The Lights Went Out in California: That Was the Plan All Along

Guest opinion by Chuck Devore

The power has been out in Northern California. More than 1 million Californians were without electricity, one of modern life’s essentials that is frequently taken for granted. The blackout was done on purpose—to prevent sparks from powerlines that could ignite deadly wildfires.

On the surface, the blackout and its causes are simple to understand. But the deeper causes are complicated, span decades of public policy, and dozens of overlapping unintended—and intended—consequences of decisions, both related and unrelated.

The wind in Northern California is blowing in from dry Nevada, as it often does this time of year. It’s called the “Diablo wind.” In Southern California, the comparable current blowing in from the Mojave Desert is known as the “Santa Ana winds.”

In both cases, as the wind rises above California’s mountain spine, then descends, it compresses and heats up. Forests, chaparral and brush, dry this time of year in California’s Mediterranean climate, are primed for wildfires.

This Isn’t Climate Change

Michael Wara, Stanford University’s director of climate and energy policy, warns,

“We are having to adapt to new circumstances brought about by climate change.”

He estimates that this week’s blackout could cost the state as much as $2.6 billion in lost economic activity.

Politicians, journalists, and some scientists repeat a common refrain: California is getting hotter and drier because of climate change. They ignore the fact that annual precipitation totals over the past 100 years show no statistically meaningful trend.

There are plenty of examples of California’s fires being blamed on climate change. Last year’s Sacramento Bee editorial about the deadly Carr Fire in Northern California was typical: “The Carr Fire is a terrifying glimpse into California’s future,” it declared, adding, “This is climate change, for real and in real time. We were warned that the atmospheric buildup of man-made greenhouse gas would eventually be an existential threat.”

But California, unlike the rest of the nation, receives most of its moisture in the winter and the months bracketing it, while getting precious little rainfall during the summer. Further, California is drought-prone, and has been for as long as scientists can determine from tree rings and sediment records.

The bottom line is that California has always had a high threat from wildfires and always will. The issue is how will that threat be managed, accommodated, or avoided?

Politicians Blame Utilities Instead of Themselves

Democratic state Sen. Jerry Hill (with whom the author served in the California State Assembly from 2008 to 2010), represents many of the people who are without electricity. He called the blackout an overreaction, saying,

“I think they (PG&E, the region’s utility monopoly) need to spend the billions they’ve already received to harden the system.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, supports the blackout as a preventive measure, noting that the planned power cut “shows that PG&E finally woke up to their responsibility to keep people safe.” So more than 1 million Californians had their electricity cut off today as the northern California electrical monopoly, PG&E, was forced to shut down its powerlines for fear of starting deadly wildfires.

Politicians blame PG&E for the recent fires that have ravaged the state, but some of the blame redounds to the politicians. Wildfires in recent years have grown more deadly because timber harvesting and brush clearing were greatly curtailed due to myriad environmental restrictions. In the meantime, crucial infrastructure investment targeted at improving the reliability and safety of powerlines has taken the backseat to the state’s demands for a huge increase in renewable energy—some of which, ironically, has necessitated the need for more powerlines to connect remote wind farms with the urban centers.

Look to Mismanagement of Forests

To better understand how we came to this forced blackout, it is useful to look to the past. When the gold rush led to modern California, early photographers chronicled the landscape. In George E. Gruell’s 2001 book, “Fire in Sierra Nevada Forests: A Photographic Interpretation of Ecological Change Since 1849” the wildlife biologist depicted a California countryside of grassland with isolated stands of pines and oaks. The native Americans in the region frequently used fire to shape the landscape to increase the food available for them, as not a lot of sustenance grows on a dense forest floor.

In this environment of frequent fire, brush was thinned, and the first pine branches started just out of reach of a typical low-intensity grass fire. But with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Americans came a thriving economy and the order of government. Trees were useful and valuable, and therefore harvested. Fire was a threat to towns and cities, and thus, suppressed.

For decades, up until the 1970s, California would harvest and replant about as much wood as could be grown through an abundance of sunshine, snow, and rain. But in the 1990s, concern over logging’s effect on the spotted owl (largely misplaced, as time would tell) led to a massive slowdown in the timber harvest, especially on the federal lands that make up about 60 percent of California’s forests.

With a decline in the harvest came a decline in the allied efforts to clear brush, build and maintain access roads and firebreaks. This led inexorably to a decades’ long build-up in the fuel load. Federal funds set aside for increasingly unpopular forest management efforts were instead shifted to fire-suppression expenses.

All of this was clearly foreseen by the Western Governors’ Association 13 years ago when it published a Biomass Task Force Report that accurately predicted: “over time the fire-prone forests that were not thinned, burn in uncharacteristically destructive wildfires… …In the long term, leaving forests overgrown and prone to unnaturally destructive wildfires means there will be significantly less biomass on the ground, and more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

Deadly Delay in Catching Up to Reality

California politicians, late to realize the true nature of the wildfire danger, have finally started to play catch-up. Last year, outgoing four-term Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown reversed his longtime reluctance to active forest management when he signed two bills into law, both of which passed on the last day of the legislative session in what was to become California’s deadliest wildfire year.

SB 901 allocated $190 million a year to use prescribed burns to reduce the fuel load while improving forest health, while SB 1260 made three important policy changes to streamline the ability to conduct prescribed and controlled burns; remove air quality impediments to preventive burns; and prevent environmental quality lawsuits from slowing or stopping needed burns.

Newsom’s more pragmatic approach to wildfires and forests was signaled during his 2018 campaign when he volunteered in an interview that California had “Hundreds of millions of dead trees” then noted that it cost his father $35,000 to clear “a small little patch of dead trees” on his property. While campaigning, Newsom called for improved wildfire surveillance and warning systems, better urban planning, and helping property owners clear brush. It looks like the legislature gave it to him, as he just signed 22 wildfire mitigation and prevention bills in the waning days of the 2019 legislative session.

Antipathy to Low-Cost Housing Makes Things Worse

In all likelihood, these measures will prove to be too little, too late for rural Californians, many of whom flocked to build along what is known as the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) where land was cheaper and housing costs far less than in California’s dense and heavily regulated urban centers.

The environmentalists who hold sway over much of the California political class chafe at these homes along the edge of the forest and chaparral, calling for development restrictions and special fire taxes to discourage low-cost housing in rural areas and around the suburban periphery.

And now, as the result of forest mismanagement by both the federal government and California, many homeowners living out in the WUI can no longer obtain fire insurance. No fire insurance, no mortgage. No mortgage, no house. Today, it would also appear, no electricity as well.

In time, perhaps, these policies will force all but the wealthiest of Californians to live in cities, crammed into tiny, energy-efficient cubes, leaving the forest to—once again—burn as it may.

Chuck DeVore is vice president of national initiatives at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and served in the California State Assembly from 2004 to 2010.

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October 11, 2019 8:55 am

Unfortunately all the fools who have repeatedly voted to force this into being the current situation will move and then vote for the same stupid policies that ruined CA. Anyone moving from CA shouldn’t be allowed to vote for 5 years in a new state. They need to learn from their poisonous ways.

Steven Curtis Lohr
Reply to  MPW
October 11, 2019 9:30 am

Yep, the California Immigrant Voter Initiative of 2020. Every state should draft one and get it on the ballot ASAP. (sarc)

Joel Snider
Reply to  Steven Curtis Lohr
October 11, 2019 11:46 am

We’ll have to counter that with the Russian get-out-the-vote effort. I plan on voting at least fifty times in every state, under my Russian-code name: ‘Joelski’.

And these days, I suppose I better specifically identify this comment as sarcasm, lest Adam ‘Piece-of-Schiff’ haul me off to jail.

Reply to  Joel Snider
October 11, 2019 12:45 pm

I would die before voting for a piece of Schiff like him. Unfortunately, once I do die, I suspect I’ll be voting a straight Democratic ticket for eternity.

Joel Snider
Reply to  jtom
October 11, 2019 1:20 pm

I think that’s Dante’s 9th Circle of Hell.

michael hart
Reply to  jtom
October 12, 2019 5:18 am

Chief Inquisitor currently Sidney R. Thomas.

Reply to  jtom
October 14, 2019 4:23 pm

Lol, that’s funny cause it might be true.

Reply to  Joel Snider
October 11, 2019 12:52 pm

Come to California, Joelski. They are eliminating local precinct voting. Instead you can vote at any voting center in a number of counties, over a period of 11 days. Of course you can register and vote the same day at any one of these centers. And don’t worry about having to show an ID.

