Wednesday, October 9, 2019

California Government discovers the Law of Unintended Consequences, good and hard

So riddle me this, Big Government Man: what happens after a series of separate decisions made over the course of years, each restricting a company's ability to manage its assets?  What happens when the result of these decisions causes an entirely preventable (except that prevention is now prohibited) wildfire that causes billions of dollars of damage?  What happens when the California Government uses that company as a piggy bank to deflect blame from all those regulations that prevented the company from preventing the disaster?

Good thing that California has good weather.  You won't freeze, you'll just be in the dark:
The ‘new’ fire prevention effort for northern California is to have the utilities turn off the power!!!
Citing the potential for extremely dry air and steady winds of up to 30 mph, with gusts that experts said could be twice as strong, Pacific Gas & Electric announced it was considering a public safety power shut-off for 29 counties between Wednesday morning and Thursday afternoon.
Full article, HERE.
Now ‘my’ question is, what about those folks who NEED power to run medical devices, keep things like…oh… Insulin cold, and other meds??? Or charge their wheelchair, or charge that Tesla or other electric car they depend on?
Well, for a start they should lobby the government to repeal those stupid regulations preventing PG&E from doing fire prevention maintenance along the power lines.  They could also vote out the dirty commies who enacted those regulations.  They can move.  They can sit in the dark wondering what else the California Government will screw up.

From where I sit, those are all the options.  Of course, some will want the government to take over PG&E, and after a couple years of government control the entire state can enjoy Venezuela style blackouts.  So I guess that's an option, too.

Adam Smith famously said that there's a lot of ruin in a country - it take a lot to run it into the ground.  We're seeing that every day from the Golden State.
Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. 
This is known as "bad luck.”
- Robert Heinlein


Aesop said...

I reject your premise: California government could not discover Reality, even if it was up their asses kicking footballs. That lack is their defining characteristic.

All this will do is accelerate the number of people hereabouts who decide a solar/battery or another type of back-up power system independent of grid power is a necessity, rather than a luxury.
Which takes control away from both the government, and the utility clowns.

I'm looking for a downside.

Borepatch said...

Aesop, the downside is that instead of paying 15 cents/kwh, people will have to pay a buck. Not a problem for the wealthy, but a real problem for the less well off. In Europe, they call this situation "fuel poverty".

Just another example of leftie SJWs screwing the poor so that they can feel good about "saving the environment".

ASM826 said...

I would enjoy this more if I wasn't stuck on the same boat with these people.

Aesop said...

Self-generated power is the bird in the hand, and grid power the two in the bush, in that proverb.

So you're telling me that the illiterate campesinos who couldn't find work in Mexico and Bangladesh will have to do without power, and perhaps self-deport?

Be still, my pounding heart! Stop teasing me. ;)

Noname Smith said...

The greater danger is not that some may spend their way out of the problem with solar, nor that many cannot, but that the steadily increasing incompetence of the state degrades living conditions sufficiently to create a mass exodus.

The flow, for now, is more than enough to be of concern; doubling it, or more, will quickly become a national disaster with masses of Commiefornians landing in your neighborhoods and cities to vote for the same stuff that destroyed their previous ones.

If California sinks, the other 49 can - probably - withstand it, if for no other reason than some parts of the corpse will be salvageable. Follow California with 5-10 additional states and the U.S. turns into a larger version of Zimbabwe.

Old NFO said...

This is the same state that bitched about rolling brownouts a couple of years ago, but STILL shut down both Nuke plants in SOCAL... sigh

waepnedmann said...

I think these "Safety Power Shutdowns" are justified.
Today the winds are gusting to fifty MPH and humidity is at 5% with heavy fuel loads on the ground.
If I were a business who got sued for fires caused by my business that are exacerbated by the environmental wackos who, supported by the state, would not allow me to reduce the danger of wildfires by clearing vegetation around my power lines, I would punish the people/state until I received some type of legal advantage.
I believe these shut downs are calculated by PG&E to get the state legislature to relieve them of the burden of future law suits regarding fires caused by the company and/or allowing them to clear vegetation from around power lines or I have also heard rumors that PG&E wants to run the lines underground. Great idea, but they will have to raise rates to pay for that and these shutdowns will make that more palatable to the customers and the state regulators.
Governor Newsome is already saying PG&E had no justification for the shutdowns. The political pressure is on.

