About Jack Casazza
Jack Casazza is a power engineer best known for his management of gas and electric systems at Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) in New Jersey. He completed his bachelor's degree at Cornell after coursework done at Cooper Union where he specialized in science and engineering. He served in the Pacific during World War II. After returning from his Navy service, he went into a two-year training program at PSE&G Company in New Jersey and eventually went to work in their planning department. PSE&G paid for a graduate course in electrical power engineering at General Electric in Schenectady while he worked in the planning department. Casazza moved from distribution planning into the general office. Gradually he moved upwards into budget management and after fifteen years with PSE&G, he moved up to handling budgets of over one billion dollars per year. Eventually he took over the research department, and was promoted to responsibility for all of PSE&G research. He left due to dissatisfaction with PSE&G management and, after a short time at another company, bought and established a small consulting firm in Washington, D.C.
The interview begins with Cassaza's educational experiences and his early training at PSE&G. He describes the various stages of his career at PSE&G and his consulting career. He emphasizes his belief in the engineer's responsibility to society, and cites various examples from his career to show how engineers, with their awareness of total systems, can use their skills for the general public good. He discusses the importance of the history of electric power systems and the influence he hopes such a history can have on younger engineers, who he sees as having less incentive to develop that social consciousness. He particularly expresses his concerns about academic engineers and the current state of engineering training, and suggests that engineers who identify themselves as builders should be allowed to teach in the universities. Casazza describes his international activities, including his participation in US/USSR technological exchange programs in the 1970s. He discusses the New York City and New Jersey blackouts in the 1960s and uses them as examples of the problems of competitiveness and the potential for cooperative work among utilities. He discusses the historical records he has kept over the years and mentions books he considers to be particularly relevant to the history of electric power systems. He describes how PSE&G responded to the oil shortages of the 1970s, and describes his activities in nuclear power plant development. The interview concludes with Casazza's reiteration of his belief in the engineer's social responsibility.
About the Interview
Jack Casazza: An Interview conducted by Loren J. Butler, Center for the History of Electrical Engineering. February 1, 1994.
Interview #184 For the Center for the History of Electrical Engineering, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
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It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
Jack Casazza, an oral history conducted in 1994 by Loren J. Butler, IEEE History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.
Interview: Jack Casazza
Interviewer: Loren J. Butler
Date: February 1, 1994
Why don't you begin by telling me about your student days and how you got started in your power engineering career?
Well, in high school I decided I wanted to be a scientist and win a Nobel Prize, all those glamorous things. I had some very good instructors. I went to Stuyvesant High School, an excellent technical school in New York, and ended up getting into Cooper Union, where I had some choices to make. At first, I thought I would like to be a civil engineer, to build roads and bridges, and then at the end of my freshman year I switched to electrical engineering. A little way along there I decided I wanted to work with the electric power. It seemed to me that electronics and some of the things which were just becoming of interest were kind of less important than keeping the lights on, the motors running, and keeping manufacturing going; that to me was the real challenge.
You mentioned that at first you were interested in science and then you went to college and found yourself in engineering. Do you remember a conscious transition or was your interest in science really just a part of your interest in engineering?
To me they were one. When I went to school science and engineering were one. There wasn't this sharp classification there, where there are physicists such as solid state physicists and earth scientists. Science and engineering covered a large area and there was far less specialization, and I just decided that I would like to get into the engineering end of it. This was partly because I was very poor. My family didn't have any money and I got through college on scholarships for four years. Important to me along with doing what I wanted to do was trying to make some money to help my parents out and become independent. So engineering offered that opportunity. I had decided early in my career that all I could do was four years because I had obligations.
My mother did a lot of things. She took in sewing. My father frankly had a manual labor job. That's all he was ever able to do because he had left school in the sixth grade. I had some things I wanted to do for my family too. So engineering for four years was what I thought I would do.
I started in Cooper Union about September 1941. In December 1941 the world changed and all of a sudden we had a war and we were going to school six days a week, eight hours a day, no vacations. We even went to school on Christmas Day because other people were dying while you were fortunate enough to be allowed in school. I had entered college fairly young, so by the time I turned eighteen I had completed my sophomore year.
I joined the Navy and by the time I finished my junior year at Cooper Union they sent me off to active duty. Lo and behold, the Navy took me out of Cooper Union and sent me to Cornell, which was in some ways a treat for me. At Cooper Union, I had been working six to eight hours a day to make some money, and at Cornell I didn't have to work.
Because you were in the Navy.
I was in the Navy, and they paid me a salary to go to school. I didn't have to work. From there I had a number of assignments in the Navy. I ended up aboard ship. I was an electrical officer on the U.S.S Springfield, which was a light cruiser. At the age of about twenty I had fifty men working for me. I was very frightened because these people were experienced and I had no practical experience and I had to take care of all the electrical equipment on this large ship. I didn't know much about it and in many ways it was very good for me. I began to realize that what I learned at school was only a small fraction of what you needed to know to do useful work. The Navy educated me some more and sent me to a number of different schools. At about that time the Navy was organizing millions of people, and I was more than ready for the invasion of Japan. Guess what happened? Truman dropped the atomic bomb, the war was over. Frankly I am sure that I benefited considerably from his decision to drop that bomb. I know 70,000 people died at Hiroshima and 35,000 at Nagasaki but maybe I am alive because of it; I don't know. So that's part of it.
So you were in the Pacific?
Well, that was part of history. Before I left the Navy, I talked to a number of my professors and said, "Should I go to graduate school? What should I do?" Now I had a little money from my Navy salary and they said, "Why don't you work for a couple of years and then decide on graduate school." Through some personal contacts I got a job with Public Service Electric and Gas Company in New Jersey, where for two years I was on a training program. I worked in every department in the company. I learned how to operate power plants, and I learned how to handle customers' complaints when they were angry about the bills. I qualified as a lineman to climb poles and towers. Compared to going to school continuously and all that time in the Navy, this was a lot of fun, and for two years I just learned.
Then I got a job in their planning department. About the time I began to like this planning work, I decided, "Well, let me put off going back to school," and then I decided to get married and then to wait until later, and just never went back for another degree. But I did have the benefit of an awful lot of training through the company programs. The company paid for me to take probably the best graduate course in electrical power engineering given by the General Electric Company up in Schenectady. It was two days a week, full-time essentially, and I commuted to Schenectady and graduated a week or two weeks before my son was born. My wife was staying home alone during that nine-month period. But it was a very fine course. I met a lot of very fine people. I started to meet people like Sel Crary. I don't know if you ever have heard of Sel Crary. These are some names you might want to get, really important people in the history of electric power: Sel Crary, Charles Concordia.
I think Mr. Concordia is being interviewed tomorrow.