Bill Parsons
Reply to  Ralph Dave Westfall
October 11, 2019 2:13 pm

That diagonal string of comments deserves the Nobel Prize for Humor. Did they already give that one out? It’s a little lighter than the other ones and you don’t get as much, but still…

Reply to  Ralph Dave Westfall
October 11, 2019 2:17 pm

But they have it rigged so you can only vote for Democrats.

Reply to  MPW
October 11, 2019 10:42 am

That certainly is a concern, but it doesn’t appear to be all bad. It looks like the author moved from CA to TX, and he appears to have his head screwed on straight.

Reply to  MPW
October 11, 2019 1:59 pm

A good friend of my recently retired in CA and promptly moved to AZ. I asked him why he moved and his reply was because he can’t afford to live there on his retirement income. I then asked him who he voted for in all the recent CA elections, he responded Dems. My response was you help create the mess so you should have to stay in CA to suffer with the rest of ones who voted for them.

Lord Myrt
Reply to  MPW
October 11, 2019 7:39 pm

Curb your fury. Not all of us are like this. When I move next year, I will bring my and my husband’s much needed right libertarian perspectives to Colorado. Do you really want to trap us in increasingly blue CO without a vote, unconstitutional as your idea is? I’m royally pissed at the 90% of my neighbors who vote these pols in time after time. But I don’t think authoritarian suggestions like yours help the situation at all. It makes you look like the Left. And yes, that’s meant as an insult.

Steven Curtis Lohr
Reply to  Lord Myrt
October 12, 2019 9:42 am

Lord M. While rational voting is welcomed, be forewarned that many, many have come before you. California ideas, if they can be called that(west coast pipe dream is more accurate), are insidious since the influx of C culture has been ongoing. You will not escape it. From Sand Point, ID to Santa Fe, NM, and even Texas. bless their hearts, all are exposed. The only thing that will change the California influence is that the ideas wither at the source. I have pondered the voting impulse and no clear understanding has emerged. Who knows what lurks in the heart of the voter? For instance, they know from demographic data that some people in Colorado who voted for D. Trumph also voted for a Gay governor who’s significant other is an animal rights activist and he is fully allied with the anti fracking global warming crisis crowd in ultra liberal Boulder. Go figure.

October 11, 2019 8:57 am

Kind of looks like satellite imagery over North Korea.

Reply to  Brad-DXT
October 11, 2019 10:45 am

North Korea Publishes Satellite Image of California at Night

Tom Abbott
Reply to  icisil
October 12, 2019 4:22 am

Kim Jung Un: “See my people, our country isn’t the only one that’s pitch black at night! Californians want to become more like us! North Korea is on the cutting edge of societal evolution and California is following in our footsteps!”

John McClure
Reply to  Brad-DXT
October 13, 2019 11:25 am

The image is misleading, see PG&E outage map at

The initial outages were north of San Fran

October 11, 2019 9:07 am

This story goes to the heart of the succcess and longevity of the sloppy and simplistic science of the climate scare. AGW provides the perfect cover for failed government such that (1) it does not really have to perform in the lesser job of governance when it is busy with the greater task of saving the planet and (2) all its governance failures can be explained as climate change impacts implying that it can’t afford to go back to real governance as it is busy managing the climate.

Reply to  Chaamjamal
October 11, 2019 10:41 am


October 11, 2019 9:14 am

Wildfire issues are pretty much inevitable with increasing human populations.

When the native tribes used to purposely set fires to manage the prairies, the population of the entire western USA was but a couple million humans, if that. Today, west of the Mississippi population is measured in hundreds of millions. That’s a lot of humans and our infrastructure to protect from fires, so naturally, humans tried to minimize wildfires.

It is possible, of course, with careful forestry practices, to reduce the potential for large out of control wildfires capable of burning millions of acres. But it is expensive – all that maintenance work must be performed by humans. Nature will ultimate take care of itself, but not in a way that’s compatible with humans and our infrastructure.

Contrary to much of the carping here and elsewhere, this is not the fault of “liberals” or of “government”. It is just the inevitable effects of lots of humans living in a part of the world that until fairly recently, housed relatively few of us.

Curious George
Reply to  Duane
October 11, 2019 9:47 am

There is a grain of truth in your argument. But .. “all that maintenance work must be performed by humans”, so don’t complain that there are too many humans. The real issue is that government regulations PREVENTED that maintenance work. That led to an accumulation of dry fuel in our forests, making them ideal for spotted owls, and wildfires. Who is more responsible for a wildfire – the government which provides fuel, or PG&E which provides a spark?

Bill Parsons
Reply to  Curious George
October 11, 2019 5:01 pm

Well-put. Forests, power lines and humans can live together. Leaders have to be smarter than trees.

Reply to  Curious George
October 11, 2019 8:42 pm

Or perhaps we should blame the spotted owls?

Reply to  Curious George
October 15, 2019 2:23 am

Some of the “ironic” things about many of the biggest recent fires here in Northern California is that they were mostly NOT on government land. Also the size and frequency of major fires is diminishing. Anyone that believes otherwise should also believe Jerry Brown’s assertion about the increasing droughts. It is easy to study on any landownership or public lands map for the state. Study the land ownership of the Paradise fire for instance, or the earlier Tubs fire. Fires are actually decreasing in frequency and mostly decreasing in scope as well. The trouble now is that changes in landuse as agriculture and herding become too expensive, and “ranchette” development fragments many areas leads to plant cover changes including increased fuel loads on lands where the local agencies resist too much intrusiveness.

Paradise did start of USFS land, but it wash pushed west out and most of the area that burned was private land. It burnt like it did because droves of immigrants have moved moved into the town. The populace was extraordinarily conservative politically. Normally conservative is fine, but combined with urban and suburban backgrounds and assumptions about what they are paying taxes for, and a paranoid, know-nothing attitude, and you have troublesome potentials. Many encouraged tree growth (and worse brush growth) on their land as a “privacy shield.” I have a cousin in-law who lived up there. Several years ago I pointed out the excess trees and brush and remarked on the hazard it represented and her reply (as an immigrant from urban So Cal) was that she “wasn’t worried.” Apparently the fire department was “really close.” Her neighbors were the same. Luckily for her, she moved out several years ago. The house is gone. She had at least fifty conifers under 10 inches diameter ABH. They were at the time i saw them probably less than 30 years old. Worse, the understory was up to ten feet high, forming what a fire manager, who I once worked with, called a “fire ladder.” Neither the county nor the city had issued any notices to to her abate the hazards or maintain a defensible area.

In the recent Tubs fire in the Coast Range, the areas that burnt were private lands and possibly some county land. The area had originally been large ranches, many raising sheep. When ranching became too expensive to continue thanks to overseas competition, the land went fallow, herds were sold, and the vegetation that had been kept down by grazing returned. Around the major towns, these ranches were being developed and crazily enough they were even building in chaparral, which is a fire-maintained and established plant community in that part of the state. The ranches near the cities were developed leaving plenty of vegetation and “green zones.”

The newcomers refuse to listen to locals and what they can tell them about how “things work.” And this is true of all the political spectrum of new arrivals. They know what they want and that is that. As much as I would like to point at the government, can’t do it and stay honest.

Joel Snider
Reply to  Duane
October 11, 2019 9:48 am

‘It is possible, of course, with careful forestry practices, to reduce the potential for large out of control wildfires capable of burning millions of acres. But it is expensive – all that maintenance work must be performed by humans.’

Duane – I’m not sure if you’re optimistic, or apologist, and I hate to beat-up on someone for positivity. But just think about that statement for a minute. And how easy it is to simply not do those things.

Carl Friis-Hansen
Reply to  Duane
October 11, 2019 9:49 am

I am using sheep to clear the under wood in my small forest. Sheep are less expensive than humans.

Reply to  Duane
October 11, 2019 10:41 am

As long as the trees were valuable to the timber industry, the work got done. In fact the work got done as a side effect of the harvest and replant cycle. Trouble only started when the timber industry got regulated out of existence. For the Environment.
These days, people have no living memory of forestry and so think any solution has to be “expensive” or even “impossible”. There used to be a time in this country when people actually knew how to do things. And they knew why. Those days are long gone, especially in California.
A rule from the old days: If you want to save a forest, make it valuable. Then it will be cared for, managed, and replenished as needed.

Bill Murphy
Reply to  TonyL
October 11, 2019 3:37 pm

EXACTLY!!!!!! +1000

Reply to  TonyL
October 12, 2019 3:06 am

Most valuable comment.

