Solving electric power and fire problem, Congress and ‘Pork’
Electric power is a vital part of our way of living. We rely on it for just about every aspect of our increasingly technological lives.
Electricity is in the news because of the recent devastating fires in this state.
California’s major power providers, especially Pacific Gas & Electric which serves much of the central and northern parts of California, have been blamed for starting several of the fires, due to alleged poor maintenance of their lines and then shutting off power to prevent more fires.
We in East Kern and the Antelope Valley are served by Southern California Edison, which was responsible for a couple of fires as was the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
Meeting the challenge
As expected, suggestions for ensuring that fires and the associated shut-offs are not repeated are pouring in.
PG&E is in trouble because it has not been updating their equipment. Edison say it has been doing that, including insulating power lines to eliminate fire-starting sparks from shorts.
Mojave is in very low danger from wildland fires, and Edison has been replacing its local infrastructure in the last couple of years, which it is doing in my neighborhood as this is being written.
The most frequent source of power outages in this area are from wind and rain, which we hope the upgrades will reduce.
One of the suggestions for resolving this issue is forming a statewide, government owned electric power company.
That doesn’t make much sense to me. Creating a huge bureaucracy has its own challenges, as LADWP has proven. One of its problems involves the union representing its employees which seems to be a power unto itself.
Public utilities in California are supposed to be regulated by the state Public Utility Commission, which has pretty much been ineffective.
A major problem is local governments allowing people to build homes in areas obviously prone to fires. This makes absolutely no sense but will probably continue as long as politicians can be “influenced” by developers and people demand the right to live where they want to regardless of the cost to the rest of us.
Some cities, including Lancaster, have become their own electricity providers by buying power from Edison and PG&E. I really do not understand how this is better and get a kick when I hear local politicians who complain about “socialism” support this socialistic concept. Kern County is looking at this concept, and if it chooses to impose it, I will opt out, which is permitted.
Leaving the grid
All of this is probably moot because the time is coming when we will get all or most of our electric power from renewable sources.
Rather than depending on miles of wire strung from ugly poles, or burying lines underground, we will generate power at our homes, with solar panels whose efficiency continue to improve and whose power can be stored when the sun is shining.
Technology is constantly improving to the point where one day vehicle roofs and hoods will be covered with flexible solar panels, finally achieving the dream of a perpetual motion machine. At least one car maker is already experimenting with this technology.
Despite progress, there are always folks who oppose change.
Back in 1951 or ’52 I was working at the old Mecca Theater on Inyo Street in Mojave selling candy bars and popcorn to my future wife when a movie called “Destination Moon” came to the theater.
It was probably the first reasonably accurate film of its kind, and I loved it.
My boss, “Pop” Goulden, an elderly Brit whose daughter was a “war bride” who married a Mojave man, from then on razzed me mercilessly every time I mentioned something futuristic, muttering “Destination Moon”
He was a great guy, but like many people since time began, Pop was skeptical of change.
A recent letter in this paper moaned that we should go back to coal and wood because no power was generated during the recent storms.
Not true at my house.
Others claim electric cars will not function in cold weather, complaints similar to all the tales once told of what would happen to pilots who flew faster than sound.
What these folks never understand that is that change is constant, which is why we test airplanes, space ships and motor vehicles here in the Aerospace Valley.
Germany is one of the world’s biggest users of solar power, and anyone who has ever been there has probably never gotten a sunburn in that cloudy country that also uses wind power.
On a different note, Congress is studying a return to members’ use of earmarks, a process in which they can insert items benefitting their districts into appropriations bills.
Earmarks are also known as “pork” because back when they were allowed, some members used them for stuff that seemed unnecessary in the eyes of other members.
I am not among critics of this process, which was dumped by Republicans when they gained leadership several years ago in an effort that has backfired on them.
When done correctly, as congressmen Bill Thomas and our current Congressman Kevin McCarthy did, earmarks are a great way for members to respond to the needs of their constituents.
When they were legal, McCarthy would issue a news release each year listing the earmarks he was requesting. In most years these were for infrastructure at Edwards Air Force Base and the Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake.
Using earmarks is a quicker way of getting things done than going through a lot of bureaucracy.
They are also a tool for party leadership to keep members in line, which former House Speaker John Boehner and his successor learned when some “Tea Party” members strayed off the reservation.
Which helped cost Boehner his speakership.
One of the examples used by opponents of earmarks was a bridge in Alaska, which critics called a “bridge to nowhere,” which was in reality a bridge folks up there needed to get home.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out, keeping in mind that politicians operate mainly by making each other look bad.