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Smart Meters and the Paranoia of Fake Fears

| October 21, 2012

Galileo had trouble defending his smart meter before the Inquisition, too.

Privacy is relative. We often think we have more of it than we do. So, it appears, are smarts. Witness the reaction of otherwise reasonable, intelligent people to those ironically named smart meters utilities are installing across Florida and the nation.

pierre tristam column flaglerlive The smart meters are digital, cellular replacements for their ancient merry-go-round forerunners. They’ll make it easier for consumers to keep track of their own electrical consumption, help to more quickly identify outages, build a more efficient power grid, reduce the need for meter readers and lessen the need for additional power plants.

You’d think that’s all for the better. But thousands of people, basing their fears on viral but bogus information, are panicking over allegations that smart meters catch fire, that they emit dangerous levels of radiation, and most of all that they’re part of some weird plot to intrude on privacy because they can supposedly tell when we’re running the dishwasher or using more electricity at noon instead of midnight. As if those were the sort of privacy intrusions we should be worried about.

The sparks of hysterics got so bad in Florida that the Public Service Commission late last month felt compelled to hold a day-long workshop to allay fears and answer questions that made utility executives–rarely paragons of heroism–look like so many Galileos defending heliocentrism before a monkey-trial inquisition.

We have serious privacy issues. Smart meters are not among them, no matter how often they transmit back to a utility’s mother ship a household’s hourly kilowatt consumption. My cable-TV provider can tell exactly what we watch in my family, when we watch it, and for how long. My internet service provider keeps track of every place I click. Corporations that advertise on websites I visit look back at me, developing dossiers on my tastes and biases more intimate than the one the FBI has been keeping on me since I migrated to this country.

Facebook’s and Google’s ability to develop detailed profiles of us can make the nation’s spy agencies look like Inspector Clouseau in a Turkish bathhouse. Warrantless surveillance is now a police pastime. Last year alone, cell companies complied with 1.3 million police requests for texts, call logs, locations and other subscriber information, a congressional inquiry revealed in July. Spy cameras euphemized as security or traffic control grid our every public move. And don’t get me started on the inexplicably enduring homage to East Germany known as the USA Patriot Act.

We accept it all without protest, and much of the time without knowing that it’s going on. When we do find out–none of these stories are mysteries: they’re all over the press–we give the intruders a pass, not least because it’s more convenient: Getting to watch “American Idol” and clicking on Hulu trumps worrying about getting stalked by marketers or spied on by cops. Smart meters are an easier target. It’s easier to invent fears about them than prove their validity. They make an ideal scapegoat for the paranoid.

The evidence of smart meters’ dangers is next to nil. Sure the occasional one might malfunction, and even catch fire–the installation of any electrical device poses that risk–but your laptop’s lousy batteries catch fire more often than your smart meter would, and your silly smoking habit will bring down your house way before any smart meter does. There is zero evidence of danger from the way smart meters transmit information. They’re far less of an issue in the few seconds that they do transmit from a few dozen yards away than the cell phone you stick to your ear half the day. And what they can tell about your habits is puny compared to what all those other pervasive government or corporate monitors in our lives do tell, without so much as giving us the luxuries of uninterrupted electricity in return.

We’ve come to this: some of our most basic scientific or technological advances are being held hostage to perversions of evidence no more legitimate than superstition. We saw this in the manufactured controversy over stem cell research. We see it in lingering opposition to vaccines, in the reincarnation of creationist fictions as “intelligent design” (that un-smart meter of collective medievalism), in the weird, logically deranged (because suicidal) opposition to sustainable development (see under Agenda 21 crazies). We see it, of course, in the transformation of the global warming debate into a disagreement between equals, as if the global-warming deniers were their own half of scientists as opposed to fringe mercenaries of political and business interests. The made-up fears over smart meters are merely the latest flares of reactionary phobias posing as skepticism.

And we call ourselves an informed society. No wonder our elections are dominated by bogus issues and sham controversies. If we had smart meters installed on our collective intelligence, I have no doubt the smart meters would catch fire. Out of embarrassment.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here or follow him on Twitter.

