California has much, much bigger problems than wildfires

Last weekend, I was out shopping for a new smartphone. As most people who live in Florida were not originally born here, the Millennial behind the counter asked me where I was from. I told her that I have lived in several states, but I grew up in Southern California.

She shrieked with delight at this news. “I love Los Angeles,” she said. “Don’t you just want to move back?”

Nevermind the obvious point that we did have a choice of where to live, and we clearly chose to buy a house on the beach in Florida. But asking me if I am yearning to move back to Los Angeles is a bit like asking me if I am yearning to move to Pyongyang or Tehran. Nope doesn’t exactly cover it.

I’m not so in love with the Kardashians that I want to pay more than half of our household income to taxes at every level of government. To stare at homeless camps and dirty needles in the gutter while sitting in traffic. To listen to lawmakers congratulate themselves on mandating that abortion pills be passed out on college campuses while millions of people in the state are without electricity. “Try to find a cool place to store your insulin” is not the kind of government regime that I am eager to live under. The libertarian customs of Florida may lead to a lot of bizarre and entertaining headlines, but the government here is aggressively functional and not unnecessarily expensive.

The last time I heard about mandatory rolling blackouts, it applied to Puerto Rico – a US territory that ended up going bankrupt and was incapable of managing a natural disaster in the years that followed, resulting in the deaths of thousands of people. They couldn’t keep the power on under normal circumstances, so they were certainly unprepared to deal with a hurricane. Puerto Rico taxpayers had accumulated tens of billions of dollars of debt for infrastructure projects, but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at the decrepit state of their infrastructure. Where did the money go? It went to endless corrupt deals, that’s where.

Now California is witnessing basically the same situation unfold. The California electorate has become increasingly batshit, and they send increasingly batshit people to Sacramento and to the city councils of the state’s largest municipalities. As a result, they’ve taken a paradise and managed it into dysfunction. There is far more concern over policing how people think and talk in California than there is in actually providing essential government services. If you are a middle class resident of California, you are forfeiting the opportunity build any sort of nest egg so that you can live like the poorest people in the Caribbean or Central America. There’s no glamour in that life decision, sorry.

The rolling blackouts in California is not a climate change story. It’s a perfect storm of bad management decisions and rent-seeking green energy contractors.

California gets a lot of well-deserved grief for not clearing publicly managed lands of organic debris, thus ensuring that the state is an epic tinderbox every year. This is something that does not happen here in Florida. Florida ecologists and wildlife officials supervise controlled burns throughout the state to ensure that there’s not a situation where a wildfire among the mangroves poses a threat to a major (or even a minor) city. It also protects the state’s tourism industry, which is a significant component of the state’s economy.

But that’s not where the rolling blackouts came from. California’s investor-owned utilities have dealt with the increasingly batshit people in Sacramento by taking an “if you can’t beat them, join them” attitude in lobbying. And that’s what you are seeing backfiring now.

PG&E went all-in on the green energy projects that California lawmakers and their constituents love. So much so that the company was actively choosing to invest in new green projects rather than make the necessary safety upgrades to its existing transmission systems. Those investment decisions are how California got the deadliest wildfire in state history last year. They had shitty equipment that was past its useful life.

The company now has so little faith in the safety of its equipment that it decided leaving millions of Californians without power during natural cycles of high winds and dry conditions was worth the risk that people might die or be otherwise injured without power. That turning major intersections into four-way stops for days on end was a better idea than burning a large fraction of the state down. Their decision isn’t stupid. The decisions that created this dilemma in the first place were stupid.

The investment bank Credit Suisse estimated that contracts with green energy companies is costing PG&E $2.2 billion more than rates can support EVERY SINGLE YEAR. Over two billion dollars to nurse their liberal political connections, while the utility cannot afford even to inspect their 100,000 miles of power lines, let alone make repairs to them. The utility claims that inspecting the lines alone would require quadrupling their rates. That’s how long they have let their system rot in the service of liberal fantasies.

