CBS News: PG&E begins power outage in California due to wildfire threat

October 9, 2019

More new realities in a climate altered world.

UPDATE: Cost could reach 2.6 billion, below.

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4 Responses to “CBS News: PG&E begins power outage in California due to wildfire threat”

  1. jimbills Says:

    It should be mentioned that this is also a matter of capitalism emphasizing profits over the public good. For years, PG&E hasn’t invested in much needed infrastructure like they should (cost cutting), and now it’s cheaper for them to shut off the power rather than spend the money to fix everything:
    https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/PG-E-says-power-line-inspections-revealed-10-000-14098021.php

    They nearly doubled their profits in 2017, thanks to increasing rates (and cutting costs):
    https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/07/27/pge-profits-nearly-double-soar-to-406-million-during-second-quarter/

    But they got caught with their pants down with the wildfires. So, despite the profits just two years ago, they’ve skimped on fire victim compensation, declared bankruptcy, and are trying to push a $20 billion bailout in the California legislature. So, basically, another corporate externality gets passed to the public while a handful of already wealthy individuals get more money.

    It’s fine to call this the new reality. It is. But implied in that statement is the mistaken but widely held belief that there are no other options to the power going out during wildfire risks. Force PG&E to spend the money on infrastructure or create public utilities instead. There’s no guarantee that a public utility would do a better job at fire prevention, but the main (and often only) concern for a private corporation is profit.

    • jimbills Says:

      San Francisco offered to buy out PG&E (pretty sure within the city only), and they refused:
      https://sf.curbed.com/2019/9/9/20857230/san-francisco-offers-pge-equipment-fire-electricity-independence

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      It should be mentioned that this is also a matter of capitalism emphasizing profits over the public good.

      Several things would be different if power generators and grids were all publicly owned and maintained, and some would be pretty much the same.
      SAME: Red flag conditions will become more frequent.
      SAME: Public budgeting would skimp on repair and maintenance until a major event happened.

      DIFF’T: Governments can refuse to allow the lawsuits that soaked PG&E.
      DIFF’T: Investments and construction of power plants would depend on public processes and bids for contracts.
      DIFF’T: Eminent domain to bury power lines would be easier for a government to get.

      • jimbills Says:

        I would agree that public utilities would also cut costs, initially, to lower end costs for the public – because that’s what the public would want. But – after the first fires happened – the public would want fire safety and constant access to electricity as their top priorities. Instead of a method under private ownership of “oh, we’ll work on 10% of the failing infrastructure a
        and turn off the power when it gets hairy, and too bad for you, California, we call the shots”, there would be real ability to address the problem with a public utility. Energy costs would rise under the public utility to address the issue, but private companies can raise prices whenever they want – monopolies even more so.

        Additionally, there wouldn’t be a massive corporation with the resources and political pull to run ads to influence the public and to pressure the legislature – all of it to stall or limit really addressing the issue and to maintain shareholder value.

        We’re guaranteed to have this sort of thing constantly pop up with private ownership of utilities.

        I’m actually not really a socialist type of person. If I had a preference for most of the economy, it would be for highly regulated capitalism. But unrestrained capitalism is in the driver’s seat when it comes to things like the power going out during wildfire season (as well as larger issues like climate change), when the public should have that position.

        As it is now, I wonder if Californians are just apathetically thinking, “This is the new reality.”


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