Managing an Annual Budget of One Billion Dollars at PSE&G
Gabriel Kron, a very fascinating man. What I could do with the history of Gabriel Kron. He was thrown out of the University of Michigan. I'll tell you a little bit about him that's not in my book; I did something else. He was thrown out of the University of Michigan because he was always fighting with the instructors, at something like sixteen. He decided to work his way around the world, and came to Hollywood. He was very brilliant. He had so many problems because his professors were a couple of light years behind him. He got back to Hollywood, signed a contract for $10,000 or so to work on his new experimental movie camera, and the company that gave him the contract paid him the money up front and went bankrupt. So he had a year or two with no work to do. He came to New York City. In the public library he started to read books on mathematics and became the inventor of something called tensor analysis. It became quite important but then he worked for GE. He was unusual and was not easy to work with because he was ahead of his time. You have to mention him in the history of electrical engineering because he was a character. You know about Edison and some of the other people.
Anyway, I worked with Public Service in planning and went through a number of different jobs. Well, at first I started planning the low voltage feeders that go along the streets, distribution circuits. From there I went to planning in the general office where I planned new substations and approved budget items and started to deal more with the handling of money, approving expenditures. In the beginning I did design work, and then I began to move in the money end, and later I began to handle the decisions on large items. Should we build this fifty million dollar line and that kind of thing. I kept moving up in terms of the value of the projects I was involved in until I got to the point after about fifteen years that I was handling a budget of about over one billion dollars a year.
Part of this was because the key people in the company were engineers. The managers were engineers, and they trusted engineers. Occasionally, they would let the accounting and other people do these things, and they would mess them up because they did not understand the basic components of the project. Things would get left out. You needed seven circuit breakers at four million dollars and they wouldn't get it in the cost. It took somebody who understood the project, and the engineering knowledge was essential to putting together the financial figures. The people on the top learned that, and they started giving these responsibilities to engineers. They were engineers, so they were more comfortable with other engineers doing it.
I was in the planning department and later on I took over the research department handling all research. We used to have a research budget of about seventy million dollars on top of this capital budget of over one billion dollars and I ended up doing a lot of things.
Finally I was promoted to doing not just the electric system for New Jersey, but also taking on responsibility for the gas system. I enjoyed this work until about the point where the people I had worked for through the years retired and they brought in some new people from outside whom I didn't enjoy working with.
I stayed a little while. I talked with one of my good friends, including the former chairman of the board who had retired. He said, "Look. You are not going to be happy here the next ten years. These new people coming in don't think technology and technical skill and technical information are important. They think this can be done by the accounting types or the financial types." Well, they weren't good managers, frankly, because I think a good manager understands the financial, technical, and the political aspects; you've got to understand it all. They brought in some new people who were not particularly good in my mind and I had a choice of staying and griping every day or leaving, so I left.
My wife thought I was a little out of my mind because I gave up my chauffeured Cadillac, I gave up my helicopter, and I went to work someplace where my privileges were far less, although I did get a considerable pay increase. I was there for a little while and then I had a chance to buy a small business. That is the ultimate freedom, I think, being an entrepreneur owning your own business. I bought a small consulting firm in Washington, and we moved down there.
In the beginning things were rough. I went from a staff of 350 to having my wife run the xerox machine, but we did it and we persevered and now we have a very successful company. So we bootstrapped ourselves up and I was fifty-three when I did that. Doing that at the age of fifty-three I would recommend to anybody. It invigorates you; you have a new challenge and a tough one, just like mountain climbing. If you get to the top of the mountain, you feel good. But that's a quick summary.
Engineering: A Social Obligation
Can I ask a couple of questions about PSE&G? Are they unusual? Do you know about other utilities, can you compare these to PSE&G?
Originally, I went there because it was about the fourth largest utility in the United States, exceedingly progressive. They had pioneered in a lot of things, the people working there were forward-looking, and they thought long-range. They gave young people an opportunity to work on things that were not needed tomorrow. A long-range perspective was what they had. Their managers were good, they were mostly engineers, and engineers tend to look long-range. But some of these long-range projects caused some of the management problems. There were a couple of them that didn't work out very well. For example, there was the concept, you may have heard of, the floating nuclear plants off of New Jersey.
In fact only recently I've heard about this. Can you talk more about it?
I was involved with the economic evaluation. Another department did the designs for those floating nuclear plants. Originally there were two plants, two units, one thousand megawatts each, a million kilowatts each, which were going to be built. Frankly, I made the presentation to the board of directors saying that we thought this was a good idea. There were a lot of technical advantages, among them being that one of the things you must do in nuclear plants is build them to be earthquake-proof. If you put it on a barge, earthquakes can't affect you. The best place to be during a San Francisco earthquake is out on the water in a boat; that rocking isn't going to bother you. You've got a lot of water underneath you that is going to protect you.
But then the company that was building it, Offshore Power Systems, which was 50% Westinghouse and 50% Tenneco, began to say, "Look. We can't just do two. It's costing too much to build these. We have to get more orders, or otherwise we'll have to withdraw." Anyway, they went out and tried to get some more orders. Nobody else would give them any more orders, so they said to us, "Why don't you buy two more?" At that particular point, some of us who had been in on the original study said, "No. Don't buy two more." Well, everybody said that Offshore Power Systems would go under and they had some of our money, since we gave them progress payments, down payments. And so the final decision was contrary to our recommendation; the company was to go forward and buy two more. They did, and the project just couldn't make it anyway, even with two more. They had to try to sell more units. They couldn't.
The need for the electricity tapered off. They were having financial problems, and we didn't need what we had committed ourselves to. It's like buying four cars when you only need one. The net result of all of this was an attempt to abort the project but we couldn't abort it because the contract said that whoever aborted it had to pay all the other costs of the other company. This was hundreds of millions of dollars. This was a very difficult situation.
The other side wanted to stop because there was no money, but they couldn't tell us they wanted to abort because they would have had to pay all of our costs, which were considerable. So we went on for another year or two, and there was almost an extra several hundred million dollars spent in this game of "chicken."
When was this going on?
1970. Neither side could tell the other. Finally, somehow, after I left, it was reconciled, but there was about five hundred million dollars lost on the project. I don't know how much of this you can put in the history, but it's an interesting story how these things come about.
This is one reason why I wrote my book on transmission; I saw a lot of these things happen. Somehow or other I think the younger generation ought to learn about them. My reasoning is that we who are older and have lived through things have an obligation to pass on some of the good and bad, and in terms of people, not just ideas, in terms of people, projects, institutions. So I hope the history you'll do will do that. Don't just make it dull technical stuff, which is terrible. We have a lot of kids in college who are going to go through some similar things. There will be projects they'll get involved with which ought to be stopped and they won't know how to stop them, and that kind of thing.