That’s the opportunity cost of turning your government over to AOC-esque personalities. Your whole system of providing essential government services is screwed beyond repair. The cumulative financial cost of bringing these systems back to normal pretty much ensures the government is going to watch its tax base walk out the door. And that’s going to create a downward spiral in the provision of all kinds of essential services. You are already seeing the warning signs that this is happening in California real estate prices and in the financial struggles of the state’s largest school districts. If you want to see governments that are further along on this trajectory, look at Puerto Rico and Chicago.

Thanks to the tens of billions of dollars in liabilities from the wildfires last year, PG&E has filed for bankruptcy. The utility’s bankruptcy has been a source of absolute chaos. It looks like PG&E shareholders will likely be completely wiped out. It is unlikely that any new controlling party will bring the utility back from the dead. So Californians should not discount the possibility that being without power is their new normal. No one seems to know how the utility is going to survive at this point, and that’s a big problem for the millions of people they support.

The incredible irony in all of this is that the green state of California has been keeping the lights on during this period with privately procured generators running on… wait for it… fossil fuels.

I am all for conservation of the natural environment. But people have to be pragmatic in making decisions as important as how infrastructure is to be managed and maintained. This is one thing the climate hysterics cannot think clearly about, and that’s why they should never be placed in leadership positions and they should not be able to control narratives about government.

The economic value these folks are capable of nuking is unreal.

37 thoughts on “California has much, much bigger problems than wildfires

  1. Also Californians can’t use solar as backup power because it is a legal requirement to hook it to the grid, and having the power leak out into the grid when grid power is gone is a hazard to workers.

    Why they didn’t mandate an interlock to prevent that is beyond me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Their inverters do have an interlock to prevent the hazard you describe – the technical term is “islanding”.

      The problem is that the vast majority of them don’t have an inverter capable of storing the energy in batteries for backup. That raises the cost of the inverter – usually provided by the green-energy company, not the user. And batteries are neither cheap, nor trivial to install in a residence.

      Not to say that the green-energy company has an interest in you storing the energy … they are likely getting paid by PG&E for the energy they put back into the grid; energy stored on-location is energy they’re not getting paid for.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Blame Sacramento for 75% of this debacle. The state and the late Obama adm. placed a set of incentives in front of PG&E that the corrupt company could not resist. Consumer electric bills will continue shooting through the roof as a result.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t blame Sacto, blame the millions of idiots that vote for the party in power. The California that I knew from the 70’s and 80’s is gone and will never return. You can thank people like Nancy Polution, Camel Harris and the like. They set a perfect example of the Sacto pollies.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wait until the rest of us—US Taxpayers—are forced to bail out CALPERS and the whole damn state when the democrats regain a majority foothold in DC. Probably will also happen for Illinois. (BTW I bailed from Virginia and moved to the upper Midwest. Yup, we have winters, but the weather damn sure keeps undesirables out. And it’s a bona fide RED state.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. State and local pensions are definitely the next big generational conflict in finance and economics. There are several states and large municipalities that are a lot closer to insolvency than Calpers, however. Chicago is essentially a Ponzi scheme at this point, with local money mangers propping them up with investor funds.

      Like

  4. For the folks who have been referred here by Instapundit, I have a series going on this topic.

    Why only activist investors are interested in PG&E https://daysofsunshine.blog/2019/10/28/why-only-activist-hedge-funds-are-interested-in-pge/

    Why doesn’t California just bury it’s power lines – the ugly math https://daysofsunshine.blog/2019/10/28/why-doesnt-california-just-bury-its-power-lines-the-ugly-math/

    PG&E equipment has likely started three new fires despite blackouts https://daysofsunshine.blog/2019/10/29/pge-equipment-has-likely-caused-at-least-three-fires-despite-leaving-millions-without-power/

    I think these posts address some of the concerns you guys are making.

