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Californians: Remember, the reason we have to shut off your power is because we CEOs decided our bonuses were more urgent than the T&D repairs and tree trimming that could have prevented these wildfires. And the reason you can't control your own energy company is because socialism doesn't work and would result in blackouts and disasters.

I don't talk about this much, but I've been writing about utilities for more than a decade as a job. They privatized most big utilities promising that exactly this wouldn't happen.

This pretty much exactly mirrors every other way our country has become the worst of what they told us the USSR was like.

It's possible I'm mistaking what will happen with what I'd like to happen, but PG&E is flirting with being taken over by the state and becoming a public utility. Or perhaps broken up and functioning as several smaller public utilities.

Gov. Newsom has been extremely vocal about how all of this is the fault of PG&E's mismanagement. Like, yes, it's climate change, and there will be problems that spring from that, but PG&E chose to pay themselves more rather than prepare for what everyone knew was coming.

@interneteh thanks for this. I had tried googling about this but all the articles I saw just said “they’re shutting off power to prevent wildfires”, which without clarification is sort of incomprehensible.

@vector basically what happens to transmission and distribution equipment (the tall metal towers supporting power lines and the shorter wooden poles that do the same) is called "galloping." The winds make the lines start jumping and this causes arc flashes when the lines strike one another. Utilities can install objects on the lines to keep them separated during these gallops, but upgrading T&D equipment is expensive in terms of labor, and a lot of times utilities prefer to kick the can down the road and hope nothing bad happens in the meantime. They gamble in the name of profit.

@interneteh yes every utility should be owned by the people, but in a climate where a half-million acres can burn as the result of a single dropped hammer *in front of a guy's face with a tank of water nearby* I don't think it'll statistically affect fire damage much.

Maybe if we all go off the grid solar and hunker down in our houses every red flag day, sure, but the existence of high energy lines atop a tinderbox is the core issue.

@wilbr I think about this too, but California's water is also criminally mismanaged by capitalism

@interneteh abolish capitalism first, worry about the fact that we're sitting on top of a literal environmental powder keg second 🤔

@interneteh Climate change does not cause your infrastructure to rot until it is in such a bad state of maintenance that your grid lacks dependable redundancies. The PG&E debacle is solely from mismanagement and yet more proof that capitalism as presently practiced is inherently immoral.
@interneteh But it is not strictly PG&E's fault that it's board has mismanaged it to the point that their grid is so unreliable they have to send wishy-washy notices to customers that their power may or may not fail as they do emergency maintenance on parts of the grid. California must also take part in the blame for allowing the electric grid to become privatized in the first place. They should have learned from ENRON.

@kaniini no, the climate change part is how dry everything is.

@interneteh that part is true, but the California Aqueduct probably isn't helping either.

@kaniini lol no! Another great success story for capitalism.

@kaniini @interneteh PG&E has been sucking and the CPUC has been failing to do anything about it for over 30 years now. It's a simple set of incentives at play: inspections and forcing a private company to invest more take work, and people fight hard against rate increases every step of the way. And when the utility and regulators are doing a good job, nobody notices. They only notice when things go wrong. And it's much easier to force change when things go wrong.

@freakazoid @kaniini yeah, this is usually how it goes with utilities. Nobody thinks about them ever unless they fill out their bills by hand, or when the power goes out.

@interneteh @kaniini So PG&E underinvests in infrastructure and the CPUC skimps on inspections, and they just pray that when the shit finally does hit the fan it'll be after they retire or otherwise escape.

Having the state take over PG&E would at least remove a layer of unaccountability from the system. Instead of unelected regulators failing to oversee a private company, it'll be unelected commissioners directly running the utility. We could also elect the head of the utility if we want.

@kaniini @interneteh And perhaps taking over PG&E will scare the five other investor owned utilities in the state into keeping their respective houses in order.

@freakazoid @interneteh @kaniini a friend of mine was up on birbsite early this AM, pointing out the the Saddle Ridge Fire, which exploded into action last night, is in an area served by a different power company, so chances are, most CA power providers have houses just as out of order as at PG&E.

@raye @kaniini @interneteh AFAICT the cause of the Saddleridge fire is still unknown. Given that it started right by a freeway, most likely cause would seem to be a cigarette thrown out of a window by one of the numerous pieces of garbage who consider the planet their ashtray.

@freakazoid @interneteh @kaniini CBS Los Angeles 11pm news just reported that multiple residents in Sylmar saw a burning transmission line tower above Saddle Ridge Rd Thursday night, where the fire started. The residents also said that LADWP (power provider in that area) didn't say anything about planning to shut off power during the wind.

@interneteh I lived in CA for 20 years, and people were pissed at PG&E and talking about the state taking them over in the 1990s. That could be one of the best outcomes in this scenario.

@raye yeah, I wish I knew more about the Enron thing and what PG&E's culpability was there, but it was before my time

@dankwraith @raye I remember Jello Biafra calling them "Piggy and E." I think that had to do with the West Coast blackouts

@dankwraith @interneteh I have an elderly aunt and uncle who I don't interact with, who live in S. SF, and both were lifetime PG&E employees. I'm pretty sure even they hated it.

@raye @interneteh !!! I lived there for my whole childhood and college and I think I just assumed they *had* been taken over by the state at some point.

I hope CA does take it over...

@interneteh They sell it to the free market types as "privatization," but the only thing they're actually privatizing is the profits and the assets. The risks stay with the people. Privatized gains, socialized losses as they say.

@interneteh my home town in Missoula, MT a couple years ago used eminent domain to forcibly buy the water company in town. It can be done.

@interneteh

also, term limits make regulatory capture easier

less experience, continuity, institutional memory; bigger line at the revolving door

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