Pacific Gas & Electric has been installing new meters throughout its service area. I've had one since last year. The PG&E meter reader no longer needs to bustle up to the side of my house to check on my electricity usage. Instead, my meter dutifully reports in wirelessly. No more hassles with locked gates, growling dogs, or other yard hazards.
No more meter readers, either, but I'm sure that workforce reduction was part of what PG&E was going for.
There were reportedly some initial problems when people started receiving ridiculously high utility bills. (No one complained about ridiculously low bills, so I assume there must have been none of those.) PG&E recalibrated or reprogrammed the new meters (or something like that) and the complaints faded away.
Time for new complaints!
The meters, you see, are trying to kill us.
Perhaps you thought the new complaints would be about the prospect of PG&E using the remote-control features to impose arbitrary and capricious black-outs and brown-outs during power shortages. (I think we're saving those concerns for the next round of complaints.) But, no, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the fearmongers have seized on the tiny, tiny emissions when the PG&E SmartMeters transmit their reports.
Some Sebastopol residents have questioned whether radio frequency radiation from the meters, which transmit their data to the utility via wireless communications, could threaten their health.The meters are zapping us with electromagnetism! Arrggh!
Their concerns grow from the heated debate over whether radiation from cell phones, Wi-Fi computers and other wireless devices can cause cancer or other ailments. They want a moratorium on installing the SmartMeters to measure electricity and gas use.
There is solid science behind this concern, of course. Recall that microwaves from cell phones cause ear cancer. Or maybe not. A well-known Danish study followed a large cohort of cell-phone users for decades without finding any sign of increased incidence of cancer.
But absence of evidence is no reason to put off a panic attack. San Francisco is considering legislation to require a “radiation” warning on cell phones. Such a good idea. And, of course, concerned citizens want to stop the SmartMeters.
“We are being increasingly exposed to an exponential amount of radio frequency radiation,” said Sebastopol resident Sandi Maurer. “Now there are going to be two of these things in every home.”Oh, good. An information “clearinghouse” is involved. Not surprisingly, the EMF Safety Network's website offers a plethora of advice and links about protecting oneself (and one's kids!) from EMF.
Maurer is the founder of the EMF Safety Network, a clearinghouse for information on the possible dangers of electromagnetic fields. She and other residents persuaded the Sebastopol City Council this month to ask California energy regulators to stop SmartMeter installation while the possible health risks can be assessed.
What we really need is a kind of early-alert system that warns concerned citizens whenever anyone installs any kind of transmission device anywhere.
We could use the radio!