The penalty in some cases for society is very large; who paid for those five hundred million dollars? People who use the electricity in New Jersey, that's who paid for it. The public doesn't know that they paid that much. The Public Service Commission knows but an accommodation was made between them and the utilities so the utilities could recover it in their costs over ten years. They let them recover fifty million a year for ten years through extra charges in the price of electricity.
Is this engineering? It is really, because I think you need people to understand both the projects and understand the financial aspects. The one thing I feel is lacking among engineers, and I stress very strongly in the book, are the societal obligations of the engineer. (I give a lot of references in it.)
An engineer has an obligation to use his creative talents, his technical knowledge, to build things that help mankind, while making a nice living for himself. I don't mind that at all. But you have this obligation to give to society a lot of good things, and as a result of giving these to society, you need to look at the consequences of your technology. Are you doing things that have bad environmental effects? Are you doing things that are going to hurt the poor? This is the factor in my career which was impressed on me many, many times by the excellent people I worked for. This was my employment background, and these were good decent people. I used to have a boss who used to always ask me, "How do you justify our position of importance, the salaries we take home? How do you justify this, Jack? Why should we be here doing this, why shouldn't somebody else? Why shouldn't the state government take over? The answer is that we can do a better job and have greater societal concerns than the politicians do. That's how you justify your existence in an engineering project and an engineering role."
I think too many engineers fail to ask these things during their careers. It's philosophy, and the history and the philosophy have to be mixed. My boss was a fine man, and said that the engineer has the obligation to return to society more than he takes from it. If we don't do this, the world goes to hell, because we are the builders. Look at those buildings. I mean, look at the lighting system, look at the electric power system, the communication, the computers; we have this obligation to contribute to society more than we take from it, and if we don't, then it is a sad world. I think that is an awfully important part of the history in my technical work.
I did an awful lot of technical work, but overriding this technical work and (a lot of it is described in here, and I've got about fifty papers and have made hundreds of speeches) is the fact that the engineer has his societal role, which is not stressed to our students today. It was stressed where I went to school, which was Cooper Union, and it was stressed by the people I worked for, who were exceedingly decent people. A couple of them were very religious, not my religion, but they stressed that we think of right and wrong, not just what was cheaper. I learned to think of those terms.
You say that this was discussed when you were in school. Your professors talked about it in the context of problems.
Yes. In the beginning of World War II, we were listening to football games. In fact, I was listening to the football game when the program was interrupted. I was listening on the radio. The program was interrupted with, "We just received a bulletin that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor." I turned to my father and said, "What's Pearl Harbor?" He said, "I don't know; it must be in Florida."
We didn't know what had happened, but the next day we were at war, and then everyone began to realize a lot of people were going to be killed and all of a sudden people began to think not only of their own rights and privileges, but also of their obligations. What did they have to contribute to beat those people? The Nazis in Germany, the Japanese who had bombed us, what did we have to do, what were our duties? I was still going to school, when our duties and obligations started to be stressed. Modern education has practically none of this, but it was in the time we were living in.
Dickens would say, "It was the best of times, and the worst of times," because friends, neighbors, classmates were being killed; you would see the reports. Your attitude was completely different than the modern kids', "Well, what I am entitled to?" It was, "What should I contribute?" I think this carried over with the professors and in their work. In my generation it was a different time. As I said, it was a bad time because a lot of people were hurt but it was a good time because people worked together so much better except for a few cheaters on the rationing stamps. You had rationing stamps--you would get a stamp for a pound of butter. People worked together unbelievably well because they saw a cause that they believed in. That carried over in some of our work in engineering.
Training The Younger Generations
You have been a little disappointed with the younger generations.
I think the faculty in the universities is the prime problem; the faculty members are basically selfish. They are not willing to work long hard hours. I have given a lot of research money to schools. When I was over at Public Service, I gave out grants of $300,000 to $400,000 to schools in New Jersey. Faculty did not accomplish what they were supposed to with this money, and it didn't bother them that they were taking it and not achieving the results they had promised; it didn't bother them. A lot of the engineering faculties use research projects as a means to supplement their income and they don't recognize they had an obligation. This money is coming from poor people. The utility collects it and gives to them, and they don't realize they have an obligation to do something useful with this. Faculties in the universities tend to be rooted in their research work, getting their honors, getting their high compensation, and they don't have the societal view that I think is necessary. This carries over to the students.
I don't know if you were there Monday at the IEEE Winter Power Meeting. We had a plenary session. We have a video tape of it which you can get. You might want to look at it, it is three hours. We had Dean Eleanor Baum from Cooper Union, whom I like and know very well. She is the only lady engineering dean in the country, but probably one of the best. She stressed the point that the kids in school these days and the professors are not being oriented to what our society needs if we are going to succeed and survive. Look at the session video, you'll find it interesting.
But our concern about obligations carried over from the war. I am sure that the war triggered it. Also the Depression years. I grew up in the Depression years. We didn't have too much to eat, and you began to learn that you had to share with brothers, sisters, mother and father, and that attitude permeated society. I think there were a whole generation of people like that. I can give you a dozen names here of people who grew up in the same era who had the same attitude. Charles Rudasill from Vepco was one. I worked with Charlie back in the 1950s; we needed to cooperate and work together to do a good job. The philosophy that we had these societal obligations was strong.
We now have a whole generation with a philosophy based on how to make the most money. I am not saying that we didn't like to make money; don't get us wrong, but there was this overriding code of ethics which has in many ways disappeared from our business world.
It was in the engineering profession that it was the strongest, in the engineering profession where the real builders were. Those who execute our engineering designs and ideas, the people who go out and put up the steel structures are the people who create wealth. The wealth you look around and see, not what we have in the checkbook. Our wealth is our power systems, our manufacturing plants, our buildings, our homes, our transportation system, our roads, and our bridges.
Do you have any suggestion about how young engineers and engineers in training can get back on track?
Yes, as a matter of fact I think one of the things they need to do is to have some of the builders return to teaching. One of the problem with the universities is that nobody can teach in the university without a Ph.D., and you can't rise in the university unless you do a certain amount of research and write a certain amount of papers. The progression up the ladder of the university is not based on your ability to teach and pass on knowledge. It's absolutely not.
Eleanor Baum and a number of others have been suggesting that we need to give people who have been in their careers five, ten, or fifteen years who would like to go back for a year or two to the university to teach, a chance to go back. Don't make them second-class citizens because they lack PhD's.
You can get to be an adjunct professor, but if you are an adjunct professor, you are dirt. Really, in the overall set-up, you are not very important. Give them a chance to go back and to really play an important role. Bring to the university problems from the real world.
For about three years I helped Lehigh University. I used to be on what they called the "Visiting Committee for the Electrical Engineering Department." We used to go out and rate the department head and the overall department for the president of the university. To rate them and we would talk to students. We spent three days there each year and told the president, "We think that he is doing a good job," or "Everybody we talk to thinks he is not running it well." The suggestions we made in those visits were valuable because lots of times, if the professor was good, he would ask, "Have you got a practical illustrative problem that I can use in this course?" We don't do that in this country nearly enough.
