Pacific Gas & Electric, the massive, bankrupt utility company in California, is intentionally cutting power to 800,000 customers (millions of people) starting today, and it’s unknown how long the outage will last. Fears of high Santa Ana winds knocking down powerlines and causing another Paradise has the battled energy company spooked. This isn’t an especially popular decision; half of the town I live in has had their power cut (I’m right on the edge of the outage map and staying lit). Grocery stores in town are completely out of bottled water (even Dasani!) and restaurants are packed full of hungry blacked out patrons.
Paul Kedrosky has a thoughtful write-up on living with fires in the State of California:
So, are we simply screwed? The state is going to have fires, and this may be getting worse as a result of climate change, and utilities are going to cause some of these fires, and people always want someone else to blame. This isn’t a great combination.
We may not be screwed, but, as should now be obvious, blaming utilities is pointless. No-one wants to ask the right questions, like, why, in a tightly-coupled system, wildfire-prone landscapes are inhabited, and why those properties don’t see insurance prices reflecting the real systemic risks created by their existence.
The fire situation is only going to get worse. PG&E cutting the power every time it gets a little windy is not a long term solution. Similar to the issues bringing about massive changes to the climate, we, as a State, a Nation, and a World, need to seriously re-evaluate the way we live and work.