Roger Knights
Reply to  Duane
October 11, 2019 11:15 am

“But it is expensive – all that maintenance work must be performed by humans.”

How about using prisoners (low cost), monitored by non-removable ankle cuffs with GPS monitoring? they’d probably like the opportunity to get out into the great outdoors and stretch their legs. And earn a little spare change. Plus get some job training.

Reply to  Roger Knights
October 11, 2019 12:32 pm
Reply to  Duane
October 11, 2019 11:24 am

The fault lies squarely on the shoulders of Liberal politicians and Leftist advocacy groups and GAIA-worshipers who blocked common sense forest management policies and are now totally sold out to “Climate Crisis” alarmism, a national suicide pact.

Since there are as many as 40 MILLION illegal aliens living in the USA and a high percent of them receiving public assistance in one form or another, make them earn their keep by applying their skills to forest management…after all, as Liberals say in excusing their illegal presence here, “we need someone to take care of our lawns and gardens and arbors, don’t we?”

In case you have not heard the news…

LONDON – Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg was the odds-on favorite to win this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

The award would have capped an already extraordinary year, in which Thunberg evolved from a student sitting outside the Swedish parliament, all by herself, to become the leader of a global youth movement, inspiring millions of schoolchildren around the world to join her in calling for greater action on climate change.

“How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” she told world leaders in a blistering speech at the United Nations last month.

But instead of bestowing the prize on the 16-year-old Swede, the Norwegian Nobel Committee gave it to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was praised for his efforts to “achieve peace and international cooperation.”

Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopian prime minister who helped end standoff with Eritrea

Rhoda R
Reply to  TEWS_Pilot
October 13, 2019 3:38 am

A much, MUCH better recipient than that child actress regurgitating the propaganda she’s been exposed to.

Reply to  Rhoda R
October 13, 2019 11:44 am

Yeah. Maybe one day the NPP will mean something again.

Reply to  Duane
October 11, 2019 1:50 pm

Imagine clearing out underbrush and felled deadwood on a massive scale!

Set up wood pellet fabrication throughout CA and convert forest waste to a ready made fuel for winter heating and power generation.

Blaming “Climate Change” as the culprit for a climate that really hasn’t changed is a badge of ignorance!

Reply to  tomwys
October 12, 2019 4:22 am

shredders/chippers on site as its cleared and truck it to areas where you can let it sit or add the food wastes etc and suburban green wastes to make amazingly good compost.
its amazing hot hot a frsh pile of shredded green waste can get I have dug into some piled in my yard after a few days and its turning into biochar all by itself.

Reply to  Duane
October 12, 2019 5:26 am

I weep for the ignorance of America.

Of course it was liberals and government, Duane. Some of us were heavily involved in combatting the push to jettison the excellent forestry management techniques that had served North America so well for a hundred years.

Let me help you with your ignorance with a little history lesson.

In the late 1980s, it became obvious to the world that the type of communism embraced by the Comecon, the successor to the Cominform, itself the successor to the Comintern, was unsustainable. The Soviet Union was falling apart, Eastern Europe was rebelling, and the Iron Curtain was crumbling to dust. Communists and socialists were going through an existential crisis. Everything they believed about using “science” to coerce unwilling populations to accept their version of utopia evaporated virtually overnight. So what were all these communists and socialists to do? And there were a bunch of them, not just in Europe, but also North America.

Sometime in the early 1990s, as they were commiserating in their support groups in the basements of abandoned factories, a few of the leaders remembered an old communist disinformation program which used the excuse of environmental disaster to undermine private property rights. After all, what better way to insist that the basis of Western civilization is evil than omygodtheenironmentwe’reallgonnadie!, hmmm?

So, they dusted off their previous efforts in North America and started new efforts and began fundraising campaigns. This was before the internet, so it was accomplished with mass mailing and television commercials. It was very expensive, but due to the collective dumbing down in public schools when they quit teaching critical thinking skills, which began during the Vietnam War, the fundraising campaigns were successful. Now, I have had people argue this with me and call me a conspiracy theorist, and I tell all of them the same thing. Take your favorite environmental lobby group, be it Sierra Club, WWF, or whatever, and examine the political activities and business ties of the founders and board members. It didn’t have to be a conspiracy. All those socialists and communists had to go somewhere with their religion. They ended up in environmental lobbying groups.

Then, William Jefferson Clinton was elected president of the United States. A man with socialist tendencies (what we call ‘liberal’ today) listened to these people, and one of the things he did was pressure the US Forest Service to revise its policies concerning how forests were managed. Access roads were closed down, and in some cases, plowed and planted with trees. Controlled burns were greatly reduced and eventually stopped. Underbrush, the tinder for raging forest fires, was allowed to accumulate. At the same time, there were sane people pointing out that all this was a recipe for disaster, but they were shouted down by the so-called environmentalists. The incidence of massive destructive forest fires has increased steadily since 1993 in North America.

So, in effect, it is the fault of liberals and government. And when it comes to forest fires in federally controlled forests, the blame can be laid squarely at Bill Clinton’s feet.

Reply to  Duane
October 13, 2019 8:06 am

Half of the US population lives in a 500 mile Radius of Columbus Ohio. Some 175 million. And where are these ‘inevitable’ forest fires? Ohio must be ravaged by them, right? Uh, no.

Another “Blame humans for being human” theory debunked right out of the box. Please stop already. Some people are bad. Some people are oblivious. Some people understand science and have been warning of this for years. It’s a reality of life. People who live in a desert so barren that they have to bring in water via 1000 miles of canals own the responsibility for acknowledging that they live in an area prone to fires. They own the responsibility for implementing safety and management policies that address this reality. When these people choose to substitute hippie fantasies in lieu of common sense, scientifically sound solutions, THEY OWN THE OUTCOME. Clearly this is not a popular idea to a left that still refuses to accept that Hillary lost. Nonetheless your ‘theory’ is retarded, and even jerry Brown seems to have finally acknowledged the larger, inarguable reality. Sorry that logic and reason have proven to be so difficult for you to grasp

October 11, 2019 9:17 am

Gretards strike again!

Bill Taylor
October 11, 2019 9:17 am

the globalists plan is to turn the USA into a 3rd world country and then be able to form one world communist government………mock me all you desire, it is a badge of honor for me.

J Mac
October 11, 2019 9:19 am

California is reaping a bitter harvest from the socialist seeds they sowed.

October 11, 2019 9:19 am

Good perspective. Mismanagement seems to be a recurring theme in California these days. Blaming it on supernatural forces is the oldest trick in the book.

Joel Snider
October 11, 2019 9:29 am

I keep saying – this is an attempt to condition the populace for the new third-world ‘normal’.

Nothing to do with the immediate cause of fire – the ground work has been being set up for years – it’s the sort of coercive methods they get together and talk about in places like Copenhagen.

Progressives are destroyers – they look at their job as destroying the ‘corrupt’ system – there’s not much more than lip service to what replaces it (energy, healthcare – name it) – and if their upgrades fail, well, they were in it to destroy the system anyway – that’s why every progressive issue, that progressives are put in charge of gets worse.

Now think about how many of them believe the human race is an over-populated invasive species.

And remember, THEY are the high-moral ground.

Mark Pawelek
October 11, 2019 9:45 am

Tried to hitch a ride to San Francisco
Gotta do the things I want to do
And the lights all went out in California
They brought me back to see my way with you
— Homage to the Bee Gees

Reply to  Mark Pawelek
October 11, 2019 4:08 pm

The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.

October 11, 2019 9:45 am

I thought the lights went out in Georgia?

Credit: Vicki Lawrence

Reply to  beng135
October 11, 2019 10:37 am

I thought it was Massachusetts?

Reply to  Fiona
October 12, 2019 6:56 am

Thanks, that was before the Bee Gees sold out to disco.

John Endicott
Reply to  beng135
October 11, 2019 11:06 am

Yeah but the it was one night (“the night”) the lights went out in George, for Cali it’ll be for at least a week

Bryan A
October 11, 2019 9:51 am

If they want to mandate anything, they should mandate that ALL housing that is replaced from Wildfire losses, be rebuilt with materials that don’t burn. Especially in fire prone areas and along wild land margins.
Concrete exteriors, Slate or Tile roofs, steel framed interior walls.
It may be more costly than traditional stick built but in the long run it would save money from multiple rebuilds.
Same would apply in Hurricane prone areas and Tornado prone areas, rebuild with resilience.

