Calinferno – Anthropogenic Regional Malfeasance

I don’t want an argument about irrelevancies, so let’s stipulate that warming of the earth is a factor in California’s infernos. For our purposes here, it’s irrelevant. Whether it’s anthropogenic or not, California doesn’t control it. What they could control, they leave to chance.

Claims that wildfires started by lightning can be ameliorated today in California by achieving tenths of a degree reductions in global temperature by the year 2050 are facially specious. California’s only proven anthropogenic wildfires came from arson, poorly maintained power lines, and gender reveal parties.

In the gripping hand, we have technology to mitigate wildfire. And we know that California refuses to employ it, even as science tells them they should. Decreasing the amount of fuel available to a wildfire and creating clear-cut firebreaks are within the direct control of California. Eliminating CO2 and cow farts world-wide are not.

Propublica, no right leaning climate denier site, tells us the extent of this failure. They Know How to Prevent Megafires. Why Won’t Anybody Listen?

Academics believe that between 4.4 million and 11.8 million acres burned each year in prehistoric California. Between 1982 and 1998, California’s agency land managers burned, on average, about 30,000 acres a year. Between 1999 and 2017, that number dropped to an annual 13,000 acres. The state passed a few new laws in 2018 designed to facilitate more intentional burning. But few are optimistic this, alone, will lead to significant change. We live with a deathly backlog. In February 2020, Nature Sustainability published this terrifying conclusion: California would need to burn 20 million acres — an area about the size of Maine — to restabilize in terms of fire.

Now, it’s not as if California lacks deep, ongoing experience with wildfires. And they do indeed know what to do. Here’s a blurb from the CAL FIRE website about plans submitted to the Governor in 2019. Emphasis mine:

Using locally developed and vetted fire plans prepared by CAL FIRE Units as a starting point, CAL FIRE identified priority fuel reduction projects that can be implemented almost immediately to protect communities vulnerable to wildfire. Socioeconomic characteristics were also considered, including poverty levels, residents with disabilities, language barriers, residents over 65 or under five years of age, percent non-white, and households without a car. [Decide for yourself which of those criteria are best addressed so as to prevent widespread conflagrations.]

Through this process 35 priority projects were identified, reducing risk for over 200 communities. Project examples include removal of hazardous dead trees, vegetation clearing, creation of fuel breaks and community defensible spaces, and creation of ingress and egress corridors.

As Governor, if you sincerely believed climate change was THE major factor in your well established wildfire problem, and knew you had little control over that, is it prudent to ignore the means of significant mitigation your advisors recommend, or is it better to have an excuse for having ignored the advice?

I’d like to assure you that all 35 CAL FIRE proposed fire break/prescribed burn/fuel reduction projects have been completed. CAL FIRE is nice enough to provide a link:

… which leads to the California Natural Resources Agency. Where we get this:

It’s usually easier for bureaucrats and politicians to find a reason not to take an action which requires a decision or represents any immediate risk to their sinecure. Sometimes, though, responsibility avoidance goes pear shaped: The Governor attracts an argument from Donald Trump about it because, you know, California is burning. Then, decisions avoided must be clumsily disappeared.

Back to the Propublica article:

“[P]lanning a prescribed burn is cumbersome. A wildfire is categorized as an emergency, meaning firefighters pull down hazard pay and can drive a bulldozer into a protected wilderness area where regulations typically prohibit mountain bikes. Planned burns are human-made events and as such need to follow all environmental compliance rules. That includes the Clean Air Act, which limits the emission of PM 2.5, or fine particulate matter, from human-caused events. In California, those rules are enforced by CARB, the state’s mighty air resources board, and its local affiliates. “I’ve talked to many prescribed fire managers, particularly in the Sierra Nevada over the years, who’ve told me, ‘Yeah, we’ve spent thousands and thousands of dollars to get all geared up to do a prescribed burn,’ and then they get shut down.” Maybe there’s too much smog that day from agricultural emissions in the Central Valley, or even too many locals complain that they don’t like smoke [Ed: Well how do you like the smoke you’ve got now?]. Reforms after the epic 2017 and 2018 fire seasons led to some loosening of the CARB/prescribed fire rules, but we still have a long way to go.”

It’s natural to want the beauty of nature to go undisturbed. In California it’s become natural to assume man’s limited mastery of nature is sufficient to create a wildfire safe space through the power of imagination. And you might well believe this if you aspire to effect a global change in the composition of the atmosphere from your San Francisco penthouse by forcing rolling blackouts on the unwashed.

The chemistry of fire is an objective fact, which probably makes it patriarchal and colonialist. Still, It Burns.

One thing we can say is that the extent of California wildfires have an anthropogenic origin. We can name names.

Update: 11:35AM, Sep. 16th
Sorry, solar panels won’t stop California’s fires

According to Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, climate change isn’t the issue in California’s wildfire problem.

Lomberg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, Cool It, How to Spend $75 Billion to Make the World a Better Place, and False Alarm, is a “lukewarmer”.

Lomborg thinks global warming is real, man-made, and a serious problem, which can be and needs to be tackled. But he disputes that it is an existential risk, or indeed our biggest challenge.“.

In other words:

“[C]limate alarm causes nothing but anxiety and bad policies, arguing we can do better with smarter solutions to the problem…. If climate change really could end the world, then perhaps this alarmism might be warranted, but that is simply not the case.“.

