Tags: Cheney | Left | His | Heart | San | Francisco

Cheney Left His Heart in San Francisco

Friday, 18 May 2001 12:00 AM

During the past year, the V.P. experienced several bouts of chest pain that may have been brought on by stress or other exertion – an amount of stress or exertion that probably would not have affected a person without heart problems.

This past winter, whenever a significant weather system appeared, spot gas and power prices rose all across the country – as is very normal when weather-induced demand shows up.

California and the West, however, saw huge and painful price jumps, while the rest of the country was seeing relatively smaller ones. It was almost as if California was experiencing a kind of shortness of breath and chest pains that didn’t seem to be affecting the other regions quite so badly.

When a person already susceptible to heart problems meets with cold weather and goes out to shovel snow, an otherwise reasonable exertion can result in tragedy.

It really is useful to think of the national pipeline and electricity infrastructure as very much like an organic system similar to the human circulatory system.

When the V.P. was admitted to the hospital, doctors there no doubt reminded him to keep watching his diet. They then performed surgery in order to insert what is called a "stent” into one of his blood vessels. This little piece of infrastructure is designed to keep a blood vessel open and the blood flowing.

Fortunately for the vice president, there was no local group – representing the tissue around where the stent was placed – suing to keep the stent out of the neighborhood, nor was there any multi-year approval process for stent placement. However, the stent had to be – shall we say – environmentally friendly. It had to be as sterile as possible and had to be inserted while disturbing the surrounding tissue as little as possible.

One thing that doctors did not do was to give the V.P. a drug to permanently cover up chest pains. If the V.P. didn’t detect chest pain signals – and the problem went unattended – Mr. Cheney might have left us permanently … leaving Dubya alone at the controls. (I have yet to find a Republican or a Democrat who wants to see that.)

Without accurate price signals – and yes, a little bit of pain – California’s problem went unattended. (In textbook fashion, artificially low prices led consumers to consume too much and producers to produce too little.) As with a similarly clueless heart patient, the first indication of a problem is when the patient starts blacking out – or as is occurring more and more often in California, a rolling blackout.

Another thing that the V.P.’s doctors didn’t do, thank goodness, was give him a fake solution – perhaps a potion of herbs said to address an ominous sounding yet made-up threat. They didn’t tell him, for instance, that some "out-of-town profiteers" were manipulating his heart and blood vessels – that is the kind of thing only members of Congress or members of the California state legislature would actually say.

Are there people trying to take advantage of the situation? Of course. There always are such people – in Cheney’s situation or in California’s. (Is McDonalds trying to insert cholesterol into all of us from its "out-of-state factories"?) However, to focus solely on these people, and neglect to repair the situation of which they are taking advantage may not be the wisest choice.

Cheney’s doctors went with a balanced solution: a careful diet (conservation); strengthening important blood vessels (pipelines, power plants, transmission lines); and careful monitoring (price signals).

Of course, no heart patient genuinely wants to curb his diet and submit to preventative surgery. There is an inner-politician in all of us that makes a convincing argument to wait until a problem gets really serious. California managed to wait at least a decade – setting the stage for what is likely to be a really serious summer of 2001.

As the vice president leads the administration’s energy policy, perhaps he’ll bring some insight from his own troubles.

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During the past year, the V.P. experienced several bouts of chest pain that may have been brought on by stress or other exertion - an amount of stress or exertion that probably would not have affected a person without heart problems. This past winter, whenever a...
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2001-00-18
Friday, 18 May 2001 12:00 AM
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