Reply to  Bryan A
October 11, 2019 10:54 am

Who is “they”, and why should “they” be given power to mandate anything. Let people build where they want, how they want. Also allow people to clear brush, knock down dead trees, clear and maintain fire lanes, and in general keep up their property. We used to call this way of doing things “A Free Country”.

The people of California gave “them” the power to regulate the forests and mandate where people could not build. So they people where they could. The result was the Camp Fire, 42 dead. I think we have had enough of “them” mandating things, we have a body count.

Bryan A
Reply to  TonyL
October 11, 2019 12:24 pm

Most of the deaths in the “Camp Fire” up in Paradise was from improper planning of evacuation routes. The city had nice wide street through downtown and four lanes. But at a point in time, the downtown section was redone to allow for expanded pedestrian zones at intersections and parking zones along the corridor. This created Choke Zones at every intersection effectively cutting the evacuation route down to a 2 lane road.
This, more than anything else, lead to the loss of life experienced during the fire.

“They” would be the Elected Officials and Insurance adjustors who dictate how things “go Back” affected by both what people can afford and what Insurance will cover.

Reply to  Bryan A
October 11, 2019 4:36 pm

“They” created the conditions which made the firestorm inevitable. “They” created choke points along the evacuation routes. Since the body count, “they” have done nothing to eliminate regulations to allow homeowners to maintain their properties in a fire-safe manner. “They” are still keen on regulating who can rebuild, and how, and under what conditions.
Tell me when you have had enough of Them!.

As an aside:

the downtown section was redone to allow for expanded pedestrian zones at intersections and parking zones along the corridor. This created Choke Zones at every intersection

True, all true.
My understanding from after the fire was that the new intersection design was done specifically in a way to slow down traffic on the evacuation route. It turned out that this particular downtown traffic plan is widely practiced around the state. Imagine that, the town council turns the downtown traffic into an everyday jam-up on purpose. It was said, at the time, to enhance shopping.
The town council where I lived wanted to do the exact same thing for the exact same reasons. Much “public excitement” followed.
Before long, the Safety Committee had their say. “Designated Evacuation Route – the lanes stay open and clear.” And that was the end of it.

Bryan A
Reply to  TonyL
October 11, 2019 9:01 pm

Sounds like “They” need to learn from “Their” mistakes. Something TPTB seem inept to accomplish

J Mac
Reply to  TonyL
October 11, 2019 12:28 pm


Reply to  Bryan A
October 11, 2019 11:08 am

In a wildfire, houses burn from the inside-out. Once the inside temperature reaches 450 degrees F, paper and cloth combusts. The reason some houses survive and others don’t has more to do with the houses level of insulation than the outside building material.

Reply to  Brian
October 11, 2019 12:45 pm

Not so sure about your fire mechanics. It’s pretty hard to raise the internal temperature of a house to above 450 °F without a pretty savage fire burning just outside of it. Seems to me the roof, its eaves and surrounding shrubbery catch fire first. If the external walls are nonflammable (stucco) it is the windows that break and allow the fire to penetrate.
The auto-ignition temperature for many household materials is much higher than 450 °F, and will need O2 supply before flash-over.

Greg Cavanagh
Reply to  Rocketscientist
October 11, 2019 2:07 pm

The week point in every house is the timber exposed at the guttering. The sparks and leaf litter in the gutters catch fire and from there gets into the roof. The roofing material makes no difference at this point.

We had some sever fires in New South Wales some years ago called Black Wednesday. The houses that didn’t burn were the ones that were defended by their owner. They blocked off the downpipes of the guttering and filled them with water, and stood on the roof with a hose killing the sparks as they fell. Risky business for sure, but it worked.

Michael Ronayne
Reply to  Brian
October 13, 2019 6:14 pm

I have it on good authority that the combustion temperature is “Fahrenheit 451” and not 450, based on my reading of a book by the same name. Yes I am being picky but there are standards to be upheld at WUWT.

Reply to  Brian
October 13, 2019 6:25 pm

Brian re: “In a wildfire, houses burn from the inside-out. ”

The ‘public’ posts the damnedest things that aren’t near true.

AGW is not Science
Reply to  Bryan A
October 11, 2019 11:14 am

I say that all the time. ICF (Insulating Concrete Form) buildings can be ALL steel reinforced concrete – walls, floors, roofs included. They’re like bomb shelters. More expensive? Not if you don’t have to rebuild over and over! Build structures that will survive local weather and hazards!

Reply to  AGW is not Science
October 11, 2019 3:39 pm

Concrete internal walls do not lend themselves well to remodeling or rerouting of plumbing or electrical systems. External concrete wall with internal steel framed sheet rock walls will be just fine but will seem rather cold without internal carpeting, paneling, etc. Back in the day the richer Barons hung their stone walls with tapestries and stone floors with rugs because they were the epitome of dank.

Roger Knights
Reply to  Bryan A
October 11, 2019 11:21 am

Also metal shutters. plus water sprinklers atop roofs, connected to a garden hose linked to a faucet in the basement or on the exterior.

@TonyL: Building codes are universal and very helpful, as long as rationally based.

Reply to  Bryan A
October 11, 2019 5:22 pm

We have friends in Marysville, Victoria (Australia) whose house was made of concrete blocks. These exploded in the firestorm of 2009.

Hugh Pizek
Reply to  Bryan A
October 12, 2019 10:02 am

Another stupid democrat….concrete DOES burn. Let the idiots stay in the mess they created….we do not want them in our state….and send Hillery there as well!

Mark Pawelek
October 11, 2019 9:56 am

California began its current energy policy over 40 years ago in 1978, when Gerry Brown first became its Governor. The policy was
— decentralization +
— renewables +
— just enough to meet demand, no more than that.

This policy originates way before worries over climate change. Long before Rachel Carson. “Road to Survival“, by William Vogt was published in 1948. He outlines an energy policy favouring renewables and rationing. It is the 4th most read book on environmentalism of all time. Prior to the 1960s, Vogt’s book was the most widely read. Even 30 years before “The Population Bomb”, neo-Malthusians were procrastinating over too many people, too few resources.

Lesson for environmentalists: The more your electricity system is decentralized, the more power lines you need, the more likely those power lines will cause fires.

Calvin Rubisco
October 11, 2019 10:01 am

The “relatively few” humans residents on the continent managed to tend the landscape for 12,000 years without catastrophic fuel build up and fires that would have destroyed their food, clothing, and shelter and resulted in their demise. They did it without huge expense, taxes, infrastructure, government oversight, bureaucrats, or liberals.

Conservation and conservatism have the same root: to conserve, and that’s what the First Residents did. The newbies are largely clueless grasshoppers.

Since the author mentioned it, it is interesting to note that spotted owls set asides have cost Oregon alone $10 billion per year in lost economic activity — for 30 years, which amounts to $300 billion. During that time Oregon has led the nation in unemployment, business bankruptcy, mortgage in arrears, food insecurity, and every other measure of economic decline.

At the same time the spotted owl population has plummeted from ~18,000 birds in 1989 to less than 4,000 today. How’s that for expensive failure? It turns out that quackery doesn’t work, which is surprising to many.

Over the last 30 years the Feds have incinerated over 5,000,000 acres of owl habitat in Oregon alone. The Feds own 53% of the state and so have a free hand to do all the damage they want to. Most of those fires were declared to be Fires Used For Resource Benefit, which is pretty Orwellian considering that every resource (plants, animals, soil, air, water, scenery, etc.) gets wiped out by those fires. The Feds even carpet bomb spotted owl forests with aerial incendiaries sprayed by bomber choppers when the mood grabs them. Actual laws like NEPA, ESA, CWA, CAA, NHPA, etc. don’t apply, don’t count, and are utterly ignored with smirks and sneers.

Better to turn off the power and force the peasants huddle in the cold and dark in their mud huts than do anything like responsible stewardship. That would cost too much of the graft dollars. Who ya gonna sue?

John Bills
October 11, 2019 10:13 am

Three centuries ago, humans were intensely using just around 5 percent of the Earth’s land. Now, it’s almost half.

Robert W Turner
Reply to  John Bills
October 11, 2019 11:06 am

So you really think the entire Gobi desert is range land? The literal state boundaries of Oklahoma were intensely used woodland (whatever that is) in 1700? Some people need to get out more.

Reply to  Robert W Turner
October 11, 2019 1:30 pm

You think that’s good? All of Australia is now appearently under Mans dominion. I guess I’ll never get to go walk-about in the Outback now.