I work a lot in Europe, Australia, and South America and in almost every country the industry people and the university people are co-mingled much better than they are here. One of my good friends in Denmark used to teach two days a week in the University of Copenhagen, and for three days a week he worked for the power system. He was able to bring new ideas, new ways, new approaches from the university into the business world and he brought practical problems back to the university. This made the kind of things the faculty was working on and the students were learning much more relevant.
In the USA my daughter's got a master's degree in Penn State. She was a graduate student, she had a fellowship, and she was teaching courses for the professors. She was not nearly as well-qualified as the professor; That's typical.
But I think some of these valuable things can be done, Loren, and I think we need to look at some of them. I don't know if this is history, but it is the things that I have seen.
Working with the Russians on the Electric Power System
Speak a little bit more about your experiences in Europe and other foreign countries.
Well, I had never been in a foreign country until about 1964. I had a boss who said that there was an international meeting on engineering that he was supposed to go and asked me, "Will you go for me?" It was the CIGRE meeting in Paris. I went over there and there were about 2,000 engineers talking about things that I was very interested in. I was amazed because up until that time I thought Americans were the best in the world. The Japanese didn't know how to make cars; they didn't know how to do anything. We're great.
I went over seas and I saw some of these people from other countries and it dawned on me that there are an awful lot of bright people over there. They knew a lot that I could learn and I started at that point trying very hard to keep abreast of what was going on in every other country I could. I had special friends in England and France. I followed what was going on in Germany, I did a lot of work of that type. I got to know people all over the world and found that they were smart. In many cases they were smarter than we are.
Many times we in the USA had more resources, but sometimes lacking a resource forces you to be more creative. They were in many ways doing things that we could have well learned from. I enjoyed that and I spent a lot of time in Europe. I made a point every two years to visit some of the companies over there and talked with them. They used to come over to the USA and I got to know an awful lot of them. I got to know the people, their wives, their family, their children. Relationships built up which were exceedingly valuable because when I want to know something I pick up a phone and call, or now I send a fax.
Then about 1971 or 1972, Mr. Nixon had a debate with Mr. Khrushev the "kitchen debate" in Russia. Out of that came the decision that instead of fighting maybe what we should have is a technology exchange. So they set up technology exchange groups in I think three or four areas; I am not 100% sure. One of them was agriculture. The Russians wanted to learn how we grow all that wheat. The other one was science and technology, and there was another one which was space, I believe.
Under the science and technology area they had one group on electric power systems in which I spent almost six or seven years. I used to head the U.S. electric power system planning delegation that went over and met with them. I got to meet a lot of Russians. They were communist at the time, but they were nice people. I always got along with them. Professionally I found them honest, but politically they kept in line. If you asked them whether something worked or didn't they were generally honest unless the KGB man was watching them and didn't want them to say it. There were certain things they were told not to talk about. They followed those instructions. I found it fascinating, and began to see all the weaknesses in their system.
One of the things we did talk about is how we did everything in the USA versus Russia, and this was an excellent demonstration of democracy versus their system. In the USA, when we have to decide what to do on electric power system, we project the electricity needs by small towns, by geographic areas, by companies, and we accumulate from down below to the top and get a projection for a whole region, a whole country. Over there somebody in an all-powerful bureau would decide what the national total need was and everyone else subdivided it. It's really the difference between their system and ours. Was it top-down or bottom-up? Ours was bottom up and we had discussions about that. Some of this is in my book. In discussions with them we checked the results. Our results were better than theirs. So we honestly talked, and we sat around the table. "Why are you getting better results than us?" I could remember the words in the answer that we agreed to. It was something called "the diversity of error."
In our system if one area was projected high and another one was projected low, and so on, when we accumulated them there were compensating errors. It was this diversity of error which gave you compensating error, so the total came out better. But if you did it from the top and you made an error, it permeated everything.
This is fundamentally the difference of between a dictatorship and a democracy. We don't elect the right people all the time, we make mistakes, but there is diversity in error so over time it compensates and our system works because of it. In the Communist system when they made a mistake it hurt forever. There was no compensating force. Our system has compensation.
There is one of the things that came out of the meetings. At a lot of these meetings we tried to understand the political systems and their effects. We talked frankly; we used to talk with some of these Russians and say, "Look. How can you continue to support this kind of system when you know it isn't working? Look at how much better we are doing." We went back and forth with, "We are going to do better" and that kind of thing.
My work in the USSR was very interesting, and I still have friends over there. Some of them even at that time were giving strong indications that they wanted to change things. It was oppressive, and they began to see that by talking with us. There were other groups in many other areas who said we had some advantages that they didn't have. Talking across the table, they began to see it.
Did you observe a lot of technical and technological differences as well in their power systems?
First, their economy was much poorer. For example, they did not have anywhere near the computer facilities we had. Secondly, they didn't have the money to build redundancy into the electric power system. In a power system we have to be prepared for things to fail. A transformer fails or a cable fails, and the lights are supposed to stay on. At home you don't know about it. People say keep the lights on; I want to take my shower, watch my Superbowl game and do my laundry.
They didn't have the redundancy or the money to maintain the same degree of reliability, but in many areas they were very clever in compensating for this lack of money. I think we learned some things about what they did. I think 90% of the time what we did was better than what they did, and about 10% of the time what they did was better than our procedures. They recognized this, and they appreciated the fact that we were giving them 90% for 10%.
This is why some people in the USA began to say, "This is stupid; these people are our enemies. Why are you helping them like this?" My feeling always was that peaceful exchanges, even a knowledge of technology in various areas, was not going to determine the outcome of this Cold War. I think history showed us this. Most of us involved did in this work felt that by being fair and honest with our Russian associates we were doing good for the United States. In the long run they were going to say that we were nice people. We felt that someday some of these people that we were talking to were going to be higher up and were not going to fear us because of their personal experiences. I think some of them did rise to their higher up positions.
Some people would say that they wouldn't want to do much with North Korea or the Somalian government or the Serbs in Yugoslavia, or whomever, but I think the technical people, by working together, really started setting an example or maybe a precedent for the political people. Engineers have played a large role in this kind of thing.
CIGRE, which is the international organization, has really been a wonderful place to work. I worked with communists there. I worked with Iranians there when they had American hostages. We all worked well together. People may say that you are being disloyal, but I don't think I was. I think we were finding areas where we could work together. Maybe they'll be more of those times and fewer when they'll keep hostages in the embassy.
Engineers are very willing to help others. In the electric power area they are exceedingly willing to help others. Part of the reason is that what I tell someone about how to build a better substation or transmission system can in no way hurt us, and what he tells me can in no way hurt him. There are no direct military implications in any of these things, and over time we are both better off, so it's a win- win situation when engineers cooperate.
