Saturday, October 20, 2007

END OF THE LINE. Dean Esmay* spreads the good news: electricity up in Iraq --
Little noticed this month was the news that Iraq's electricity production has set a new all-time high in September of around 6,860 MW, including 2,000 MW or more of non-public generation (p40), illegal under Saddam (because like any good national socialist despot, he outlawed private generators). Oil revenue also set a new record of $3.79 billion (p39).
Sounds like paradise. Of course, it's a matter of perspective -- the Detroit Free Press reports:
Four and a half years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, it's never certain when the power will arrive, just that one electrified hour will come in the morning, another at night. U.S. reconstruction officials say that on average, electricity is available 10 hours a day, but Akhbal, 48, doesn't know anyone who gets close to that much.

Before the war, Baghdad residents got 16 to 24 hours of power a day, according to the Brookings Institution, a Washington research center. Brookings said that in September residents got 7.6 hours...

City blocks often have two or three small operators running generators that power dozens of homes and shops for a few hours a day. Hundreds of multicolored wires from the generators to customers are lashed haphazardly to every available pole and sometimes even trees.
Well, private generators, that's good, right? Magic of the market and all that, especially compared to Saddam's socialist power plan. The Iraq authorities intend to privatize everything, and that will lead to Vegas-bright lights to Mesopotamia soon enough.

Don't be so sure. Iraq gets nine percent of its juice from Turkey -- whose power people indicate they will cut the flow if their government sends troops into Northern Iraq to fight Kurdish terrorists. Still, not to worry -- more electricity is coming via business interests headquartered with our traditional allies, China and Iran.

U.S. authorities still speculate Baghdad will have full power by 2013. This hardly seems an educated guess, given that the presumed sources of energy are as jerry-rigged as the city's private generators.

Meanwhile it seems Iraq's best power consumers are getting all they need, as war fan Matt Sanchez reports:
FOB Sedgwick, in the middle of nowhere and not far from the Syrian border, had running water, electricity, a gym, air-conditioned housing and enough bandwidth to run an encrypted computer network and phone system.
Our troops, I assert patriotically, deserve all this and more. I do spare a thought for the locals, though, who seem to be at the end of a very long line for basic services.

*UPDATE. By which I of course mean Dave Price by way of Dean Esmay -- thanks to Martin Wisse for the clarification.

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