Bryan A
Reply to  Schitzree
October 11, 2019 2:36 pm

I think you missed an “n” in Mann 😉

Reply to  Robert W Turner
October 12, 2019 9:22 am

The midwest was once referred to as the Great American Desert for a reason. The pioneers initially skipped over it in favor of the west coast.

Reply to  drednicolson
October 13, 2019 7:34 pm

Cite please?

(It is possible you have never been in the “Midwest”, nor know exactly what it encompasses.)

Midwest –

Reply to  John Bills
October 11, 2019 1:14 pm

Half? I guess that depends on your definition of ‘using’. There are huge swaths of lands, and essentially entire states (Wyoming, Montana, the Dakotas, Alaska, etc., that are undeveloped, but have trails and roads for recreational use, or areas set aside for hunting and fishing. The areas are pristine, otherwise. Same is true on every continent. Is that considered lands ‘intensely used’ by humans? For that matter, just how much of Canadian lands are being ‘intensle used’? Then there is Antarctica.

When I first went to the UK a quarter of a century ago, I expected to see the Isles completely developed; housing on every inch of it. After all, it is an island that has been inhabited and heavily populated for a few thousand years. I was gobsmacked by the amount of greenspace outside of London. Scotland could be described as desolate just a handful of miles outside of Edinburgh. Whoever came up with ‘half’ created his own definition of ‘using’ to fit his agenda.

Human development is concentrated on coastlines, and agricultural areas. Other than that, not so much.

Reply to  John Bills
October 11, 2019 3:58 pm

What is your definition of “intensively using”?

Half is a big thing, with respect to “the earths land”.

Reply to  John Bills
October 11, 2019 6:40 pm

Apparently, if one acre out of 100 is developed, the entire parcel is considered developed.

Mark Luhman
Reply to  John Bills
October 11, 2019 6:54 pm

Human present occupy 3% of the earth surface. That it your number are pure bulk. 72% of the earth surface is water, I have seen any floating cities. Get and travel a little you will learn most land is unoccupied, Arizona land is over 90% Federal owned. Armchair environmentalist make me sick.

Linnea Lueken
October 11, 2019 10:17 am

I can’t help but wonder if part of the reason behind these blackouts is to get Californians used to being without consistent power. That way, no one will complain about the brownouts and blackouts they will get from going 100% “renewable”.

Joel Snider
Reply to  Linnea Lueken
October 11, 2019 10:53 am

You can stop wondering.

Reply to  Linnea Lueken
October 11, 2019 11:08 am

Yes, this is the new Demand Side Management. Rolling blackouts will become a new norm in Cali.

October 11, 2019 10:28 am

Removing electricity from some 36 counties in California will provide an interesting test of what could happen should the US be struck by an EMP from an enemy power or a Carrington-level solar flare. Hopefully, the results of this “test” will be carefully documented.

John Endicott
Reply to  Forrest M. Mims III
October 11, 2019 11:00 am

The results were going to be entered on a computer and uploaded to the internet….. unfortunately there was no power to boot up the computer and the ISP was shut down due to that same lack of power, so no internet access even if they could have booted the computer. 😉

Reply to  Forrest M. Mims III
October 11, 2019 5:44 pm

“Removing electricity from some 36 counties in California will provide an interesting test of what could happen should the US be struck by an EMP from an enemy power or a Carrington-level solar flare.”

Not really. Not having power on demand for some period of tome is not the same as a complete, sustained failure of most or all electronic systems. Even with the current blackouts communications networks, cell phones, portable radios, gas and diesel vehicles (and electrics as long as the charge lasts), etc. still work. Most critical infrastructure has backup power. Potable water and natural gas systems still work. I don’t expect a lot of Californians to die as a result of the blackouts. A serious EMP event would be much worse.

Reply to  JoeShaw
October 13, 2019 7:01 pm

EMP – overblown, so says a member of EPRI Mario Rabinowitz (WHY AM I THE ONLY ONE TO EVER CITE THIS MAN? Because SO MANY ppl would rather believe a scary catastrophic near-death event than the much-drier, uneventful truth.)

“EMP and the Electric Power Grid, A Different View”
His ‘work’ is here:

John Endicott
Reply to  _Jim
October 14, 2019 5:01 am

I think it’s human nature for many in the population to want to believe scary catastrophic stories. Just look at some of the overblow ideas about what would happen due to Y2K (planes falling out of the sky for example) and of course the granddaddy of overblow scary stories – Global Warming/Climate change

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Forrest M. Mims III
October 11, 2019 5:44 pm

Removing electricity from some 36 counties in California will provide an interesting test of what could happen should the US be struck by an EMP from an enemy power or a Carrington-level solar flare.

Or more often, and indeed regularly, should people be forced into relying on renewable (aka unreliable) energy sources.

October 11, 2019 10:28 am

Some construction types used to tell me “With enough time and enough money we can do anything.” Need to find some of these guys and get them to build a power transmission system that can stand a windstorm. I’m guessing money will be the problem.

Reply to  pochas94
October 11, 2019 1:46 pm

Bury it in the ground.

You know, like they do with the gas, water, sewer, and in many places the phone lines.

Seriously, around here small gas generators that kick on in the event of a power failure are becoming common place, because oddly enough the Nat Gas never has a ‘failure’.


Bryan A
Reply to  Schitzree
October 11, 2019 2:33 pm

I have seen that idea floated around and the end result is, Undergrounding electric facilities is more than four times more costly than OH construction and would, in all likelihood, double utility bills for all end users. Simply having everything underground doesn’t stop accidental fires from happening. Think of how many times you’ve seen news reports of Underground Transformer Vault explosions in metropolitan areas. The bigger the load, the higher the ambient temperature, the more likely systems could overload. Undergrounding prevents air cooling.

Reply to  Bryan A
October 12, 2019 9:31 am

Not to mention that in earthquake-prone Cali, underground is not as “safe” as one might think. If a moderately strong quake can make twizzlers out of train tracks, imagine what it could do to miles of buried utility lines.

Reply to  Bryan A
October 13, 2019 7:38 pm

re: “Undergrounding electric facilities is more than four times more costly than OH construction ”

Show us where the ‘power factor’ problem with buried HV lines has been solved FIRST. Cite any IEEE resource or industry trade rag you like.

DC is not the answer I’m looking for (ALTHOUGH it does ‘solve the problem’.)

Reply to  pochas94
October 12, 2019 7:25 am

build a power transmission system that can stand a windstorm

As an engineer, I guarantee that can be done, just like a (nearly) completely safe car can be built — just build a tank. But like the car, it’s a matter of economics.

Reply to  pochas94
October 13, 2019 9:56 am

re: “Need to find some of these guys and get them to build a power transmission system that can stand a windstorm.”

Idiocy on display; THIS ^^^^^^^ is what continues to give us California. (Recommendations from the totally uninformed.) Tell me I’m wrong

pochas94 needs to “get out more”, find an old power engineering handbook and SEE what has been done, what is ‘practice’ … it’s unforeseen events and yes, sabotage even, that become the problem.

October 11, 2019 10:30 am

My favorite drive is through a forested area in Southern Ontario, Canada. The most common other traffic is garbage trucks, school buses, and arborists trimming trees in the vicinity of power lines. As far as I can tell, the work is paid for by the power company.

If there’s an issue in California with power lines causing fires, there’s a commonly applied solution. If that solution isn’t applied, it’s because somebody has cheaped out.

Roger Knights
Reply to  commieBob
October 11, 2019 11:30 am

“If there’s an issue in California with power lines causing fires, there’s a commonly applied solution. If that solution isn’t applied, it’s because somebody has cheaped out.”

IIRC, the power company wanted permission to go farther into property owners’ land to trim or cut down trees, but the land owners squawked and permission was denied.

PS: About 15 years ago I asked the power company in Seattle to trim a branch of mine that overhung the alley and the power lines running along it. When they came, they not only trimmed it, but half a dozen other ones—and they TOLD me they were coming down, even when I asked if all the cuts were necessary. That’s the way it should have been done in California.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Roger Knights
October 11, 2019 5:47 pm

This is SOP in rural Australia. They always ask. I’ve never heard of any idiot denying permission.

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
October 12, 2019 4:27 am

in Vic they dont ask
they tell you
and you cant refuse
I have a weedy gum so far below the lines across my land it couldnt fall or reach lines in any way at all
they still insisted on having to cut it because their aerial pics…said it was a possible risk
in spite of physical presence proving it wasnt.