I wouldn't give them defense secrets or anything, but in the end both sides recognize that. I think telling someone how to grow wheat or corn better and that kind of thing really wasn't hurting us in the long run. Somebody said, "Well, now they have more food." Yes, they have more food, and maybe they aren't quite as hungry and aren't quite as aggressive to take somebody else's food. Engineers are good at that, looking at the total system picture.
As we moved into the 1980s, a lot of people began to say, "Well, electric power systems are not efficiently run. They are not efficiently designed because you don't have competition." People only can buy from one supplier. This is a good question: if I can buy shoes from five people and bread from fifty bread companies, why can't I have more than one electric supplier? Part of the reason is that we can't afford to have two different people. It would double the cost for two different companies to be able to run wires in your house. You have to have only one. So the next question is, supposing you've got only one, why don't you just use that as the delivery system? Use that like the United Parcel Service, be able to buy from any store you want, and just have one delivery agency? That is not too far- fetched, but the real problem with that, the thing most people don't realize, is that if all these people who had been cooperating start suddenly competing, it can hurt the public. The cooperation between people is now changing. Engineers won't cooperate with one another as well, they won't tell each other as much, and the exchange of information, and ideas is lessened.
Even here at this IEEE meeting it is lessened. Companies say, "Well, we got this new way of doing things. Don't say anything about it; we can use it to take business from the other fellow." It used to be that sharing information did not harm you because you had customers they couldn't take them away from you. Now we are moving towards a set-up where they can take customers away from you. You don't help competitors.
A good example is when we have major storms, there are power interruptions. Trees are down, wires are down. Ice storms and hurricanes. Typically, if one company had a lot of customers out of service they would call up the other companies in the region and they would send their line crews and workers to help restore the wires and service. Now some are saying, "The next time they have a power outage, send in the salesmen." I am serious. It's a different psychology. "Send in a salesman, get them to sign over with us." In almost every business, service is an important part. We want to show that we'll give better service than they can, and we'll get customers to switch over to us. We are into a new age of electric power, which has an important impact on the engineering for electric power systems. I said, the idea of working together and cooperating, even with Russians, is now not what it used to be. It's changing.
Through the years I have had a sort of sense built in the seat of my pants or at the top of my head or whatever you want to call it that some of the things I was seeing were historically important, so I started to keep records of it for future reference. Some of these records are good, and some of them aren't any better than your pad here. But I have a tremendous collection of material on the history and development of power systems, the things that I was involved in. I've got three file drawers of documents, press releases, an awful lot of stuff which might be used to implement some of your things, and you are free to have it anytime you want it. Do you ever get into the Washington area?
Sometime when you are in the Washington area and you have a little time, I'll let you look through my files. One of the reasons I've been able to do a lot of this work is that I have kept things orderly. I have indices of the things in my files. I know where things are and I can find them. I can send you a table of contents of what's in these files.
Research and Book Drafts
That would be excellent.
If that would be of any use to you, you are welcome to it. You don't have to credit me or anything, and there is one other thing I wanted to point out to you while we are here. I have here a copy of a very famous book; this is a rare copy and they are exceedingly difficult to get. This is a book that was done by William Spencer Murray as you can see, he was an electric engineer and this work was done at the suggestion of the professional societies, ASME and AIEE. I got this through some other people. The original owner gave it to somebody who gave it to me. It's Superpower: Genesis and Future, published in 1925. This predicted the development of electric power systems in the future. There are an awful lot of things of interest in it, tremendously interesting. For example a Congressional Committee was formed at the suggestion of the professional societies!
Our role is now so downgraded. The professionals prepared this whole book. For example, they show the systems in the northwestern United States as they were in 1919, and how they were projected to grow. This has material that you cannot get any other place. Out of this came the suggestion that there had to be regulatory commissions. Based on this book the government formed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Then came the state commissions, the public service commissions, e.g., there is a commission in New Jersey, the Public Utilities Commission. Out of this came the whole concept as to how we were to build the electric power industry and how the government was to control it--one book called Superpower. If you would like to borrow it, you are welcome, but I won't give it to you until you are ready to use it because it is a rare volume, and if it's lost it's irreplaceable.
Right. I am optimistic that we would be able to track it down through interlibrary loans. It is a very sophisticated process.
Have you got the name?
I have got the name down.
Superpower is probably one of the best books around. I have another book which I recommend, the Existential Pleasures of Engineering written by Samuel C. Florman whom I've never met but I have been writing to for a year.
I remember reading this book in my college days, but I may turn back to it now.
This is a new one.
This is new?
Yes. He wrote another one in 1968 called Engineering and the Liberal Arts. But this one was written in 1976. Samuel Florman is on the National Research Council, involved in engineering education activities. He should be a good contact for some history. His book is not on electricity per se but it is a fascinating book. If you could write a history as he has done it it would be great. In fact, I read his book before I wrote mine, and the key is mixing people with technology; it's awfully dull if it is straight technology. He deals with people and philosophy, and he points out why engineers have come into disfavor and are mistrusted now as compared to fifty years ago. Dullards and Demigods is a Chapter title. He has titles like that, but they are good. Those two books I would recommend highly.
Well, thank you. Those are excellent tips.
I think I have given you a copy of my book on "The Development of Electric Power Transmission" published in 1993 in the IEEE Case Histories of Achievement in Science and Technology. I thought I brought it with me. I have a good executive assistant. Here is the table of contents of my book on transmission. I think if you look at references in the book, there are some sixty or seventy references, you'll find that they are awfully complete. Here is my home file reference. These are what I have got in the file numbers. I have got about five book drafts that I may someday want to publish. What I have done from time to time is to write down what I am thinking and why and draft a summary paper. So I have got all these drafts for use in a book. I always pick a sexy book title like E Pluribus Unum and so on. The IEEE book was to be called Anatomy of Electric Power Transmission in the Twentieth Century. The conservative IEEE changed it to "Development of Electric Power Transmission." But there are book drafts here which have a lot of material in them, which I don't remember all of because a lot of this I wrote years back. Here's other journal reference material. A lot of the utilities have had histories published of them. Public Service Electric and Gas of New Jersey where I worked had an author do a history of the company. He was a friend of the chairman of the board and they paid him $25,000 to write this and it was absolutely terrible. It wasn't good but some of the utility histories are good. These may not be listed in a lot of the libraries.
We have a small collection at the History Center. Just a selection of the utility histories.
Utilities have histories. I have in my files awfully interesting historical stuff. For example, I have some material from 1915 or 1916, a letter from Edison to the utility of New Jersey saying, "I think your service is excellent, and your price is reasonable." Nice letter, you get a compliment. I have also had dinner with one of Edison's sons. In fact, it was down in near Piscataway or New Brunswick someplace. He was ninety-four at the time. One of Edison's sons became governor of New Jersey, but this was the son who didn't. This must have been 1955 or 1960, and it was fascinating to talk to him about his father.