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28 Responses for “Smart Meters and the Paranoia of Fake Fears”

  1. blondee says:

    Much ado about nothing.

    • FxGreek says:

      You can Not be serious.

      Smart Grid Privacy, Security VIDEO (12 min)

    • Ron says:

      I agree, Bonnie, and I look forward to getting mine installed.

      All this unfounded paranoia is just silly.

    • Magnolia says:

      Blondie, I would advise you and other skeptics to watch the videos FXGreek has posted below.

      I would strongly advise everyone reading this article to google smart meters and read about them. They are indeed being banned in other states for reasons of fire, and health risks.

      Like sheep we go to the slaughter. These things are NOT UL approved and they are being forced on us. Here is a copy of an email I received just this morning:

      Multiple Smart Meter Updates

      By Josh

      Dear Eva,

      I first want to thank all for your patience and continued support as we move toward completing our film, Take Back Your Power.

      Let me admit that I had under-estimated the time, resources and money that would be required to do a proper job of this very complex story on smart meters, combining the fine-point details and facts with some of the “story behind the story”.

      The breadth of technical and personal challenges I’ve experienced has been considerable indeed, though this can be expected with the nature of the project. I sincerely do appreciate all of the support and positive energy coming our way.

      We’re gearing up for an announcement forthcoming in the next few days… stay tuned! In the meantime, below are some key updates.

      This movement we’re all in – of taking a stand for basic rights in the face of seemingly perplexing unconsiousness – our movement is in fact growing worldwide. In US alone, there are now opt-outs in 16+ states and this number is growing as more public officials are being educated. In my province of BC, it’s been reported that 250,000+ households are not on board with the smart meter program here. This is the tip of the tip of the iceberg.

      I want to encourage you all to continue to stand your ground, and share and encourage the friends, family and colleagues in your circle of influence. Lock your meter, post signs, write your utility and – if you have a smart meter – you can have it removed.

      Do not let yourself be bullied into submission, and always require any correspondence to be made in writing, from the “smart meter authorities”… whomever happens to making this claim. As the awareness grows, help and strength will multiply.

      We are all “waking up” together and coming to the awareness that this is about much more than just new wireless utility meters on your home.

      Please enjoy and share these resources below.

      Best wishes,

      2) PECO Energy suspends installations of smart meters

      PECO Energy announced that it will immediately suspend installation of its new “smart” electric meters after some local fire officials attributed them to the cause of a handful of recent house fires.

      In response to the safety concerns, PECO will also begin replacing some of the installed Sensus model meters with an L&G model starting Saturday to see if it performs differently, spokeswoman Cathy Engel Menendez said Wednesday. An extensive analysis of the meter data collected so far will be completed before the replacement work begins, she added.

      Full article:

      Watch video (Fox29 TV):

      * * *

      3) News: Smart meters’ lack of UL or CSA approval; lack of safety testing

      Research has been ongoing to try to get to the bottom of what appears to be a complete lack of both UL (or equivalent) certification, and lack of safety testing in all regions throughout North America, and possibly worldwide.

      In an email, a UL engineer said:
      “Today utilities have to make sure the meter itself is being type-tested under ANSI C12.1, 10 and 20 of which UL can also offer the testing certificate service without UL mark as other lab doing. … UL has developed a standardized set of safety requirements for utility meters, including “smart” meters.”

      However, even though there are standards, and even though UL says utilities need to ensure testing, no utility to date (that we know of) has been able to provide evidence of any UL or CSA certification, or accredited safety testing whatsoever.

      That utilities are installing a untested, unapproved device as significant as a utility meter governing all electrical usage is a major, massive safety concern to all citizens. Further, there appears to be obfuscations and witholding of truths going on with or between UL, ANSI and each utility.

      During filming, I interviewed John Horgan, NDP Energy Critic in BC, and asked him how it is remotely possible that BC Hydro is getting away with installing unapproved devices. He responded, “I don’t know… I don’t know. It’s mind-numbing, isn’t it?”

      If anyone has further information on the current status of the lack of certification or safety testing of smart meters or other smart grid devices, please contact me

      * * *

      4) Smart-Meter Defiance Slows $29 Billion U.S. Grid Upgrade

      (From May, this Bloomberg article outlines the start of the first wave of the no-smart-meter revolution, albeit in a somewhat biased way.)