I note that cali HAS fires and closer to big cities and 2 dead so far
but I also wont be surprised to find they were mankind with “issues:/morons with power tool etc caused either

Reply to  Roger Knights
October 12, 2019 9:39 am

Trees tend to overproduce branches, anyway. With most species, you can prune roughly 30% of the canopy each year without affecting the tree’s longterm health.

Russ Wood
Reply to  drednicolson
October 14, 2019 7:05 am

In Johannesburg, South Africa, the street trees belong to the municipality, and there’s NO WAY that a householder will be allowed to prune them for any reason. Jo’burg has ‘trained horticulturalists’ – i..e a couple of guys with chainsaws. When a tree outside our house was growing into the overhead (230V) lines and arcing during heavy winds, they finally sent the pair, who chopped randomly on the power-line side of the tree. Imagine getting a haircut on just one side of your head? Well, just like that.

Reply to  commieBob
October 11, 2019 12:50 pm

Worse. The took the funds for maintenance and weaseled-out from performing the maintenance.

Thomas Homer
October 11, 2019 10:57 am

How do electric car owners evacuate when the power has been shut off?

son of mulder
Reply to  Thomas Homer
October 11, 2019 11:43 am

Get a diesel generator.

John Endicott
Reply to  Thomas Homer
October 11, 2019 11:46 am

The same way gas powered car owners evacuate when the power to the pumps has been shut off – on the existing “fuel” in their “tanks” for however far it will take them.

That said, the gas powered owners have the advantage in that the fuel in their tanks will take them further and can easily be refilled in a short amount of time once they reach someplace with pumps that have power (or that has fuel already stored in portable containers – ie gas cans. There are no easily portable “electric cans” that can easily fill up an EV in a short period of time).

Reply to  John Endicott
October 11, 2019 12:58 pm

HOLY SMOKES! You people would get stuck on an escalator when the power dies.
Hand pumps still exist. You could still pump gasoline with a hand powered pump. It’s done all the time at small general aviation airports where the pilot pumps his own gas from a 55 gal drum alongside the hangar.

You could also pedal a generator to create the electrical charge, but that is made all the more difficult by complex charging systems.

But the easiest way to evacuate is to…walk.

Greg Cavanagh
Reply to  Rocketscientist
October 11, 2019 2:11 pm

Petrol is pumpable, but can a gas vehicle also be filled up a 44 gallon drum?
It seems gas and electric vehicles are the most vulnerable when power goes out.

Fred Middleton
Reply to  John Endicott
October 11, 2019 12:58 pm

An oddity, perhaps, 1989 Santa Cruz County. Earth Quake. Emergency vehicles were using hand pumps/extended pick up tubes into the main underground fuel tanks

October 11, 2019 10:58 am

That picture of “North Korea on the West Coast” really says it all, does it not.

Steve Z
October 11, 2019 10:58 am

The so-called “diablo” and “Santa Ana” winds, from the east or northeast, which bring hot, dry weather to parts of California, occur when a strong anticyclone (high-pressure area) forms over the northwestern United States (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana). In autumn, such an anticyclone brings unusually cold weather to the northern Rockies (there were record cold temperatures this morning in Salt Lake City and southern Idaho, and heavy snow in Montana). So Californians can’t blame “global warming” for a cold anticyclone!

Interesting that the east winds are named after the devil (diablo) in northern California but after the grandmother of Jesus (Santa Ana) in southern California. Is this wind a saint or a devil, or neither?

October 11, 2019 11:09 am

I wonder if prescribed burns would work in California. Oklahoma Forestry Services, A Land in Balance:

Reply to  OK S.
October 13, 2019 8:05 am

The mindset in OK, TX is light-years away from the CA fruits & nuts.

Robert W Turner
October 11, 2019 11:12 am

If this doesn’t serve as a wake up call to the Lenin’s Lemmings than nothing will.

October 11, 2019 11:16 am

The person or people who flip the cities power switches on and off will probably get added to the geeen job category thereby making the green economy look better.

And the economic fallout for this will be added to the costs of climate change.

Bet dollars to doughnuts that both the green jobs and economic costs numbers will be adjusted upward.

October 11, 2019 11:19 am
Bruce Cobb
Reply to  john
October 11, 2019 12:02 pm

Boy, are her fans upset. How dare they not give her the Nobel?! LOL.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
October 12, 2019 5:22 am

Jane Fonda, infamous 1970’s anti-Vietnam war activist, has moved from her home in California to Washington DC so she can get arrested every Friday over protesting human-caused climate change inaction. Jane said she was inspired to do this because of Greta Thunberg. Jane must be SO disappointed that Greta didn’t get the Nobel.

Here’s an idea, Greta: You could make a copy of the Nobel and photoshop it so it says it was awarded to you. Just like Michael Mann did for his Nobel prize. You probably know Michael, you should ask him for some advice on thsi subject.

I’m wondering if Jane Fonda didn’ leave California for other reasons than human-caused climate change, like uncontrolled wildfires, no electricity, and human debris and waste on the streets of California cities.

Jane says we only have 11 more years to do something about human-causd climate change.

You know, these subjects would make great articles at WUWT.

October 11, 2019 11:25 am

To paraphrase Dr. Stephen Pyne, “Too much bad fire; not enough good fire.”

son of mulder
October 11, 2019 11:42 am

Time to buy a diesel generator.

Abolition Man
October 11, 2019 11:49 am

I believe the “diablo” winds are named after Mt. Diablo or the Diablo Range which are part of the Coast Range located east of San Francisco Bay. Mt. Diablo is a surveying benchmark of great importance because so much of Northern California is visible from it. The state took away a lot of grazing land on this and other mountains throughout the state for parkland and open space. Now they enjoy frequent grass and brush fires due to higher fuel levels with the decreased grazing. Working on cattle ranches in the area, I noticed this on numerous occasions before I made my break for freedom and fled to an open/carry state.
Most of the people living in rural and agricultural California are conservative, however. My uncle, who built and ran a cattle ranch all his adult life, never voted for a Democrat and thought most Republicans were too squishy. The best fate for California is to divide it into two states; West California, made up of SF and LA counties and any other city that wants to join them, and California, comprised of all the rural and ag areas like the Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada. Make Victor Davis Hansen interim California governor and give West California four or five years to come up with their own water and power supplies.

Frank from NoVA
October 11, 2019 11:49 am

Good article but would like to see more re. PGE’s relationship with the PSC, particularly with respect to customer rates. I would assume that PGE’s responsibilities for vegetation management would be limited to the right of way of its power lines, so the first questions would be whether the PSC allowed sufficient recovery of these costs in rates and whether PGE applied these revenues correctly or diverted them to other purposes. A second set of questions would apply to PGE’s investments, i.e., whether these were directed to replacing aging (and fire prone) infrastructure or to accommodate politically driven investment in renewables. As investment returns and depreciation are also recovered in rates, the PSC clearly needs to set priorities given limits to how much customers can pay delivery.

Bruce Cobb
October 11, 2019 11:55 am

Don’t forget that after the “Campfire” PG&E was hit with a lawsuit alleging they “failed to properly maintain, repair and replace its equipment and that its inexcusable behavior contributed to the cause of the ‘Camp Fire.’” The “inexcusable behavior” was failing to shut off power, due to the dangerous conditions. So, no wonder they are shutting power off now. They don’t need any more lawsuits.

John Endicott
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
October 11, 2019 12:40 pm

Just wait, as soon as someone dies because there was no proper power (house burning from candle falling over, smoke inhalation from a generator too close to residence, unable to outrun a wildfire because their EV didn’t have a full charge, etc) they’ll find themselves in the legal crosshairs for shutting off the power.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  John Endicott
October 11, 2019 1:19 pm

Yes, well the money from lawsuits comes from a golden castle in the sky, so what’s the problem?

October 11, 2019 12:01 pm

My particular SoCal ghetto is 60 years old. 60 years of usurious rates and we still have 60 year old poles in choked barrancas (gullies)leadings up to underground ultities. In those 60 years there has been a Fire never mind caused by a utility. It had been 30 hours. No electricity. No warning. No map on the SCE website. Broken broken broken.

Kevin R.
October 11, 2019 12:13 pm

Can’t power lines be underground?

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Kevin R.
October 11, 2019 1:40 pm

They can, but the cost is huge. Maybe the state will step in, due to the fires and all though. Oh, wait! Where will they get the money? They do need those trains to nowhere, after all. And then there’s the huge cost of “climate change”, “saving the planet” and all. If only money grew on trees…

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
October 13, 2019 7:09 pm

Bruce Cobb re: “They can, but the cost is huge.”