Tomorrow morning I will fuel my existing generators and continue work on installing a whole-house propane-fired generator for my 90 year old father.
We had a shutdown about two months ago due to a nearby fire. It was 110 degrees and dad was near requiring medical care by the time I got the generator set up and his A/C unit running. It scared he and I pretty badly and he was motivated to get the whole-house set up.
The electrical supply house told me they are installing a lot of these. As far as the smaller portable generators Costco is sold out and one power equipment store sold thirty generators in thirty minutes. People are lined up at the one gas station that is open in our town to filli gas cans.
Some people are ahead of the curve, because we had a snowstorm last February that left some people without power for two weeks, so they bought generators after that storm and stored fuel.

And yes, we won't freeze.
it was ninety degrees this afternoon increasing the fire danger on top of the low humidity an high winds.

Peter B said...

This is the same PG&E which had a deadly pipeline explosion in San Bruno in 2010. 55 year old pipeline with defective welds. The line was installed before onsite X-ray inspection of the welds was available, and PG&E had been increasing the gas pressure to meet increasing demands, ultimately running more pressure than that particular section of line was supposed to carry. The result was eight people dead, dozens injured, and dozens of homes destroyed.

PG&E's record keeping wasn't very good at the time:

"After the San Bruno pipeline failure, PG&E was required to re-evaluate how it determines the maximum operating pressure for some 1,800 miles of pipeline throughout its system. Specifically, the California Public Utilities Commission asked PG&E officials to show their lines had been tested or examined in a way that could prove the pipeline can withstand the current maximum operating pressure. At the March 15, 2011 deadline for this report, PG&E was unable to provide documentation for details of some of its gas transmission pipelines."

It did have enough documentation to reveal that for the line which broke causing the explosion,

"At the time of the explosion, the pressure within that part of the pipeline was 386–386.4 psi (2.661–2.664 MPa). Although this was 11 psi (0.076 MPa) greater than PG&E's maximum rated operating pressure for that section of the pipeline, it was still 14 psi (0.097 MPa) below PG&E's specified maximum allowable rating of 400 psi."

Not to mention that for years after the explosion the utility continued to lie to the state regulators (of course, there's a lucrative revolving door between the Public Utilities Commission, PG&E, and consulting firms) and in 2017 was convicted in federal court of multiple obstruction of justice charges for lying to the NTSB.

With all this, the overall trend in utility bills, executive compensation, and share prices was up. Until the recent fires and the resultant bankruptcy.

I agree with waepnedmann that at least some of the power shutoffs are justified. Due to my cynicism about the state government I also suspect that part of the intent is a property grab by the state and its cronies and the shutoffs are intended to drive people out of counties that don't vote (D) by making them unlivable.

Rick C said...

"I think these "Safety Power Shutdowns" are justified."

I read something yesterday that says they're concerned sparks from power lines will ignite fires. OK, taken alone, that doesn't sound like an unreasonable concern.

But then I thought, "wait, sparks from the power lines?!" I don't think I've ever seen or heard of this before--or is there something missing in the reporting, like they're talking about lines that get downed by wind or something?

Will said...

when the idiot Eco-whackos in CA refuse to allow anyone to cut down or even trim a tree in the forests, you get branches bouncing on power lines when the wind blows.

Bear in mind that a lot of the forests in CA are dependent on the typical lightning started fires to clear out brush and trigger seeds to germinate. They don't allow these fires to happen, so eventually the amount of fuel that accumulates generates fires that burn EVERYTHING, including the large trees, and can sterilize the ground to a depth of 18" due to the intense heat.

