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California is staying true to its reputation as the land of innovation — it is making blackouts, heretofore the signature of impoverished and war-torn lands, a routine feature of 21st-century American life.

More than 2 million people are going without power in Northern and Central California, in the latest and biggest of the intentional blackouts that are, astonishingly, California’s best answer to the risk of runaway wildfires.

Power — and all the goods it makes possible — is synonymous with modern civilization. It shouldn’t be a negotiable for anyone living in a well-functioning society, or even in California, which, despite its stupendous wealth and natural splendor, has blighted itself over the decades with misgovernance and misplaced priorities.

Rich Lowry mug

Rich Lowry

The same California that has been the seedbed of world-famous companies that make it possible for people to send widely viewed short missives of 280 characters or less, and share and like images of grumpy cats, isn’t doing so well at keeping the lights on.

The same California that has boldly committed to transitioning to 50 percent renewable energy by 2025 — and 100 percent renewable energy by 2045 — can’t manage its existing energy infrastructure.

The same California that has pushed its electricity rates to the highest in the contiguous United States through its mandates and regulations doesn’t provide continuous access to that overpriced electricity.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has to try to evade responsibility for this debacle while presiding over it, blames “dog-eat-dog capitalism” for the state’s current crisis.

It sounds like he’s referring to robber barons who have descended on the state to suck it dry of profits while burning it to the ground.

But Newsom is talking about one of the most regulated industries in the state — namely California’s energy utilities that answer to the state’s public utilities commission.

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This is not exactly an Ayn Rand operation.

The state could have, if it wanted, pushed the utilities to focus on the resilience and safety of its current infrastructure — implicated in some of the state’s most fearsome recent fires — as a top priority.

Instead, the commission forced costly renewable energy initiatives on the utilities. Who cares about something as mundane as properly maintained power lines if something as supposedly epically important — and politically fashionable — as saving the planet is at stake?

Meanwhile, California has had a decadeslong aversion to properly clearing forests. The state’s leaders have long been in thrall to the belief that cutting down trees is somehow an offense against nature, even though thinning helps create healthier forests. Biomass has been allowed to build up, and it becomes the kindling for catastrophic fires.

As Chuck DeVore of the Texas Public Policy Foundation points out, a report of the Western Governors’ Association warned of this effect more than a decade ago, noting that “over time the fire-prone forests that were not thinned, burn in uncharacteristically destructive wildfires.”

In 2016, then-Gov. Jerry Brown actually vetoed a bill that unanimously passed the state Legislature to promote the clearing of trees dangerously close to power lines. Brown’s team says this legislation was no big deal, but one progressive watchdog called the bill “neither insignificant or small.”

On top of all this, more people live in remote areas susceptible to fires, in part because of the high cost of housing in more built-up areas.

There shouldn’t be any doubt that California, susceptible to drought through its history and whipped by fierce, dry winds this time of year, is always going to have a fire problem. But there also shouldn’t be any doubt that dealing with it this poorly is the result of a series of foolish, unrealistic policy choices.

California’s overriding goal should have been safe, cheap and reliable power, a public good so basic that it’s easy to take for granted. The state’s focus on ideological fantasies has instead ensured it has none of the above.

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Rich Lowry is a syndicated columnist.

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(9) comments

Hive

Coming too soon to embrace large cities...skads of unemployeable people, who were graduated to make room for more people, with no funding from legislatures mobbed by conservative lawmakers. What goes around, pretenders, comes around.

For example, 3 bedroom house in SF area: Worth maybe $200K here bought 10 years ago is now worth orig price X 7.5. And fires, and earthquakes and floods happen. Some times "money" isn't!

But, we can keep pretending legislators (both kinds) help us.

Hive

Few thousand people?

Really, affects stuff and though I would never go along, was ingenius idea...

SF is loaded with homeless dimmys...and nakedness is not longer permitted outside of a certain area--unless they are traveling.

What is so dumb about it, if true, is that these "travelers" will return to do trips again, and again, and the tax bucks get wasted...again....and these gambits weren't supported by conservatives? Please...beats subbing a phony pic of soldier...what a stupid!

Both are so "boge!" But one bogus effoert seems less crooked, to me...

bolake

Hive - I’m just saying California’s problems were not caused Conservative Republicans. You and JD continue to blame Trump and Conservative Republicans for everything. We are not to blame for all your woes. Get over it. You may want to take Obama’s advice and don’t be so “Woke”

“ But more people do cost more money”. True but more people also mean more revenue. California economy is 5th largest in the World. Seems like Liberal California could do better with all that revenue.

Open borders and sanctuary state policy does not help “over population” But paying people to leave the state and pushing problem to other state does. Get real!

Hive

Lowry is a (conservative-Nat Rev) pundit and does the job...obviously. Agree or disagree, he does offer stir-opines.

Hive

Bolake, best to pay attention, maybe shut it, since you refuse to engage brain!

Sacramento has lots on its plate...lots and the damn is about to break in other areas, that all look to CA to fight costs of population. SF is nigh screwed by money and demand.

Plus, (appeals to authority, which are not argument). This dodger has been in S-Bernadino when afire; daughter and fam lives north of SF, son-in-law is PG&E empl, doctor friend now looking at losing 2nd home to fire...Parents (2) and two kids..sent money to Camp fire charity for disaster, which Trump government needed to do, but did not, (one of odd deductions under new higher rates to match higher Trump spending...we get what we deserve politically, always.

CA's trouble spells future for us, almost all of the problems are political/corporate-conservative. Sorry Bo-Bo boo! But more people do cost more money, duh!

Read CA papers like the SFC, SJM, LAT...learn, and ask questions.

People here do not know squat...pretty places driven by over-pop, Typical human foibles of greed and selfishness.

Democratic leaning state, much of Lowry's basis...he is also as clueless.

bolake

JD - “ California actually has some of the most awesome and well designed policies in the nation. Policies that protect citizens from being exploited by landlord barons. Protect the environment, air and groundwater.”. OMG, are you kidding me?

California has Highest Gas prices in the nation.

California has Highest Homeless Rate. Nearly half of US homeless live in California. Just where do you think the untreated human waste from people living on the streets goes? It’s a huge pollution problem that the Democrat Leaders in California do not acknowledge or care to do anything about.

What Liberal Policies are working if you can’t even keep the lights on.

NYC and California paying homeless people to leave and go to another States. Now that’s a worthwhile Liberal Policy. Right?

jdinfinity

Oh man child Bo, like his dictator Trump. How stupid and ignorant thou art...

California actually has some of the most awesome and well designed policies in the nation. Policies that protect citizens from being exploited by landlord barons. Protect the environment, air and groundwater.

Energy, agriculture, and so forth. People and politicians trying to help the best interests of its's population.

Progressive and liberal policies that for the most part, work. Imagine that...

You know, basically all the things that a soulless, greedy ignorant tool bag like Bo here cannot tolerate.

Sense.

bolake

California can’t keep the lights on because of the higher intellect of the Liberals that run the state.

jdinfinity

Rather than take a long term approach with setbacks to help build a better future, cretins such as Lowry would sooner whine like children and point fingers than find solutions. All while touting a big oil big coal sales pitch between the lines.

As republicans have been trying to hide the truth of for decades. If you control the power, you can control the means of production.

So Lowry, along with his cretins of industry, would seek to fake empathy and rally to the cause of California's population, to push a thieving, polluting agenda.

Despicable...

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