California’s Gavin Newsom Helpless Before Wild Fires, Power Blackouts, Gas Price Spikes

A recent story in the Daily Caller notes that Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, seems to be helpless to address three crises that are ravaging what was once called the Golden State. As wildfires ravage large swaths of land, taking homes and businesses, displacing hundreds of thousands of people, the state’s main power grid, Pacific Gas and Electricity, has been obliged to turn off the electricity for almost a million people. The same high winds that whip up the wildfires have also downed power lines, sometimes igniting the dry brush and kindling that serves as fuel for the fires.

In the meantime, Californians are paying at least a dollar a gallon more for gasoline than the rest of the country. Add to that the homeless crisis that has turned California’s big cities into open-air toilets, and one has to ask the following question. Has California become America’s first third-world state?

Newsom seems to have been reduced to declaring a state of emergency and then trying to place blame. It’s PG&E’s fault for not spending enough money to harden the grid. (The inevitable question arises: Considering California’s onerous regulatory regime, is such a thing possible?) It’s the failure of capitalism. And, of course, the catch-all cause of every woe, it’s climate change.

One solution that is being mulled over, according to the Sacramento Bee, is to have California cities take over portions of PG&E’s grid. The question arises, do these governing authorities have the wherewithal to do that, not to mention invest the billions that would be necessary to upgrade the grid, which would include putting power lines underground? Another variant of that idea is to get Warren Buffett to buy the company. But would he want to take on the morass of legal liability that would come with a purchase of the utility?

Elon Musk, the swashbuckling entrepreneur known for electric cars and rocket ships, is preparing one solution to power outages. According to Marketwatch, Musk is offering a home solar system, including solar panels that look like roofing material, and a battery to store excess electricity for use at night and during inclement days, for the low, low price of $35,000. In theory, a home or business equipped with one of Musk’s solar systems would be free of the grid and hence impervious to blackouts.

In the meantime, California is wrestling with how to prevent the periodic mass destruction caused by the wildfires. Fortune Magazine suggests stricter building codes, requiring that homes and businesses be built of fire-retardant materials, especially the roofs. Expanding the water infrastructure and putting firefighters in place, ready to spring into action, are also proposed solutions. However, these measures are bound to be expensive and unpopular.

Accuweather also notes that a proliferation of dead trees has added fuel to California wildfires. Removing these trees is fraught with financial and other problems. California’s powerful environmental lobby has also blocked efforts to clear out dead trees and brush.

Speaking of the environmental lobby, the LA Times notes that California is wrestling with the fact that its citizens pay more than a dollar a gallon more for gas than people living in the rest of the country. The politicians blame “market manipulation” for the high gas prices. However, oil industry experts point to environmental regulations and high taxes.

“The oil industry responded Friday by saying that causes for the state’s gas prices include market forces, the state’s environmental rules, such as a requirement for special blends of gas, as well as the state’s decision in 2017 to raise the gas tax by 12 cents per gallon to pay for road repairs.”

The real reason for California’s woes, according to some pundits, has been a one-party rule in the state that has persisted for decades. Forbes notes that along with crumbling infrastructure, massive debt, taxes, and regulations, California is beset with a government that has lurched ever farther to the left. The governing class is addicted to taxes and regulations to solve the state’s problems. But the higher taxes and more onerous regulations become, the more people decided to move out to seek better climes in places such as Texas and Florida.

“If you are living in one of the 49 other states, you should learn from the lesson that is California. If you are living in California, there is always the lesson of how Michigan came to be governed by a more centrist government. Of course, that came after the failure of the prior government. For now, however, for all its concern for sustainable foods and products, California is on a high-speed rail to unsustainability.”