It’s good to be back. I’ve been in South America for the last few weeks, arriving home only to travel to Ottawa for another week.

Traveling back was a trip and a half. The airplane I was supposed to come back on developed problems with its landing gear. After a couple of days in the airport they decided to send us home by different routes. I guess these types of problems are included in a trip to a Third World country as this was the second time I had been stranded in an airport waiting to fly out.

What I didn’t expect was that I would have problems when I hit the United States. My diverted route took me from Bolivia to Argentina and then on to JFK airport in New York, just in time to be diverted to Newark, New Jersey as a result of the blackout that affected five states and Ontario. It meant waiting in lines for hours just to get a hotel room and some food. Then it meant more waiting just to find out if we could make it back to Montreal. Given the fact that my traveling companion was supposed to be back in Montreal on Tuesday and I on Wednesday, only to arrive in late Saturday, wasn’t the best of worlds.

Then I thought about the blackout and how the increased demands of power lead to it. I remembered when I was in a developing country I marveled at the energy saving tools that we rarely see in North America. I started noticing when I went into a washroom in Ecuador and the lights came on it was an energy-efficient light bulb. I started noticing that they were in use everywhere. It was the same in Peru and in Bolivia.

I used to smile walking to my hotel room at El Presidente in La Paz, Bolivia. Motion sensors would turn the lights on ahead of me and turn them off behind me. It seemed ironic that I felt I was in a Star Trek type of futuristic world when I was in a poor country.

I guess the people in those countries can’t afford the wasteful ways of North Americans and their use, or abuse, of power.

With the blackout I would have to say we can’t either. We’ve tried deregulation and look where it has lead. We have put the regulatory powers firmly in the hands of the provinces and we have seen the results.

I think it’s time for a National Energy Board to step in and impose minimum regulations and standards concerning energy efficiency and upkeep of equipment. Having the provinces handle this alone when the majority of them have crown electrical utilities pumping money into government coffers is a conflict of interest that will have us all wondering why the lights didn’t turn off sooner.

A true energy efficiency program that includes business and homeowners alike will give us some breathing space in order to upgrade our equipment. The ice storm in Quebec showed this was needed and the blackout just emphasizes that warning.

Plus if we do this some of our rivers may run free just a little longer.