The 1980s bring EL&P to PennWell

Electric Light & Power began the “me decade” with a scathing editorial by then editor Robert Lincicome. As with the 1970s, the industry-and the nation-was particularly concerned with the fuel crisis.

“It has been six aggravating years since the Arab nations first shut off the flow of Mideast oil to the U.S.,” he wrote. “In the interim, we’ve watched oil and gasoline prices soar, inflation increase and national concern mount. We’ve curse the Arabs, but we’ve done little more. Instead of reducing our consumption of precious black gold, we’ve increased it.”

Lincicome called for synfuel development in his January 1980 editorial, concluding that “the most expensive barrel of petroleum is the one we won’t have when we need it.”

Indeed, companies like EBASCO were running ads about “prophets of doom” who were predicting brown-outs and black-outs in 1985 or 1990-by the turn of the century for sure-when the oil supply was sure to run out. Luckily, EBASCO didn’t “believe a word of it.”

Of course, we did see black-outs in California in 2001, but it wasn’t due to a lack of oil. Even EBASCO’s “prophets of doom” couldn’t have predicted the problems California has seen.

Beyond the articles and editorials about the lack of fuel supply in the 1980s, EL&P also tracked the need for overhaul at nuclear power plant control rooms, the rise of supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and the effect that the presidential election would have on emissions control.

In an early 1981 article entitled “Reagan win signals new direction in environmental regulation,” then Managing Editor Robert Smock-who is now Vice President and Group Publishing Director here at PennWell-labeled the 1970s “BR” (“Before Regan”), where “it was clear what direction environmental regulation would take: Power plant emission limits for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides would be tightened to combat acid rain and visibility problems.”

However, the 1980s were “AR” (“After Reagan”), where the picture was “not so clear” and “many in the industry expect wholesale elimination of what they consider unreasonable regulations.”

Beyond the content, EL&P continued its tabloid format in the 1980s, touting that “news needs a front page, not just a cover,” and in January of 1987, Electric Light & Power became a part of PennWell Publishing Company. Then PennWell President Philip Lauinger commented, “We built our business on an unwavering commitment to editorial excellence and service to our advertisersellipseand we are enthusiastic about our new association with the power generation and electric utility industry.”

High voltage direct current transmission is presently the subject of new interest and activity, as utilities contemplate or construct new projects or recondition older ones. Here, three twin valves hang from the ceiling of one DC converter facility of the Pacific Intertie upgrade being built by ASEA. (EL&P, May 1984, cover photo.)
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