You should have jotted down those thoughts.
I should have typed them. Perhaps what I have seen is everything from Edison because one of my bosses did some work with Edison. Edison died in 1931. But some of these people I worked with were working for the company in 1915. I started in 1945, and that was only thirty years later. If they started at twenty they were only fifty. They had met Edison and worked with him, so there was a lot of transition. I went from the people who knew Edison through to the atomic age. That was interesting.
Well I'll leave you these lists, if any of these are valuable. I have a lot of historical material on a lot of things--the USA-Canada electricity interchanges, the inter-regional transmission grid. This is mentioned in my book, a particularly important study. This study I'll mention to you here: Some of us had the idea that we had to build some high voltage lines in the coal mines into the East here because oil prices were so high in the East that we would get electricity cheaper here. "Coal by wire" was the term. We looked at building some additional lines and we found that certain lines were economically justified. They were good, they were in the public interest, and we couldn't get the financial support to build them. We could not get the financial support because all the companies that would benefit wouldn't contribute their share of the needed capital and the others said, "I am not going to pay for him." You get into that kind of problem in the real world.
Oil Embargo, "Coal by Wire", and the Social Responsibilities of Engineers
And this was in the 1970s?
This was 1971. In 1973 we had the oil embargo and because we didn't have this line, we paid a fantastic extra cost, perhaps billions of dollars extra for the added cost of the oil compared to the cheap coal we had in the West which we could not convert into electricity and bring to the East. Here's a case where the engineer saw the need but perhaps the engineers (and I was one of them) weren't smart enough to put together the financial package to execute it. Maybe we weren't smart enough, maybe the people we were trying to sell the idea to weren't smart enough to listen to us, but either way there was a failure.
These failures from time to time have hurt society, and engineers need to recognize that they have hurt society. It's not electric, but a very good example is the bridges in New York. Engineers have known for years that these bridges are decaying and getting close to falling down, but they let the city stop doing any maintenance on them. You get to the point where the bridges have to be closed because they are unsafe to use. The bridges across the river are too precious to let that happen. The engineers have not spoken out. They have kept their mouths shut. That is a failure of engineering: not to speak out when the public interest is at heart. It may cost you your job but somebody has got to do it.
I wonder if you could talk a little bit more about the case of the aftermath of the oil embargo and engineers' responses?
Well, in about 1970 a number of companies, American Electric Power, Public Service Electric and Gas, General Public Utilities, Niagara Mohawk, Con Ed, Philadelphia Electric, and a number of other companies said, "We need to take a look at whether a new transmission line from the West, maybe out in Ohio or Indiana someplace, coming to the East to deliver this low cost coal energy is economically justified." So we arranged a task force and they studied it, and it came out with a report and the project was justified. Then the next step was to try and put together a critical mass of institutions that would do this. We invited a lot of people to come down and take a look at the report and we met in Philadelphia and spent about a whole day going over the report. At about 2:00 in the afternoon, we said, "Now we are going to talk about who's going to participate and to what degree in this project." The net result was that our company had talked and I had the power to commit Public Service. Others committed, but the people at Con Ed and the people at Niagara Mohawk said, "Well, that line has to be built in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. That's not our territory. We don't want to put up any money." They were going to get a lot of these benefits. They had to put up some more money because we wouldn't put it all up. They refused and we did not go forward with the project, but it was mainly the eastern companies. When the oil embargo came, they were deadly sorry that they had made that mistake. It was very difficult at that time to build it because when you build transmission lines you have to build them pretty much over virgin territory. People don't like transmission lines; if their house is in the way, they like them even less. So the problem became one of getting right-of-way and being able to build it. Within a few years it had gotten to the point that it was impossible and that line cannot be built now.
There are certain times in the history of all kinds of developments, particularly when you are using land and there are societal consequences when you are able to do things. Later on it is too late to do them. You can't do it. You have to take the opportunity when it's there, particularly in electric power projects. Once everybody has got their homes along the route, you are not doing anything there.
This part of the engineering is looking at the societal questions: what harm are you doing, what good are you doing? Is this the right time to do it, or is it better to do it later? These are questions which are not amendable to solving with equations but are still engineering problems. The engineer is best skilled to do them, I believe.
Three Musketeers Approach Vs. Lone Ranger Approach
So was PSE&G able to do anything constructive in response to the oil embargo and the high cost of energy in the early 1970s?
Well, yes. We did everything that we could, but we didn't have this line to deliver low cost energy. We brought in as much as low cost energy as we could.
I would like to talk a little bit more about the oil embargo. You might find it interesting because again, suddenly, like Pearl Harbor, the oil embargo came right out of the blue. We were rolling along, doing our work, the lights were on, the power plants were running, and all of a sudden OPEC said, "No more oil," just like that. Well, we had a couple of tankers en route delivering oil and we had three days' oil storage in our tanks. All of a sudden we got no more oil and the federal government that afternoon asked for representatives from all the key companies in the area to go down to Washington. I went down representing the PJM pool, in which Public Service is a member. We came to Washington, and sat down in the room. They said, "We've got to make a program to help us survive." I can remember until this day the basis for the program. They said, "Look. Not everybody is going to get all the electricity they need. How do we allocate?" After some discussion which only took about an hour, the decision was that we give the electricity first to industry, to keep industry running. This keeps our production up, keeps people with jobs, keeps getting them salary checks. Industry first. Some of the sacrifices have to be taken in other places: residences.
What came out of this was that the governor of New Jersey, Brendon Byrne, a nice man, but who issued an order, "Thou shalt keep your thermostat at sixty degrees." He issued an order and everybody said, "Nuts. You are not coming into my house to check it either. This is my home, my home is my castle." Well, if he had asked for cooperation, he would have done a lot better than issuing an order. But out of this campaign we started to not run our generation as much. We began to buy generation from the surrounding systems. They produced the electricity and sent it over the transmission lines instead of us using up our very short oil supply.
There were some systems that had thirty days of oil in storage, but we had only three days. What we did, and the utilities did this cooperatively, was say, "We are all going to help one another." The philosophy at that time was what I call the three musketeers'. That was the term we used--"one for all, all for one." We helped one another and we minimized the societal impacts by cooperating with one another. Maybe one company had to ask its customers to take some sacrificial steps, but was the impact less from the viewpoint of health and other things than if other customers curtailed? What we should do is average this out and do the best we can with what we have got on a regional basis, not worrying what's good for this town or this state. Let's do the job so that the people of the whole Northeast are in the best possible position.