Throw in problems like the oak killer that started down south and has been moving northward for a couple decades, now. That big fire around Big Sur about 10 years ago? EVERY oak tree in the area had died, but no one was allowed to even cut them down for firewood. THAT is the sort of stupidity that is rampant in politics in this benighted state.

As long as the Dems are a power in politics, this sort of insane thinking will only get worse. They are divorced from reality, and there is no fixing them when they get that far advanced.

Peter B said...

Market Ticker for the win:

The issue is not that "high winds" will make wires touch each other, which some "news" organizations are running (a deliberate lie, whether they're being fed it by PG&E or some other idiot) -- on a properly-engineered distribution system that is not a factor. What is a factor are things that happen to be within the fall radius of lines and other transmission equipment, dilapidated equipment that will fall over if you look at it, rights-of-way that are not cleared of highly-combustible material and non-functional (or non-existent) protection equipment that is supposed to detect system imbalances and cut power to downed segments but fails to do so rapidly if at all.

"Given a year's warning they did none of the above so now as long as there are high winds "no juice for you!" since the alternative will likely be that PG&E will cause more fires, as they did last year and the year before.

"But heh, it's a government monopoly! Never mind that it's also a so-called "public company" listed on the exchange. They got their ass sued off (and rightly so) for failing to perform reasonable maintenance in the past and thus being culpable for last year's fires..."

Having been derelict for years, PG&E goes bankrupt and shuts off the power to nearly a million people. True, it's said "[l]et us not attribute to malice and cruelty what may be referred to less criminal motives..." but we're talking about California here. There's money to be made by friends of those in power; the powerless (in this case literally) will wind up paying.

Peter B said...

One more thing: There have been winds gusting to nearly 80 mph on mountaintops in the SF Bay Area and beyond, with sustained winds that look to be 15-30 mph at lower elevations, and it's very dry.

Says Jan Null of Golden Gate Weather Services:

"This is not a 100-year storm,"..."You have to ask, 'Is it the meteorology or is it an infrastructure that's not able to handle it. Is it deferred maintenance? Have they not done their job? You should not have to turn off power if you have wind that's going to occur multiple times a year."

PG&E has been found criminally liable as a company for its maintenance failures in the past, but its executives and its enablers in the one party legislature, the Public Utilities Commission, and all their cronies are doing just fine. This will be ascribed to a failure of capitalism. When he was mayor of San Francisco, Governor Noisome called for a public takeover of PG&E. You thought things were bad now? Hold the governor's champagne.

Aesop said...

The people blaming Commiefornia for this need to see a doctor and get their kneejerk adjusted downward.

PG&E has been derelict on properly maintaining their infrastructure for decades, and has put their time and money into maximizing profits, and minimizing maintenance and upkeep.

They created this problem, the wind didn't. Now they're throwing gasoline on it.

And OldNFO, let's be fair: San Onofre nuclear plant (I have no knowledge of why the other nuke plant was shut down) was shut down because multiple pipes were so corroded/cracked/rotted out and headed for imminent failure the thing was about to become the fulfillment of a movie plot, and the cost to repair it was more than the plant was worth.
Instead, SoCal Edison pulled the pin.

The San Andreas fault line runs from the section between Baja and mainland Mexico, right up inside the Coastal Range to the bottom of SF Bay (hint: that's why there's a bay there) and finally departs Califrutopia N of San Franshitsco, and heads out to sea.

Leaving a fat slice of territory on the Pacific Coast which can expect geologically regular 8.0 earthquakes.

And which is also the only part of CA with enough ready water to run a nuke plant.

The Colorado River is already over-subscribed for water use, and Tahoe would work, oh, except for the seismic and volcanic activity in that corner of the state too, which is why the Sierras are so high.

Nuclear power is great - anywhere but this state. There's no place to put it that can provide adequate coolant flow that hasn't got a seismic bullseye on it.

Ask the folks at Fukushima how that works out.

But if we had 10M fewer illegal aliens (out of 40M nationwide) nested here alone, the grid would be overbuilt and operating at 2/3rds of capacity 24/7.

Just saying.