AND Bruce Cobb is gonna re-write the laws of physics to make this possible.

Good luck, and may the dielectric constant of your insulation/insulating ‘wrap’ be 1/1,000,000 that of air …

(The man has PROBABLY never heard the term “Power Factor” and “Line Charging Current” in his life.)

Reply to  Kevin R.
October 11, 2019 1:45 pm

These are very high voltage lines that require substantial protection if buried. PG&E estimates it would cost up to $5 million per mile to bury.

Reply to  jtom
October 13, 2019 7:23 pm

re: “These are very high voltage lines that …”

I see you’re in with Bruce Cobb (above) having ‘solved’ the power factor problem involved with burying HV transmission lines …


BTW, did you know you’re an example of WHY California is in the situation its in? Ya … uninformed public opinion “chiming in” on technical issues … pols DO IT ALL THE TIME, insisting PPG&E do ‘this’ thing or ‘that’ in a particular way (LIKE RENEWABLES). See how that works now?

Louis Hunt
Reply to  Kevin R.
October 11, 2019 1:52 pm

You might disturb an endangered worm habitat. /sarc

October 11, 2019 12:18 pm

I sometimes browse the website that shows power outages in the area in which I live and I can’t help but notice how many outages there are on hot days for ‘scheduled maintenance’. It makes me question whether it is a surreptitious form of load shedding as ‘renewables’ fail to keep up with demand.

October 11, 2019 12:19 pm

Michael Wara, Stanford University’s director of climate and energy policy, warns,

“We are having to adapt to new circumstances brought about by climate change.”

Political climate change, yes. Prune the trees.

October 11, 2019 12:34 pm

Here in Victoria (Australia) the situation is even worse than California’s. We should be back-burning 10% of our forests every year to reduce the fuel load, but we’re only burning 1% or 2%. As a result, we have catastrophic fires every few years. One of our electricity distribution companies has had to pay out enormous damages for a fire it supposedly started.

I said it was worse than California, and there’s a reason. Most of our forests are eucalyptus, which has evolved to take advantage of fire. It burns incredibly hot, wiping out competing trees, and regenerates quickly after a fire. The worst fires occur when the heat turns eucalyptus oil into gas, so that it becomes a gas fire that moves very quickly and burns intensely. People who’ve been near these fires liken their sound to that of a jumbo jet.

Reply to  rubberduck
October 12, 2019 4:35 am

yup then throw in the wildlife corridors acting as lovely transmissions for huge fires for many miles,
and the cretinous decision to make prickly acacia a protected species
the old name was kerosine bush for a good reason! it burns hard fast and explosively while fully green and as a dense inpenetrable woody weed blocks firetrucks and forms huge incediary upwards to burn every tree above it that in areas cleared of the pest species would be grass and a fast middling burn with low risk to tress catching.
our town had a small paddockfire start from a rotten wooden powerline in a paddock ona hot windy day
it had almost burnt out but then? got to the roadside with acacia and turned very ugly fast ended up severe and harmed roadsides for near 10km before controlled

Rudolf Huber
October 11, 2019 12:57 pm

In a popular song Falco, a long-dead Austrian singer, says that the heart goes to the knife over and over again until it gets punctured. Same in California. Californians have messed with nature for many decades. One day you pay the bill. And when it comes, any excuse will be used. never mind that the excuse Climate Change won’t solve the problem. But why would politicians care? They have their blame deflector and thats all they want. Since when have politicians ever cared for the people?

October 11, 2019 12:58 pm

I’ve got to say that’s my favorite image of 2019 and possibly the decade. Now place it next to a night time image of NK.

October 11, 2019 12:59 pm

What’s the wait time for EV charging in that blackout area?

October 11, 2019 1:14 pm

Casper Regional Landfill now taking in hundreds of decommissioned wind turbine blades

It’s about 1000 huge blades…

October 11, 2019 1:18 pm

I find it quite pretentious of California politicians to blame wildfires on climate change. After all, the State Tree (the Giant Sequoia), and other common trees like Douglas-Fir, have evolved to take advantage of fire. The Sequoia depends on fire to open its cones and to clear out underbrush so that it seeds stand a better chance of propagating the species. Its bark is resistant to fire and, like Doug-Fir, it is largely self-pruning, a tactic that moves the more flammable foliage up and away from ground-based flames. All of this evolution didn’t just happen because mankind and any potential AGW came on the scene — remember that some of these trees are over 2000 years old. CA has entire ecosystems that depend on occasional fires to “reboot” the system periodically.

Bill Parsons
Reply to  Weatherguesser
October 11, 2019 10:11 pm

They also record the exact years and frequency of fires over their millenial life-spans.

Giant Sequoias Yield Longest Fire History From Tree Rings

During the Medieval Warm Period extensive fires burned through parts of the Giant Forest at intervals of about 3 to 10 years. Any individual tree was probably in a fire about every 10 to 15 years…

Scientists reconstructed the history of fire by dating the years in which fire scars were found in ancient giant sequoia trees, Sequoiadendron giganteum, in the Giant Forest of Sequoia National Park…

Once dated the actual calendar years in which fire scars were formed can be determined and a history of fire reconstructed.

The scientists found the years from 800 to 1300, known as the Medieval Warm Period, had the most frequent fires in the 3,000 years studied…

During the Medieval Warm Period extensive fires burned through parts of the Giant Forest at intervals of about 3 to 10 years. Any individual tree was probably in a fire about every 10 to 15 years.

October 11, 2019 1:23 pm

Look at the above picture of Yosemite @1899 – 1994. I have seen similar pictures of the Smokey Mt. National park and others. We are Destroying at parks and environment with misguided policies.

James Clarke
October 11, 2019 1:30 pm

Call me skeptical, but are we supposed to believe that the image associated with this article is a real satellite image of artificial light taken during the blackout, or a photoshopped illustration just to make a point? It certainly looks like the ladder to me, but many of the comments express a belief that it is a real image of the actual blackout.

Reply to  James Clarke
October 13, 2019 7:25 pm

Look at the provenance of the photograph; what does it say?

Louis Hunt
October 11, 2019 1:32 pm

Californians are getting a preview of what it would be like if the Green New Deal is implemented. But something tells me they will still stubbornly vote for the candidate who promises to implement the Green New Deal the quickest. The lack of ability in liberals to comprehend the unintended consequences of following the latest fad never ceases to amaze me.

October 11, 2019 1:53 pm

Jane Fonda was arrested at the U.S. Capitol on Friday while peacefully protesting climate change.

The actor and activist was handcuffed on the east side steps and escorted into a police vehicle. Video of the arrest circulated online.

Fonda was one of 16 people arrested for unlawfully protesting and was charged with “crowding, obstructing or incommoding.” She was released hours later.

On Thursday, the actress vowed to join Friday protests at the Capitol “inspired and emboldened by the incredible movement our youth have created.”

Entitled anyone?

Reply to  TomRude
October 11, 2019 5:22 pm

Ahh Barbarella. Aged remarkably well, considering.
Way too many recreational drugs in the ’60s. and ’70s. and ’80s. and ’90s. and ’00s.

Steven Fraser
October 11, 2019 1:56 pm

Now that this event has occurred, I think there will be adaptation on multiple levels around the state, beginning with the power company, insurance companies and the landowners. To wit:

1) Some accountant at PG&E (or at their insurer) will determine what the period (when finally over) has costed in top-line revenue, and will compare that with the actual costs of maintaining the lines, supports and the distribution rights-of-way in a manner that will prevent unplanned fire sparking and unplanned fire propagation. As an indicator that this has occurred, look for PG&E to go into the bond market for network hardening funds.
2) Someone in the statehouse will suggest that land owners with property adjacent to power easements must maintain a fire break of some specified width, as a prerequisite for fire insurance coverage. ( BTW, where I live in Texas, there are farms in between some subdivisions. When the fields are dry, they have a plowed firebreak.) Much in the same way that fire departments are financed by tax, perhaps the departments should also be doing informal inspections, too, advising their communities’ residents as to their fire risk.
3) Sales of ICE generators will rise rapidly. Places like govt buildings, Hospitals and large agribusinesses have their own already. These new additions would be at the next tier.
4) With any luck, the requirement to be ‘connected to the grid’ will be removed, so that an individual property can provide its own power, either by owned generation facilities, or ‘rental power’ companies that can be on retainer to sling in supply on contract.
5) Also, with any luck, PG&E and Californians, perhaps in the statehouse, will get into a public dialogue about Service Level Agreements. In IT, where I work, service providers have these with their service consumers. The applicable metric is ‘Uptime %’ , and differing levels of contractual downtime tolerance have different costs, most of which are adapted to by preventive measures, maintenance scheduling, redundant facilities, etc.