      Full article:

      * * *

      5) Hawaii: Actual Smart Meter Microwave Exposure Videotaped and Measured at More Than 1300% of KIUC Claims

      An electrical contractor in Kauai, HI recorded a Smart Meter pulse at a business in Kaua and shows that the microwave emissions are more than 1300% greater than KIUC’s claim. In addition, over a 24 hour period its total emissions amount to 3.2 hours of exposure to pulsed modulated microwave frequency radiation at over 2 milliwatts per square meter (mW/m2) which is 240 times greater than what the utility company claims.

      Full article and video:

      * * *
      6) Maine Supreme Court update (July 12): Court says PUC didn’t resolve smart-meter health issues

      PORTLAND — The Maine Public Utilities Commission failed to resolve health and safety issues related to Central Maine Power Co.’s installation of smart meters and should now do so, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court has ruled.

      In a decision released today, the court sided with smart-meter opponents, who argued that utility regulators ignored their legal mandate to ensure the delivery of safe and reasonable utility services.

      Full article:

      Naperville legal update (Aug 21): Video

      (Note: The next hearing in the Federal Court case launched by the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness group was scheduled for August 28.
      However, in the late-evening hours of August 27, Judge Lee postponed the hearing to October 2. This is the second time in two weeks that Judge Lee postponed a hearing the night before it was scheduled to take place, causing considerable questions to be raised as to the nature of this process of supposed justice.)

      Video update:

      * * *

      7) Heart and Pacemaker Disruption from Electric Meter

      Louis Donovan of Carson, CA relies on both a cardiac pacemaker and a defibrillator to keep him alive. In this video, he tells of his experience of EMR from his smart meter stopping his heart 4 times.

      With the untested, unthinking installation of smart meters worldwide, people everywhere with common medical equipment such as pacemakers, defibrillators, and many other devices are actually being forced to directly contravene the strict usage guidelines (to stay out of EM fields). This is costing an untold numbers of human lives.

      Video interview:

      * * *

      8) List of hundreds of studies w/ links: Adverse Health Effects from Electromagnetic Fields

      (Note: More than 6,000 published scientific studies dating all the way back to the 1930’s have proven that low-level microwave radiation (and other frequency ranges of radiation) clearly cause significant harmful biological effects. Below are several hundred of these studies, with abstracts linked.)

      Full article:

      * * *

      9) Papers: EMF Exposures in Womb Can Lead To Childhood Obesity, Asthma

      De-Kun Li is the last man standing. Not long ago, many of the leading environmental epidemiologists in the U.S. were working on EMFs of one kind or another. They’ve all moved on —all except De-Kun Li, and he continues to break new ground in one study after another.

      Li, a senior researcher at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, CA, has now shown that EMF exposures in the womb are linked to an increased risk of childhood obesity.

      Full article:

      There is plenty of info out there on smart meters, none of it funny or nonsense. READ IT, WATCH IT.

    • brian says:

      So….. freedom is nothing, microwave radiating children is nothing, utilities causing fires is nothing, financial well-being of people is nothing, rights are nothing….. effectively… the constitution is nothing, and so it is, as nothing matters but the buck and all in its way are called nothing….. tell us blondee… what it something? Tell me the words by USA ARMY AND NAVY here are nothing?

  2. FxGreek says:

    Regarding the Smart Meter Intrusion to your Privacy Read The congressional research service report and make up your own mind mind.
    Smart Meter Data: Privacy and Cybersecurity

    Read The consumer reports as to why Why Smart Meters Might Be a Dumb Idea

    For The stories of Smart Meter Fires and Explosions

    The Problems with Smart meters that create serious safety concerns

    Smoking Gun, Did Utilities and Meter Makers Just Admit Responsibility for Fires?

  3. PJ says:

    Ditto, I agree with blondee says…………………

  4. DoubleGator says:

    Amen Blondee. Dumb meters will not exist in 10 years. Like the other dinasaurs. On the other hand, the intrusion of the red light cameras, where no safety issue exists, is a real deminishing of the quality of life for ALL of us in Flagler County. BIG BROTHER is watching you. Too bad the city comission folks sold us out for a buck. Real leadership and community building shown here. Oops make that dumb leadership. Who are these folks?