    Like

  5. Canadian here who just sort of tripped over this site…

    Ontario politicians foisted windmills on us a few years back with the help of a well-meaning public suckered by green propaganda and years of leftist education coming to fruition.

    Paying the contractors incentives equal to 80 cent kw/hr for fossil fuel generated electricity that sold for 7 cent kw/hr at that time resulted in rate hikes that increased 70% over 5 years. People were deciding whether to buy food or pay their electric bill.

    This was not a bug but a feature. The eco-facists care not one whit what hardships they cause the peasants, what matters is that they get to express their green credentials.

    Damn them all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s funny how few people associate housing affordability with bad government, when it is a direct relationship. Whether it is out-of-control utilities, consent decrees, unfunded pension liabilities, etc., that are driving up taxes and charges equivalent to taxes.

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  6. Difference between California and Florida is that when Florida, under stupid liberal forestry rules akin to California, burned in the great Florida Firestorm of 1998, Florida learned, and went back to decent forestry management.

    California? California never learns.

    And Florida? Florida is being sucked down the drain by Yankee liberals moving down from Yankeeland into the Broward County and northern Miami area – thus we get Debbie Wassername Shultz and Sheriff Israel and the Broward Cowards and all the stupid election hoo-haw that we’re famous for.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are a lot of conservatives moving down from the Northeast too. The liberals tend to concentrate themselves down in the areas you mentioned. It’s remarkable the level of clarity that being on a fixed income brings.

      Like

      1. In fact, I would submit to you that this is why places like New York are becoming just off-the-charts insane right now. They are experiencing a major migration event, that includes people who used to consider themselves moderate Democrats (who would likely acknowledge there is no one in the Democratic Party that they identify with now).

        This sort of thing happened with Puerto Rico too. Anyone who had been successful in business and young families moved away. The only people left were people tied to the government existentially, either through corruption or dependence on government services. That’s the story of New York. That’s the story of Chicago. And that will be the story of California. It will get a lot worse.

        Like

  7. I’ve been involved with energy generation and usage in Puerto Rico since the 70s. I am the one who signed, for Alcon, the contract between O’Brian and Alcon http://darkislandpr.blogspot.com/2017/12/alcon-v-prepa.html

    In the late 70s and early 80s we did have rolling blackouts.

    We have not had any since that I am aware of.

    We did have an extended period of no electricity or shakey electricity for 6 months after Hurricane Maria which destroyed over 50,000 power poles ranging from 230KV to 220V.

    Ditto after hurricane Georges in 98 an Hugo in 89.

    The PR Power Authority is a mess and has been since its inception. You will get no argument from me there.

    But we do not have rolling blackouts.

    Like

  8. PSA: While I am amused that tens of thousands of people have somehow made it to my personal blog over a post about electricity in California, one of the sites that has linked here seems to be also sending a bunch of trolls my way. As hilarious as it is that PG&E and Puerto Rico government apologists exist, this is my personal blog, I own this site, and I am not going to allow it to be a platform for misinformation and generally toxic behavior. My advice to you is to take that garbage somewhere else, as I am jut going to click “trash” on your comment. This isn’t Twitter, where you get to shitpost all day. You are wasting your time.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great article! I’m a Californian vainly trying to fight the rising level of insanity in the Golden State. It’s not going well.

    If you’d like to know just how badly California compares to the rest of the nation on 35 different economic criteria, check out my dreary, annotated, constantly updated fact sheet:
    http://www.TinyURL.com/CA-vs-other-states

    IF you hanker for more info, visit my blog: http://www.RiderRants.blogspot.com

    BTW, this fact sheet that I maintain is actually used by a number of state and local business development agencies around the country to help persuade businesses to flee the Golden State. It puts numbers to what most Californians sense but can’t quantify — California doesn’t pencil out for businesses OR individuals.

    Liked by 2 people

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