Did you enjoy your view of the Altamont Hills Tuesday?
They were there behind smoky brown haze.
Are you among those dealing with itchy throats, coughs and even headaches as California burns?
If you are, then here is the real question: How is the state’s greenhouse gas policy working out for you?
It is why the trifecta of the nation’s most expensive electricity, the nation’s most unreliable electricity, and the nation’s leading electrical provider for starting destructive wildfires is a true collaborative effort between the greedy corporate suite that has run PG&E into the ground, the blind lapdogs at the California Public Utilities Commission, the spineless and clueless state legislature, as well as pontificating and pandering governors.
The biggest state boondoggle is not the high-speed rail system being built from Merced to the Metropolis of the West better known as Bakersfield. It is the Chicken Little assumption that everything bad that happens is the direct result of manmade greenhouse gases that have kicked Mother Nature out from behind the steering wheel and put man into the driving seat for climate change.
To be absolutely clear, there is climate change. And yes, man does contribute to it. But to assume what is happening in California this fall — and every fall since the Spaniards first set foot in this neck of the woods of the New World and before that — is the result of manmade climate change per se is to ignore the well-established science of dendrochronology.
It’s a science with a name that doesn’t exactly roll off your tongue, isn’t conducive to snarky sound bites, not easy for 16-year-olds to lecture adults about, nor inspires Internet memes aimed at reducing a serious subject down to emotional outbursts.
Dendrochronology is the science of dating tree growth rings. The exactness of the science in terms of the year tree rings were formed is the basis for dendroclimatology that zeros in on how atmospheric conditions and climate are recorded in wood over the years and in turn centuries.
Tree rings from the oldest living things on earth — bristlecone pines — that are found in the White Mountains of Inyo County where the grand-dame of California trees dubbed “Methuselah” is 4,851 years old to dead tree trunks found buried in sediment beneath lakes paint a precise picture of how much moisture fell during each year of growth.
The 200 years leading up to the mid-20th century was abnormally wet in California and the West. The norm is drought including mega-droughts of 50 plus years that are punctured with one or two wet years.
The dead trees and the trees weakened by diseases is due primarily to drought — a reoccurring reality for thousands of years even before Henry Ford started mass producing internal combustion engines — and not climate change exacerbated by greenhouse gases.
Why this matters is the California Legislature, CPUC and governors past and present have been hammering utilities like PG&E about the creation of greenhouse gases while at the same time not realizing they were setting the stage for massive wildfires that wipeout any gains made by complying to state edicts about buying green energy.
Your PG&E rates reflect where political reality is at. PG&E by state mandate is spending $2.4 billion annually on renewable power that meets the California Legislature’s Green Seal of Approval while investing only $1.5 billion a year to update and harden with newer technology its aging infrastructure that is causing wildfire after wildfire.
For those into cause and effect, the greenhouse gas experts say the 2018 wildfires including the PG&E torching of the Town of Paradise that killed 85 people, destroyed 14,000 homes and burned 5,000 other structures dumped 45 million metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere.
Carbon is the bogeyman of the climate change groupies.
The carbon from the 2018 wildfires happens to be in excess of nine times of the combined 2016 and 2017 carbon reduction realized by state edicts.
It would seem logical that instead of simply jacking up PG&E rates 12.8 percent to address the company’s failure to maintain and replace poles as other equipment thanks to their diverting it for “more pressing needs,” that the state would shift money that PG&E is spending to buy non-carbon based power to accelerate the hardening of the transmission and distribution systems to reduce what is by far the larger source of evil carbon — wildfires triggered by malfunctioning and aging electrical systems.
At least two legislators — Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, and State Senator Jim Nielsen, R-Tehama, want to do just that until such time the PG&E system is modernized and hardened.
No matter how logical that might sound, it is problematic. First, they can’t introduce such legislation until the next session starts in January. By then the forced power shutoffs and PG&E induced wildfires will be in the rear-view mirror until next fire season. Most people will let their anger subside and won’t keep the pressure on lawmakers to act. The odds are by then there will be other pressing issues irking the general populace such as flooding.
If politicians are good at anything, they are great at promising solutions and swift action in the middle of floods et al but once the emergency passes, they are back to waltzing with special interests groups.
Disagree if you are so inclined but those that profit off greenhouse gas solutions whether it is Elon Musk stuffing his pockets full of tax credits or high-speed rail manufacturers along with those that paint climate change as the ultimate issue are a formidable special interest.
The see all ills as a direct result of climate change traced back to carbon fuels.
It is highly doubtful they will take the proverbial foot off of the necks of politicians to divert mandated funds for greenhouse gas reduction programs to accelerate the upgrading and the hardening of the PG&E system to significantly reduce wildfires without pulling the plug on all 16 million people that depend on the for-profit utility every time extreme wildfire conditions exist.
Those who are rabid in their belief climate change — particularly man’s contribution — will spell the end of the world as we know it, aren’t interested in conceding there are other reasons for climate involved catastrophes other than the fact we use too much carbon-based energy. That holds true even if those other reasons are not only valid but if they were addressed as a higher priority would actually reduce carbon-based pollution even more than all of the greenhouse gas initiatives combined over the course of a decade.
Do not give up. California won’t burn forever due to the misdirecting of resources spurred by the Carbon-based Fuels are All Evil crowd.
In a few months from now we likely will see California awash in floodwater thanks to those blocking timely levee maintenance that are part of the “burrowing rodents such as gophers are more important than people’s safety” environmentalists.
Or, if we get really unlucky, we’ll be almost down to our last drop of water while the “Fish First” crowd will still be demanding even more water for fish.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.