  5. Dadgum says:

    Should be more worried about the Meningitis scare. Now that’s scary!

  6. Clint says:

    Of course….By all means…Go right ahead… And take the rest of my American rights to privacy. You see when everyone gives in and allows”big brother” to put what ever they want in YOUR home, then that will be the time..” The Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave” will be an old phrase the younger generation will laugh at. The Corporate elite will say ” Good Riddance”. And the Troops of the New World Order will use against you to call you a TERRORIST……But its just a little ole SMART METER !

  7. Susan B says:

    I beg to differ with Mr. Tristam, who obviously has not researched the subject well enough. All Readers and he should read “Correcting the Gross Misinformation About Smart Meters”, a position statement signed by 54+ international RF (radiofrequency) experts who have published peer-reviewed papers on the topic. They give hard evidence of why smart meters are dangerous. As the victim of two that were forced onto my property for two years, till we obtained a hard-won opt-out, I can attest that the horrific devices are defective, dangerous, and ruined my health, irrevocably. My story is here and I urge you to read it also. I started a nonprofit to alert the public – Smart meters are no laughing matter. They are a huge threat to the public health and to our liberties, like no other.

  8. NortonSmitty says:

    I don’t get the uproar over these meters either. But like the fluoride controversy that has hung on since the ’50s, it seems to have what the entertainment industry calls “Legs”, so we may see it for a while longer.

    Myself, I feel there are way more interesting and viable things we are being spoon-fed every day that deserve our critical attention. And if upon investigation the facts of these vitally important matters are obviously false but yet so universally accepted that to question them brings ridicule and scorn from all, then what? Do you ignore the facts you know are true, or do you risk being called “Conspiracy Theorist” and bear the burden, knowing you are right? Do you have the strength of your convictions? Tough call.

    If you want a few examples to test your convictions, here are a few I can offer. Link or Google the topics at your peril.

    1.- Chemtrails. I heard about them for a while but I never paid attention until I saw it with my own eyes over Flagler. Driving over the Palm Coast toll bridge on my way home one afternoon, my attention was drawn to 3 contrails that suddenly appeared about 2 miles off the coast heading south. A contrail is a vapor condensation that forms behind an airplane from the vortex causing a pressure change off the wingtips or from the heat of the engines. It rarely happens and quickly dissipates. But these didn’t. They maintained a constant distance from each other all the way from the bridge to about the water tower south of Flagler Beach where they stopped in unison while the jets that made them flew on. Instead of dissipating, they slowly merged into a sort of cloud that slowly blew ashore and got bigger and thinner without disappearing. I Googled “Chemtrails” and was amazed at the documentation available for years on this phenomena. And wondered with all of the witnesses and photo’s, why have I never heard of them with all of the 24/7 news media watching out for me. I mean the fact that it is observed almost every day nationwide and about 2 of 3 days a week here, how is that possible?

    It is evidently called Operation Cloverleaf, but what is it doing? Weather modification is one theory, combating global warming.. Other theories are much more insidious. But it has to be a multi-billion dollar project if not trillion with all of these planes, fuel and whatever they are spraying. I would tell you to go out tomorrow and see for yourself as I have others who were as shocked as I was, but it seems to have stopped the last week or so. My guess is it will resume after the election. Here is a good link with photos to start: It seems the first few pages if you Google it are mostly links debunking the theory.

    2,- Election fraud. Did you know your vote in Florida and about a dozen other Republican controlled states will be tabulated by a company contracted with your tax dollars based in Spain? (Scytl Corp, Why? And it was announced today that every major news organization has decided that they won’t be doing exit polls this year, breaking a streak of over 70 years. International election monitors use these polls to check if the elections are fair. If the final tabulations have more than a 2% difference than the exit poll, the election is declared fraudulent.. Maybe because in 2004 all of the States easily met this standard except Ohio, which showed a 7.5% discrepancy. Go figure.

