Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Mess in California

The power outage in California is making a mess of some people's lives.

  • a woman had to spend the night in her wheelchair because her special air mattress with circulating air to avoid pressure wounds deflated. She thought the outage wasn't going to happen to the next day.
  • a man with COPD who relies on an oxygen generator was feeling congested and short of breath.
  • a paraplegic with a bone disease that requires a powered wheelchair, and a pump to keep blood circulating in his legs, said he won't be able to withstand a few hours without power. “I can’t be moving around too much because my wheelchair will die within a couple hours.”
This seems especially believable:
Napa resident Gina Biter-Mundt said that’s a common problem among people who have health issues — they lack the mobility or the money to prepare appropriately, even if they are well informed.
But the article does say "there had been no reports of individuals in immediate danger due to the outages."

Cost estimates range from $65 M to $2.5 B, though some economists say it's not calculable. PG&E has no plans to reimburse anyone.

To the extent climate change is involved in this -- deeper drought perhaps, hotter temperatures and hotter win -- this might open some eyes. Perhaps Hurricane Katrina did as well, and maybe Hurricane Maria and this year's Hurricane Humberto in the Bermudas and 40 inches of rain dumped onto Houston -- twice in three years. This is an interesting thought:
“It’s not worth the risk to them,” Alan Scheller-Wolf said about PG&E’s decision to preemptively shut off power. He said the utility “might be signaling to the powers that be that the business environment of providing power to people is fundamentally changing and they need help adjusting to it.”


David in Cal said...

I hope people do not relate this to climate change, because I believe that climate change is at most a tiny part of the cause. I want people to focus on the bigger problems, whatever they are.


Layzej said...

Is privatizing distribution part of the problem? If so, the Liberal government in Ontario may have set us down a similar path by selling off majority share in the formerly crown corporation that managed distribution.

It seems like privatizing generation makes good sense, but is there any hope of a competitive market for distribution? Is there any case where folks can switch between providers?

I'm gung ho for free market solutions, but how does it make sense in this case?

David Appell said...

"This Is What Adapting to Climate Change Looks Like: PG&E’s blackouts in California are a bleak preview of the disruptions that will become routine in a warmer world," Robinson Meyer, 10/11/19.

David in Cal said...

Layzej -- Luckily I'm in the flatland, and not affected by the blackout. But, parts of San Mateo County, where I live, are affected. Much of California's forest land is managed by the State of California. I also doubt that free market solutions are possible, although I don't have the expertise to suggest any remedies.


David Appell said...

Carbon Brief on the links between climate change and wildfires:

* "As one scientist tells Carbon Brief: “There is no question whatsoever that climate plays a role in the increase in fires.”"

* "Today, wildfires are burning more than twice the area than in the 1980s and 1990s."

* "In a 2006 paper published in Science, Prof Anthony Westerling at the University of California, Merced and colleagues examined the relationship between climate conditions and large forest fire frequency. They found that, while land-use history and “fuel-loading” – the amount of accumulated burnable vegetation – were important factors for specific forest areas, “the broad-scale increase in wildfire frequency across the western US has been driven primarily by sensitivity of fire regimes to recent changes in climate over a relatively large area”.... Westerling identified a clear link between changes in temperature, length of fire season and areas burned over time."

* "A recent 2016 paper in PNAS by Prof John Abatzogloua at the University of Idaho and Prof A Park Williams at Columbia University found an even stronger relationship between forest fire area and fuel aridity – a combination of temperature and precipitation – in the western US."

David in Cal said...

Will be great if it pans out:

"A patent filed by the U.S. Navy last month claims to have developed a compact Nuclear Fusion Reactor."


JoeT said...

DiC, the patent is gibberish and the PM article is amateurish. The article links to a video which isn’t bad. ITER is the mainstream approach to fusion, but it won’t get anywhere close to a Q of 10 until the late 2030s. That path won’t bring fusion online until late in the century. If you’re interested in a more aggressive approach, keep an eye out for the MIT group and Commonwealth Fusion Systems. They are a legitimate group — I know some of them —- but that’s no guarantee it will work.