Now we have departed from this three musketeers approach, and it's in the literature. They've gone to what is now the "lone ranger" approach, which is that you take care of yourself and I'll take care of myself. Societally, I don't like that nearly as much. Maybe the other approach of you take care of yourself and I take care of myself is better for competition and maybe competition will force people to do better, but I believe it isn't as good as the cooperative approach that I have seen almost all of my life. The cooperative approach with the Russians, and everyone else, is good for society, good for mankind. It's the right thing to do and in the long run it leads to benefits that you don't get by being cut-throat. Cut-throat capitalism is bad, but cooperative capitalism is good.
Did any of the procedures that you implemented during the emergency period around the embargo continue on? People went back to the old ways?
They used some of them. During the past cold spell, some of these procedures were put into place. What we also have now is procedures for reducing consumption. In Washington D.C. they shut down the federal government. Everybody decided things were better without it. The traffic problems were gone. Maybe we don't need them. That was interesting. I have been involved in a number of these blackout investigations. I am going to tell you about that one because that's an interesting one. This is a little historical thing. Consolidated Edison, back in the good old days, was a giant--a callous ruthless giant in its dealing with other companies. They thought that they were all-powerful, the biggest company in the United States; they had money. Very frankly, they were hard to work with, very hard to cooperate with. It was the attitude of everybody who worked for them. They finally got to the point that their inability to get along with their neighbors was hurting them, and they brought in a man named Charles Luce, who had been in Washington as Secretary of Interior or something similar.
Charles Luce's first step was to tell everyone in that company, "Look, you'd better learn to get along with your neighbors. We need them and they need us. This bickering and fighting all the time is bad." So we started to work together with Con Ed and things were going reasonably well. In fact, I had done some joint work with Con Ed agreeing on a new interconnection with Con Ed across Staten Island. We had started to put in the new interconnection, had signed contracts, and all of a sudden we heard Con Ed was going to put in a huge generator called "Big Alice."
I don't know if you have ever heard of big Alice? It was a 1,000 megawatt generator. They did this because their reputation was going down. Wall Street was saying they weren't progressive, they were stuck in the mud, and it was affecting their stock values. So they decided to build the biggest generator in the world and bought this generator and were going to put it in. When we found out that they were going to put it in, we began to check. Before we had agreed on the new interconnection, the officers in Public Service said, "Be sure you can trust those people." That's the question I got from the chairman of the board and I said, "Yes, I am sure we can trust them." Then about two weeks later we read in the newspaper about something I didn't know about which would cause us harm.
We made studies and found out that if they put in that generator it could cause transmission lines to burn down in New Jersey and maybe as far out as Pennsylvania and Ohio. So we had a meeting with Con Ed and a lot of the top people came and told them that they could not operate that generator. They said, "We're building it, and you can't stop us." Then we had to try to find ways to protect ourselves and not harm them any more than we had to. Basically, we found what I would like to call a technical and institutional solution. First, they agreed that they would not operate the generator with more than 600 MW being produced, and then we put certain relays on so that if they didn't keep their word the lines would trip and we wouldn't get hurt but they would.
Power pooling is coordination, this coordination thing is a lot like mountain climbing. People tie ropes around their waists, three, four, five, six of them when they go climbing. In case one falls, the others hold them up. That's what this cooperation is like and in that sense it is very beneficial. On this new generating unit they put in, we weren't quite sure they could do what they said they would, so we put a special relay on the line to Staten Island and everybody said, "Are you sure that's right? Suppose that thing operates improperly, it could cause a lot of problems." Yes, it could. We put this special relay in service.
On November fifth or something in 1965, I am riding home in the car listening to the radio and I hear that Consolidated Edison and all of New York City is black--no electricity. I said, "Oh, my God. That relay we put on didn't work right. It failed to operate properly." I thought it had misoperated and caused the blackout--it was a funny feeling. When I got home, I called some people at our dispatch center and I found out that we had not caused it, but for about twenty minutes, you couldn't imagine how low I was, thinking that I had done something that shut down New York City, and all those poor people stuck in subway trains.
It turned out frankly if that the relay hadn't been there, the blackout might have spread into New Jersey and other places. It served its function and it operated properly, but sometimes you make decisions in engineering and you begin to ask afterwards: Is it right? Did I make a mistake? Did I hurt somebody? This is part of what power engineering and electrical engineering covers. It's not just the technical calculations, but again the societal impacts. The good engineer is looking at what it is going to mean to other people; that's the key.
A year and a half later we had a blackout in New Jersey. Right after the Consolidated Edison blackout, I was asked by our corporate officers if the same thing could happen in New Jersey. So we made a lot of studies and had undertaken a lot of corrective actions. You learn from the other guys' mistakes if you are smart. We were making some changes in New Jersey, but we hadn't finished them.
One of the changes we're making was putting in a new computerized total system control system, the first one to be installed in the whole United States. Incidentally, the whole concept of this control system I got from Europe. The British were doing it in 1962 and there are some companies that have not done as much in 1993 in the U.S.A. They had a computer which would continually check the network and see where bad things could happen, if something tripped out. They called it a "security assessor." We were putting in the same thing in New Jersey. It hadn't been completed when we had a blackout in New Jersey caused by a problem down near Philadelphia.
With electric power systems, if you lose a generator in New York City they see the effects in Miami, in North Dakota, in New Orleans. It's all one network, and with electric power networks the electricity flows around the speed of light at around 180,000 miles a second, so that when things happen here, they happen very fast in other places, and the controls and sophistication of the system make a very complex system. I know the people with electronic backgrounds don't understand it. I don't understand everything about computers, but I think I know a lot more about communications, telephones, and computers than they know about power systems and how they work. The fact is that this is an instantaneous system; it's the only system in which you produce the product the absolute split second it's needed. When you flip on a light switch a generator has to respond with the speed of light and provide this electricity. There is no time delay; you can't route it. It goes in accordance to the law of science. Well, people don't realize this.
With this blackout we had in New Jersey, our company officials were called down to the governor's office. I think the governor was Thomas Hughes, but I may be wrong. The governor said, "I don't want to tell you your business, but don't ever let this happen again. It hurts the state. We can't attract business, we can't attract industry, it costs us jobs, it costs us tax revenue. This is bad. Don't let it happen anymore." So we went away and I got the assignment of chairing a committee for about three months to take all the necessary steps, and I would never say that it won't happen again. I said we will do everything to minimize the probabilities of it happening again. This is the way you have to handle some of these problems, because in technical areas no one, absolutely no one, can give 100% assurance that certain things won't happen. There was always a possible combination of events, and I have always felt this way about nuclear power.
I am a strong supporter of nuclear power. People say, "Well, aren't there some combination of events that can cause problems at the plant?" The answer is yes, if you are honest. There is a combination of human mistakes, technical mistakes and so on which can cause a problem. None of these would lead to an atomic bomb. That's not possible because the right combinations of materials isn't there, but you could have some kind of problem with the plant which could be important. But then you have to ask, "What's the probability of that? What are the chances of that? What are the consequences if that happens?" The probabilities and consequences, you look at both: how many people are going to be hurt; how seriously are they going to be hurt? Then you have to ask, "Well, suppose we don't build a nuclear plant--what are the consequences?" If you look at the consequences without the nuclear plants, the air pollution, the global warming, CO2 , they are very severe. Again, my approach is that you should look at it from a societal viewpoint. You look at what happens if we do it, what happens if we don't do it.