    There is more I was going to go into. Building 7, HAARP, Benghazi and the movie, but it’s late. Google them yourself. But we all know there is some things going on we aren’t being told the truth about. The more an alternative is ridiculed the more you should think about looking further into it than Fox News or NBC’s bullshit.

  9. Charlie Ericksen, Jr says:

    I would add to the list , the numerous cameras, that view us at intersections, banks and many retail locations, not only for personal but financial protection. But even with the surveillance cameras, we still cannot find, the two characyers, who committed the burglary at Covington on 10/5..

  10. Lonewolf says:

    Hey Pierre, I think it may be quite naive of you to believe that FPL is making this change out of the goodness of their hearts. This is an opportunity to impose higher charges on fixed income retirees simply because they are home at peak hours. Remember, whenever a monopoly like FPL says they are just upgrading to “help” us out..look for the money trail. It’s ALWAYS about money.

  11. Edman says:

    And let’s not forget the NRA’s manic fear mongering about the “slippery slope”. If you stop my ability to buy an AK47 then next you’ll oulaw hunting?! We’ll never become an educated consumer if we continue to believe in simple (wrong) answers to complex problems.

  12. John Boy says:

    Paranoia = Tea Baggers, hair brain solutions looking for non existent problems, edged on by Fox and other low intelligent / low information personality types.

  13. Flagler Native says:

    “Smart Meters” really,…..what’s so smart? If they WERE smart they wouldn’t let off EMF or RF. After sending a letter to the CEO of FPL Mr. Silagy and after speaking with Marlem Ruiz she only confirmed the truth. She said and I quote “These types of waves may or may not be harmful to you or your families health, we really have not done enough testing with these signals to know for sure.” Seriously, folks they tell you that these “smart meters” only let off the same type of radiation that a cell phone does or that a microwave does, but when I asked Mrs. Ruiz about this and if it would be safe being closer than 20 feet to the meter for a 10 hour period, she quickly but reluctantly responded “I have to agree it wouldn’t be safe to be around it for an extended period of time.” So there you have it folks straight from the horse’s mouth. Most if not all of your electric meters are installed on your house just like mine, and most if not all of us are in our homes going about our daily routine, just like me (actually I homeschool my son who is head level with the meter only to be separated by a thin 12 inch cinder block wall). If you really think radiation along with the radiation coming from microwaves, t.v’s, and all other sorts of things won’t kill, think again.
    And just to add to this, did any of you happen to notice how quickly FPL got out to your homes and installed those “smart meters”. I mean it was like one or two days after recieveing the letter explaining them. That’s because they knew people wouldn’t want them and they wanted to put them up asap. Well everyone remember if you don’t want big brother watching over your shoulder everytime you take a poop, and if you don’t want the harmful effects of radiation, and if you don’t want the electric bill surges like your about to experience then you all have choices. You can always buy an analog meter at Home Depot or the like for about 70 bucks install it and then call FPL for service, or you can do what I did and post a notice on your meter stating that there is to be no smart meters installed on your property, then send a letter to the CEO of FPL like I did. At this point I have my old analog meter and it’s going to stay that way. If any of you are interested in the CEO’s address and trust me it’s not the easiest to obtain, here it is:
    Eric Silagy
    P.O. Box 025576
    Miami, FL 33102-5576

    Honestly Pierre, I think you should just stick to the facts without adding words like “fake fears” when the fears are founded and substantiated. Your a columnist and while I do like reading your work you tend to be biased in most of it, you write for others not for yourself as a mediocre excuse to voice your own opinion. Keep up your writing but please keep your opinions to yourself and let the readers voice their’s. This isn’t Dear Abby.

    • SaveOurSmartPhones says:

      Dear Flagler Native,

      I think Mr. Tristam’s column is right on!

      Don’t you think you are being a little narcissistic here? Why does anyone else, much less the utility company, want to know when you poop, use your blender, or watch TV? I could imagine why someone might want to hack into a bank account to steal money but quite frankly, who cares about your toaster habits?

      As for EMF, do you have a cell phone that you hold up to your head? A 10-minute phone call is the equivalent exposure of 34 days with your ear pressed against the smart meter. Did you post your comment using a computer connected to a wireless router? Do you avoid all coffee shops with internet access?