Reply to  Steven Fraser
October 13, 2019 7:31 pm

re: “1) Some accountant at PG&E (or at their insurer) will determine what the period (when finally over) has costed in top-line revenue”

I don’t think PG&E cares, they are a ‘power pass-through’, NOT a generating source (ALTHOUGH they get some figure per kWH billed/delivered). AT this stage, this seems to applicable at any rate:

Judge William Alsup says that the company must shut off power to parts of its grid whenever there is sufficient risk of a fire hazard:

Keith Rowe
October 11, 2019 3:02 pm

The odd things I find is that it’s because of a judge under their probation force them to do it. News…shrug, perhaps they can dig a little deeper, or is it on purpose?

“Judge William Alsup says that the company must shut off power to parts of its grid whenever there is sufficient risk of a fire hazard:”

Reply to  Keith Rowe
October 13, 2019 9:48 am

Would like to see the interoffice memorandum passing around in the PG&E offices …

October 11, 2019 3:29 pm

Speaking as an ex-Californian… here in Colorado we learned long ago the crucial importance of managing the fuel load.
In California, none of these are done, yet. (Only those owning 20+ acres can get assistance, for example. Makes it easy to think it’s all “their” problem…)
* Anyone owning two or more acres of forest can ask for a no-charge visit from a prof’l forester, who will teach you what is needed.
* We have an amazing volunteer program to facilitate: the Slash-Mulch Program:
– No charge to bring slash to a processing center (up to 8″ diameter trunks!)
– A HUGE chipper is rented (36″ diameter maw) to convert it all into mulch
– No charge to dig your own truckload of mulch… or pay $2 for an instant front-loader fillup

And lots more helpful info:

Gunga Din
October 11, 2019 3:46 pm

Hmmm …. It seems that the California Dreamin’ dudes have had their dreams come true. No power.
Of course, they cry that the source of the power is the problem.
Yet, even if all of the power was from wind and solar, the power was shut off because of the TRANSMISSION LINES, not the fuel that generated the power.
What has prevented PG&E from clearing the brush along the transmission lines?
It wasn’t CO2.

PS Does LA, San Francisco generate their own power? Or does it come in via transmission lines that cross wide areas? Why weren’t they shut down? It only rains along those lines?

October 11, 2019 5:03 pm

Last paragraph to the point:

In time, perhaps, these policies will force all but the wealthiest of Californians to live in cities, crammed into tiny, energy-efficient cubes, leaving the forest to—once again—burn as it may.

Herd the sheep in to pens where they’re easily controlled, sheared, and eventually stewed and eaten.

Why not goats to eat the underbrush in power company right of ways? They’ll eat almost anything, and natural, “organic”, etc.

Reply to  curly
October 11, 2019 5:25 pm

and quite tasty after a couple years of eating invasive (in the US Pac NW) Himalayan blackberry brambles.

October 11, 2019 5:29 pm

And goats are especially tasty when roasted, after a couple years of eating invasive (in the US Pac NW) Himalayan blackberry bramble.

Sounds sustainable to me. Though it is eating the dreaded meat. And very tasty meat.

October 11, 2019 8:09 pm

N. Cal starting to look like N.K. at night. Communism at work.

October 12, 2019 12:57 am

It is a plot of deception. Black outs and load shedding are the same thing. Both can be used as a tactic to extort funds or support of a particular cause.
It is used to enforce a position that the country or state or province will need more “Renewable (Tax Payer Subsidised) energy for the future. So both objectives are met. Renewable energy and subsidies.
Both are huge advantages for the investors and developers of renewable energy using subterfuge to increase dependence on the scourge of renewable energy and the deliberate fleecing of the tax payer. Added note – Renewable Energy-Aka “Subsidy Farm” “Clean Fuel” Multi-trillion Dollar Opportunity under the guise of environmental protection…. see UN Sustainable Development Goals

It doesn't add up...
October 12, 2019 1:29 am

The Bee Gees nearly had it right. For Stayin’ Alive during the Night Fever it is California, not Massachusetts where the lights all went out.

Gerald the Mole
October 12, 2019 2:20 am

Couldn’t happen to better people.

William Haas
October 12, 2019 3:00 am

Wild fires have always been an important part of the ecology of California. For example there are some plants that require wild first to complete their life cycle. Stopping all wildfires might lead to an extinction event.

Jaap Titulaer
October 12, 2019 4:20 am

Get rid of those powerlines just a few meters above the ground. Is California a 3-world nation?— Jaap Titulaer (@JaapTitulaer) October 12, 2019

Jaap Titulaer
October 12, 2019 4:26 am

Get rid of those powerlines just a few meters above the ground. Is California a 3-world nation?

“Why can’t California’s fire-prone power lines be buried underground, out of harm’s way?”

October 12, 2019 9:32 am

Put these power lines into the ground. Will be cheaper in the long run. We have been doing this in Central Europe for a long time. Looks much better also.

Reply to  Roland
October 13, 2019 9:46 am

re: “Put these power lines into the ground.”

AND you’re just going to ignore the laws of physics WHILE you do this?

Right, more ‘idiots’ recommending in a field they have NO idea about. THIS IS what has brought California TO ITS PRESENT STATE.

You make my point, Roland.

Reply to  _Jim
October 14, 2019 9:43 am

_Jim, it’s been explained many times even in this post about why it isn’t at all feasible to put all the lines underground, but some still don’t get it. Unfortunately, sometimes you can’t fix clueless…

Reply to  _Jim
October 14, 2019 12:49 pm

Come on _Jim, why so arrogant? I do not think that the Swiss, for instance, are idiots. Practically all their residential power distribution is in the ground. Somehow they must have beaten the laws of physics and have solved the power factor problem. If I look at the total mess of all these wires on wooden poles in my neighborhood, then it does appear as if we are living in a third world country as far as residential power distribution is concerned. Wouldn’t you agree?

Randy Collins
October 12, 2019 1:40 pm

As an extension to this, the move to the cities with the rest of the state is absolutely the ideal of the environmental groups. They were explict in saying so here in Oregon. It’s a very Luddite view of the world.

October 12, 2019 5:49 pm

The significance of this can’t be overstated. People are experiencing lack of energy and will decide that is the real tragedy….. not a +<1 degree F in the last century. Unfortunate but a wake up call to the anti fossil fuel hating crowd.

Snarling Dolphin
October 13, 2019 8:35 am

There is no circumstance on the face of the planet that progressive government can’t make worse. You voted for it California, you insisted on it, you got it, now it’s time to wallow in it. I have no pity for those who promoted and built this dystopia or stood idly by while it happened. Funny thing is most of you idiots are probably fine with it what with saving the planet and all. Ludicrous.

October 13, 2019 9:31 am

concern over logging’s effect on the spotted owl (largely misplaced, as time would tell)

I wish you had left a link for that. A search with DuckDuckGo reveals no support for the “…ineffective…” designation (other than another commenter here noting a significant spotted owl population decline), even though I personally believe that to be the case.

Reply to  Red94ViperRT10
October 14, 2019 9:38 am

I thought I read the spotted owls were “declining” because of interbreeding with and invasion by the common barred owl….

Andrew Kerber
October 14, 2019 9:57 am

It might help if PGE started to try and bury those power lines, instead of running them overhead. But there is probably some environmental problem with that.

October 15, 2019 2:51 pm

California is in a contest with North Korea to see who can go dark the longest .
California is heading towards its own socialist country . Flat broke ,
failing infrastructure , brain washed kids , people deciding whether to eat or heat .
California politicians cannot wait to nationalize PG&E as their new play toy .

The reason California wants wide open borders is to replace the exiting middle class with low wage slaves
dependent on government handouts . You can never have enough pool boys for Hollywood freaks .

Martin Gibson
October 18, 2019 10:07 am

Well written, Mr. Devore. One other tidbit: because each of the utilities is a monopoly, CA imposes strict liability which means that even if the utility was not negligent, but a fire starts because of their equipment, they are liable. The obvious example is a car colliding with a power pole so that a transformer falls and sparks a fire; the utility is liable for the fire. Electricity is beneficial, and those benefits come with an acceptable societal risk; if the utility is not negligent, it should not be liable. The mitigation you describe, clearing underbrush and removing standing dead timber, is the right answer. CA seems determined to use its feet as targets.

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