanently Democratic, giving the Democrats close to a lock on the White House.

9 Art Deco October 14, 2017 at 9:57 am

I’m quoting gdp statistics. The place has has a manufacturing-oriented economy.

10 Li Zhi October 13, 2017 at 6:50 pm

Electricity? Mañana.

11 Michael Kevane October 13, 2017 at 6:54 pm

There are increasing doubts that when water is restored in Puerto Rico that it will be potable (treatment stations and watersheds all negatively impacted). It has been a long time since 3 million people had to drink filtered water and bottled water for months or longer. In and of itself that is a very big logistical challenge. Electricity and water are our most basic infrastructure, without public electricity it is very hard for telcoms to work well. So most people might have limited telcom access for many months. Once those basic services eventually are restored, or people divert income to expensive private solutions, you have to take into account that months of work have been and will be lost. Government tax revenues will plummet. Government already has been in debt crisis. So that makes restoring all municipal services (schools, elder care, drug rehab, public health) impacted. So again private sector has to find expensive inefficient private solutions: stay home to care for grandma who has Alzheimers because elder care facilities have closed. So again private economy contracts, government revenues fall further. Seems pretty basic, that the right attitude here for public policy is that significant resources *and* significant management capabilities and oversight are needed. Sure it will be frustrating. But ask yourself about the alternative: having a downward-spiral for 3-4 million U.S. citizens, setting a precedent for that kind of neglect (Napa, pull yourselves up by your own bootstraps and stop complaining), enabling extremism (the kinds of frustrations among young people that extreme neglect will cause are likely to lead in one direction), and finally (we need some humor, don’t we, even in tragedy?) making reggaetón even more popular.

12 Harun October 13, 2017 at 8:43 pm

Drug rehab doesn’t really work. It’s not a big loss

13 A Truth Seeker October 13, 2017 at 7:37 pm

It is sad to see how the brave people of Puerto Rico has been betrayed and abandoned by its callous American colonial masters. What happened to America?!

14 The Other Jim October 13, 2017 at 7:40 pm

Thiago, I’m sure that if you continue to come to MR and ask this rhetorical question every day for the rest of your entire freaking life, the answer will become clear.

So hop to it!

15 A Truth Seeker October 13, 2017 at 9:05 pm

Will the answer be made clear to Americans, too? Somehow, I doubt. What we see is a bunch of pygmies squandering the legacy of their cyclopic forefathers and selling their children in bondage to the Red Chinese Moloch and bankers. America has become a whorehouse where the revolutionary ideals
of your forefathers have been corrupted and sold in alleys.

16 Huh October 14, 2017 at 4:02 pm

The contract with Whitefish, which the linked artcle reveals is owned by a Brazilian concern, is just a conduit for graft and kickbacks. PREPA didn’t want to work with other utilities per mutual aid because that would preclude PREPA executives stealing a good chunk of the restoration money, which is ultimately coming from mainland taxpayers. In Puerto Rico only a fool would let a good crisis go to waste. Contracts for post-Maria rebuilding are a rare opportunity for concentrated graft, and no politician or bureaucrat in PR wants to miss it.

17 MARTY MURPHY October 14, 2017 at 8:34 pm

One bright spot in all this misery: The infrastructure of Puerto Rico (electricity grid, roads, water supply, sanitation, telecom etc.) was in a shambles before Hurricane Maria. As a result of the federal re-build, the residents of Puerto Rico will likely end up with a working electricity grid, a working road system, a working water supply system, a working sanitation system, and working telecom system. Of course, that all depends on the degree of local corruption that is common in PR. The FBI has already opened a “review” of reports of misappropriation and illegal diversion of FEMA help by local bureaucrats.

BTW, if you Google “ungrateful political hack,” you’ll see a picture of San Juan Mayor Cruz.

18 William J. Leitold October 16, 2017 at 12:51 am

Based upon my experience with PRMMI, and labor Union corruption experiences I would not rule out corruption as to why, more vendors were not asked for help in restoring power. The most ridiculous comment comes from PREPA’s CEO that he was worried about their ability to repay the “helpers” for their work on behalf of PREPA. Unfortunately, anyone who owns Puerto Rico General Obligation bonds will tell you the ability to repay never had anything to do with the amount of borrowing by Puerto Rico; unfortunately it is just not part of the culture.

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