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California Utility Cuts Power to Avoid Fires Caused by Downed Power Lines   

Pacific Gas and Electric has intentionally turned off electricity to up to two million people in parts of northern California for hours and days at a time this week. The purpose is to avoid the catastrophic fires caused when high, gusty winds knock down power lines and the sparks ignite tinder dry brush. There were a number of such fires last year; the worst was the “Camp Fire” in Butte County, which destroyed the town of Paradise, California, killed 85 people, and did an estimated $16.5 billion in damages.
 
The Los Angeles Times has provided comprehensive coverage in a series of stories. It turns out that turning off power is dangerous, economically destructive, and makes people very angry.  
 
On a cheerier note, people whose power has been cut off are learning that their solar panels don’t work, they can’t recharge their Teslas, and that diesel generators are a good thing to have in a state with crazy climate policies.  
  
The story being told, of course, is that global warming is making California’s annual fire season much worse by causing bigger droughts. And of course, this is not the case. California has had cycles of long, intense droughts for centuries, at least.
 
Several culprits can be blamed before global warming should even be considered as a possible contributing factor. First, PG&E is a poorly managed company that has lots of aging, badly maintained power lines. The company might have done a better job if the state had not forced them to concentrate their resources on moving rapidly to wind and solar power.
 
Second, state and federal policies have led to huge fuel buildups in forests, brush, and grasslands. The only alternative to timber production is catastrophic fire. Third, California’s population has grown, and more people are living in areas prone to periodic fires. Chuck DeVore, a former member of the California Assembly, has a good column on the terrible policy choices that have caused California’s current catastrophe.