Climate change panic policy today boils down to limiting access to cheap energy, (women, children, and the poor hit hardest) and promoting alternative energy sources (subsidizing Warren Buffets windmills- he should pay more taxes by foregoing the subsidies). Since energy = wealth, opposing zero-emission nuclear power tells you all you need to know about the actual motives of Big Green.

The mills grind slowly

“Thus, I do not see what use there is in those mills of the gods said to grind so late as to render punishment hard to be recognized, and to make wickedness fearless.”
-Plutarch

Sometimes it is hard to immediately distinguish good intentions from wicked fearlessness. Whirlwinds may be reaped either way.

I recommend this Megan McCardle article, California has difficult choices to make. Its politicians keep avoiding reality. for its summation of the fearless irrationality of California’s energy policies.

I’d suggest it’s even worse than McCardle thinks. If California power generation becomes 100% renewable the problem becomes intractable even assuming a miracle.

So, let us first assume the miracle: Elon Musk invents a method of burying all California’s electric transmission lines for a few dollars per mile – by combining Tesla’s impeccably capable self-driving software with a fleet of miniature Boring Machines powered by his SolarCity solar panels and ultra-stable batteries. Power lines are thereby quickly made safe from the danger of sparking wildfires. Only a few of the machines spontaneously combust or crash into underground gas lines. Which are, in any case, being phased out. Santa Ana blackouts are a thing of the past.

Next, assume that Governors Brown and Newsom, the California legislature, and the envirostatists pushing 100% renewable electricity generation accomplish their objective, and that 50% of that renewable power is generated by windmills, since it’s only sensible not to depend entirely on solar panels, even if Elon Musk donates the entire output of SolarCity for a decade.

We will not go so far as to assume the Santa Ana winds simply cease to blow, however. Those winds are above the windmill cut out speed and will necessitate shutting down the windmills when the Santa Ana blow.

California blackouts, when the wind doesn’t blow and when it blows too much, would become a permanent, designed in, feature of the grid.

The powerless watch their homes burn

Of course, you’ve already heard this joke:
Question: What did socialists use for light before candles?
Answer: Electricity.

Millions of Californians probably don’t think that’s funny.

California is trending ‘third world.’ There’s syringes and human feces scattered all over San Francisco sidewalks, lice and rats infest Los Angeles municipal buildings with an associated return of medieval diseases like typhus, water is periodically rationed due to deliberate political inaction, there’s sky-high regressive sales and gasoline taxation, homelessness is quadruple, and poverty is triple the per capita rate of the rest of America, and California has the fourth highest income inequality of all states.

But even that’s not chaos enough for the California Democrat-super-majority politburo.
California is ‘winning’ its way into the Stone Age

California has experienced a rash of costly wildfires due to irresponsible State stewardship of forest lands through which run electrical transmission lines improperly maintained by State regulated-monopolies.

This confluence of ill-advised State policies is forcing those State controlled corporations to cut power to millions of Californians when the wind blows strongly.

Californians pay the highest electricity rates in the continental United States. In part, because California is forcing its electricity companies to fund windmills (which can’t operate in such high winds) via a mandate of 100 percent electrical power generation from ‘renewable’ (excluding nuclear and hydroelectric) sources by 2045. Idled windmills notwithstanding, millions of customers can’t buy power now at any price.

This is a result of central planning. The sort favored by Liz “I have a plan” Warren, Bernie “I don’t have to say how we’ll pay for it” Sanders, and the rest of the Dem presidential wannabe drove.

Exemplifying California’s philosopher king approach, California’s previous Governor vetoed a bill that would have reduced fire risk by prioritizing the clearing of trees and brush dangerously close to power lines.

California’s current Governor blames “dog-eat-dog capitalism” for the state’s current wildfire blackout crisis. Is that code for “the accumulated burden of State malfeasance“? He can’t mean capitalism, given State direction of the power companies’ business plans. Apparently, the Governor is unfamiliar with the actual economic system that implies. And he can’t even make the train projects run on time.

Both those .gov gentlemen have been otherwise occupied with pouring $10.7 billion, of the $6 billion budgeted, into the first 119-mile stretch of their bullet train to nowhere project. And the $64 billion budget for the total project looks to be way low based on current cost projections of $113 billion – and rising. Maybe they should have trimmed some bushes and buried some power lines instead.

The Governors also reached a consensus that rising CO2 levels are responsible for the fires. Even as the preventable fires spew vast amounts of CO2; negating reductions from the windmills and bullet trains.

Ironically, reducing CO2 emissions is how they justified all those poor policy decisions. Even though a zero-emissions California would have no discernible effect on climate according to the IPCC.

Why does California prattle futilely about dubious future risks beyond their control rather than deal with what they could control: Mitigating the obvious, immediate risks of wildfire and blackouts? Because, vague existential threats are politically superior to mundane good governance when your object is heroic virtue signaling.

Never waste a crisis, especially if you’ve created it.

Update: 1:20PM
Recommended reading for Governors Brown and Newsom:
Escape from model land

Dark side of the Moonbeam

California Governor Jerry Brown:

Never underestimate the coercive power of the central state in the service of good.

Or evil, Governor Brown, you oh so Superior Man.

Meanwhile, California Climate Policies Chilling Housing Growth.

And, Can California Be Saved? I know which way I’d bet.