Involvement in the Planning of Nuclear Plants
Were you involved in the planning or building of any nuclear plants besides these planned floating plants?
Yes. I was involved with planning Hope Creek, Salem, and Peach Bottom. I think they were good. There are some things I have been involved with planning, which were executed, and ten years later I knew we had made a mistake. Anybody who does any amount of work will know that sometimes he made a mistake because no one can foretell the future. It is sort of like the quarterback; sometimes you are going to throw an interception. But you keep them to a minimum and you learn from your interceptions and your mistakes. But the nuclear plants were not mistakes.
There were other good plants, some of them mine-mouth plants that we built out in Western Pennsylvania. If you look at what the cost in electricity in New Jersey would have been if we hadn't built them. People say nuclear is more expensive, and that's not true. Look at those plants and what it would have cost if we hadn't built them. They have saved the people of New Jersey money, and they haven't been spewing out carbon dioxide and other things. They have been safe. I will not promise you that they'll be safe in the next hundred years, but all I will tell you is that the risks are less than the risks of not having them, and that is all you can do. With a lot of power projects, that's basically the approach.
Public Interest Concept
You have talked about several big historical moments in power over the past couple of decades. You have mentioned a lot of peoples names in passing, I wonder if there are really any important points you feel that you have missed, that you would like to return to?
One of the reasons I wrote this book on transmission, is that what each of us does affects other people. Whether you are a teacher or an engineer or so on, we're influenced by the examples: our mothers and fathers, our families, our friends. One of the things I have been very happy about is that my children in school made good friends. They are not the kind of people whose example they are going to follow and get into trouble; they are good citizens, at least most of the time. I was influenced very importantly by a number of people in my life and their example impressed me. It wasn't what they said as much as what they did. Some of them are in the book.
Joseph Swidler is one of the people who influenced me very much and you must interview him. He is eighty-seven years old. At the age of thirty-two in about 1930, he became the number two man in forming TVA. He's a lawyer, but at heart he is an engineer. I don't like most lawyers, but he thinks like an engineer. His philosophy is part of his reasoning. He was appointed originally by John Kennedy, he was a friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, and was also appointed by Rockefeller. He has a tremendous collection of letters from presidents and people like that, and it's all in the area of electric power and electric power policy. I think if you are in Washington sometime, visit Joe Swidler. If you need his phone number, call my office and you tell him you are doing this history of the IEEE. Mention my book; he has a copy, and he encouraged me to write it. He was talking about doing a history himself.
One who impressed me the most is Bob Hooke, who has now been dead about fifteen years. Bob was a Unitarian, a very religious man, and he believed very strongly in this obligation to people. I can always remember when I was a young engineer of about twenty-seven. I did all this wonderful calculation and everything else and I gave him the report. He read it and I went back in a day later. He said, "Let's discuss the report." He went over it and he asked me about this number and that number. After about ten minutes he looked out the window--this was in Newark, and you could see all the slums--and Bob said, "Jack, you have all the numbers down here, and it looks like you are right. Can I ask you one question: what's best for those people out there?" Engineers don't ask themselves that question as much as they should, and he did this a lot with a lot of his younger people. That is a philosophy you don't see in government. You don't see it anywhere anymore, or at least not as much as you should. The engineers I worked with had this concept: we are here to do a job better than anyone else can from the public viewpoint. We used to call it the public interest concept. If we do our work right, the public is better off. They get more reliable electricity, cheaper, with less environmental impact. If we do it properly, then we deserve the maximum salary we can get. That's the way it ought to be. That's the way we saw capitalism in electric power engineering and the people who set the example.
I have tried to set similar examples from time to time, but I don't always do it. Some things I have done I wish I hadn't, but I'll tell you this. I haven't taken much salary for the past two years. I keep working and a lot of the money I am making I am contributing to causes of various types. I don't need the money. My wife and I live quite comfortably, we can travel where we want. What do I need with 2,000 pairs of shoes like Emelda Marcos? What do I need with a big fancy car? I am quite comfortable the other way. I have had luxuries as a high official and I found that they didn't make me happy, so I have gone to other things.
One of them was writing this book. and I have set up at Cooper Union this fund for improving government technical competence. I think our government technical competence is terrible. An example is the Department of Energy. Hazel O'Leary whom I know, (in fact I have done a TV interview with her), the Secretary of Energy, is a nice lady who's technically ignorant. She thinks politically; all of her thinking is: "Where I can get the most political support? She has never asked herself: "What's right for this country? What's right for our grandchildren." That's what I am concerned about. Why do I buy life insurance? Because I want to provide for the people who live after me, my descendants. Why do I try to accumulate some kind of estate and have a will. Because I want to provide for them. Yet in government policy we don't provide for them. It is an absolute contradiction.
The people I worked with did set this example; they felt that you need to take a twenty-five or thirty year look. Look at what's right in the long term and move in that direction. Many people say that the United States is becoming a second-rate nation in international competition because our view is for profits now. I like to call it the "me now" generation. "Right now, me now, my rights, my profits and the hell with everybody else for the next fifty years." That's the psychology governing America right now.
The people I worked with were probably the most important single thing in my career. Probably the most important single event is the fact that I was fortunate enough to work for these people. There are other people who have not worked for such people, and they get very negative. I was lucky and I enjoy what I do and I enjoy working with the people I work with. When I didn't enjoy it, I left. I was fortunate my children were through college. I had enough money and I could be independent. I am now, and as I said I run my own business, I am the principal owner and I say and do anything I want and if I lose my money, I lose it. Nobody else does. So is that a good summary?
Very good. Thank you.
Casazza, John A., The Development of Electric Power Transmission, The Role Played by Technology, Institutions, and People, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., October 1993.
- 1 About Jack Casazza
- 2 About the Interview
- 3 Copyright Statement
- 4 INTERVIEW
- 4.1 The Navy, Cornell, and Electrical Engineering
- 4.2 Managing an Annual Budget of One Billion Dollars at PSE&G
- 4.3 Engineering: A Social Obligation
- 4.4 Training The Younger Generations
- 4.5 Working with the Russians on the Electric Power System
- 4.6 Research and Book Drafts
- 4.7 Oil Embargo, "Coal by Wire", and the Social Responsibilities of Engineers
- 4.8 Three Musketeers Approach Vs. Lone Ranger Approach
- 4.9 Involvement in the Planning of Nuclear Plants
- 4.10 Public Interest Concept