      We live in a wireless world and digital technology is all around us. The genie is not going back in the bottle.

    • Carol says:

      My friends warned me about the Smart Meter, but i let them put it in anyway and am conducting a little experiment . I put a plant in front of the meter, if it is so bad for a human, wouldnt you think it would kill the plant……….well so far, and I think it has been a few weeks siting just a few inches from the meter…..nothing is happening to it, it is still growing, still has green leaves. Oh well just saying.

  14. Geezer says:

    I refused my Smart Meter. My service won’t be improved, my rates won’t go down.
    But meter readers will lose their jobs, and FPL gets to save money.
    It’s always about money, so cites Lonewolf. ………..He’s spot on.

    One of the few times I disagree with Pierre Tristam.

    They will get to install the meter eventually. Corporations are king in Florida.

    • Geezer says:


      Today, the 21st of October, I spoke with an FPL rep and asked to opt out.
      (I had already turned away the installer guy)

      I was told that there will probably be a way to permanently opt out, early next year.
      Something is brewing with the PSC. I am on the “hold” list.

      Don’t miss Norton Smitty, Flagler Native, and Magnolia’s informative posts on this page.

  15. Lin says:

    We called FPL to say we wanted no smart meter installed — they said someone would call us back. He did, left message and after some phone tag we said no meter again. In spite of that, last week someone carrying a big box knocked and b4 we could get to the front door ran off. My neighbor now has smart meter installed. DH caught him and AGAIN said no meter. Regardless of our opting out, if we hadn’t been home FPL would have installed the smart meter anyway.

    Magnolia made some good points. There are unknowns about the emissions. And we need to speak up when our freedoms are chipped away. Measurement is the 1st step to control.

    If tracking cookies, bad — red light cameras, bad — warrantless surveillance, bad — why are “smart meters” something we should accept without protest. If there is something that I can control, I give it a shot. But I don’t judge what everyone else is doing. Sometimes you just have to speak up for yourself.

    • Helene says:

      Mine was installed this past Monday without the installer even knocking on the door or ringing the bell to let me know! My power suddenly went off and the dog barked but I didn’t see anyone in the front of the house. There was a truck parked across the street in front of a vacant house but it did not have an FLP logo on it. The power came back on and I thought nothing of it until there was a big thud against the side of the house. I went outside carrying my infant granddaughter and turned the corner of the house and there he was – metered installed and he was done and leaving! He goes, “oh I didn’t know anyone was home”. Reallly? Just because there was no car in the driveway!? How about ringing the door bell! I was stunned and he packed up and was gone before I got my wits about me.
      I am not one for conspiracy theories but after reading some of the links above, I am now rattled.

  16. Magnolia says:

    Palm Coast, Florida, fastest growing city in the 2010 US Census and also the one with the most surveillance in America.

    Think about it.

  17. Letta Mego says:

    It’s pretty sad when citizens believe they know what’s safe and what isn’t… just by instinct or something. I guess that’s why we have a cancer epidemic….and why more educated people are less likely to develop cancer. There are countries that are having WiFi banned in school because of health concerns….The World Health Organization has declared the radiation from “smart” meter type technology a class 2b carcinogen. It’s been a wake up call for me. I threw away my cell phone. I will not buy or use wireless devices for my home. I cancelled AT&T because they were attempting to push a wireless router on me. That’s the one good thing about the “smart” meter….it’s put attention on our other wireless devices. Of course, none of them are as harmful as “smart” meters. Smart meters are the same as cell phone substations (cell phone towers)…with the smart meter eventually wirelessly, remotely controlling every device in your home. Smart meters also have an operating system and software, easily hacked. So you’ll have to buy another meter every 5 years or so…about as often as you have to buy you computer (operating system). So you’ll buy about 5 “smart” meters before they even do what they are supposed to do…control the energy use of your home…by controlling your appliances..wirelessly, remotely by you and your utility company.

  18. Marc says:

    Don’t worry people, get your smart metres installed, drink lots of tap water, and take your prescription med’s. we ^ are looking after you :)

    And google really is your friend mwahaha

    1984 anyone?

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