Have you ever heard something so absurd and unbelievable that you just had to tell someone? Well I had that experience recently, however I can tell more then just one person with this forum. This is also an attempt on my part to write about something different then usual. I heard this absurdness on a public radio program and it revolves around Pacific Gas & Electric’s SmartMeter program. This is where a wireless meter is installed in place of an analog one, so energy usage data can be tracked in real time, in order to identify potential wastes of energy and money.

The idea behind the SmartMeter is a good one and it would seem a small step for energy conservation. However, there is a ton of criticism against PG&E as well as the California Public Utilities Commission, centering around alleged health concerns, unlawful installations and general conspiracy theories. While the opposition has valid concerns, some have gone way over the top and their radical actions have largely discredited their viewpoint.

One of the major concerns is the possible radiation emitted by these meters. Josh Hart of Stop Smart Meters! has said that recent studies of cell phone emissions on the brain are a smoking gun in the fight against SmartMeters. Since the meters emit a less powerful electromagnetic field then cell phones, using such studies is a weak argument. A related issue centers around electrohypersensitivity or EHS, which is exactly what it sounds like, a condition of heightened sensitivity to EMFs that can cause headaches and nausea among other things. Studies on the subject have been inconclusive, and there has been no solid, proven link between EMFs and symptoms EHS people claim to suffer. In regards to the health issue, it seems like opponents of the SmartMeter are taking studies and literature related to their issue and trying to mold those conclusions to their cause, which is not exactly the way to gain legitimacy.

Another area which the anti-meter groups focuses on is privacy and here’s where some zany conspiracy theories come out. Since the SmartMeter transmits data wirelessly ther is the concern that such data can be intercepted. However, when I was listening to the above mentioned radio program, the anti-meter guy was spouting about how appliance and related companies are using the data of how often you get up at night, how often you open your fridge or how often you use your TV for nefarious purposes. In this theory, these companies are then able to market products to you based on your usage data. While PG&E does collect data on what types of energy are being used, the notion that they or other companies can then use such data to control your energy usage is absolutely absurd. It seems like it was mistakes on the whole installation campaign by PG&E, including the compulsoryy requirement of eveyr customer having one, then anything else that got the opposition riled up.

These kinds of claims only serve to weaken the opposition’s argument. Yes there might be downsides to the SmartMeter and yes there are privacy concerns, but it’s not big a deal as anti-meter groups make it out to be. These groups going over the top in their presentation of their side and their generalizations that PG&E is out to get you makes it kind of hard to take them seriously.

So, you can see there are some unbelieveable aspects to this issue and there are sources and stories of ‘Big Brother’ too numerous to mention. Suffice it to say, this is a legitimate issue, but in order for it be resolved peacefully, common sense and sensibilty needs to come from both sides. There are bigger issues in the world then this apparently local one.