November 5, 2019

Energy

Never Again! Lets Close PG&E

Two major wildfires that raged in California for the past ten days are finally contained. But the debate and aftermath will rage for months.

California’s Governor Gavin Newsom is calling for a public sector takeover of bankruptcy-mired Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E). But why should the state take over the ailing and corrupt system when it could make a fresh start, installing solar and wind power in every street?

Over 30% of all electricity is lost in the transmission system, so switching to local, green power would actually save money and also help the environment. Californian legislators had made halting attempts to install green power infrastructure but it was always a low priority.

Gov Newsom and his allies took $208,400 in donations from PG&E during his run for governor before the public utility began controlled blackouts. PG&E gave the governor the maximum amount of $58,400 and gave another $150,000 to a political spending group supporting his candidacy.

The donations were revealed during a seven-month investigation by California’s ABC affiliate, whose probe was part of a documentary series breaking down California’s 2018 wildfire crisis. ABC10 published its findings in July.

PG&E also donated more than $800,000 directly to candidate campaigns, and another $3 million to political groups, most of which ultimately plowed that money back into candidate’s war chests, according to ABC10’s investigation.

Newsom refused to answer questions in July when reporters asked about the donations. “It’s a strange question,” he told ABC10. “I don’t know what more I can say.”

Forget Undergrounding

PG&E alone has some 81,000 miles of overhead lines. But forget burying the cables – there is no need these days when local renewable power supplies can be built at a lower cost. Undergrounding makes damaged lines hard to access, and leaves them vulnerable to floods and earthquakes. They’re just one source of risk among many. And it’s reallllly expensive. PG&E puts the price at about $2.3 million a mile.

PG&E has been prioritising profits over safety for years, or decades. Its own guidelines put one deadly Tower (27/222) a quarter-century beyond its useful life — but the tower remained, according to the New York Times in March 2019. Beyond wildfires, PG&E has a broader history of safety problems. A 2010 explosion of a PG&E gas pipeline killed eight people.

A jury found PG&E guilty of five counts of willfully breaking federal gas pipeline safety laws and one count of obstructing the federal investigation into the disaster.

Since being sentenced in January 2017, state investigators say PG&E sparked wildfires that killed 107 people — including the deadly 2018 Camp Fire, which killed 85 people when it destroyed the entire town of Paradise.

Kincade wildfire

The massive Kincade wildfire in northern California burned nearly 78,000 acres — more than double the size of San Francisco. The Kincade Fire forced more than 180,000 residents out of their homes. …

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