Fire Season in California


Back in the early ’80s, Mrs. Hoge and I lived in Thousand Oaks, California. While we were there, a substantial (100,000+ acre) fire burned through the Los Padres National Forest 20 or so miles north of us. We went up to a hill on the north side of town to take a look at the fire. The crest of the hills on the far side of the Santa Clarita River Valley was a solid line of red and orange, dark smoke covered the sky, and ash driven by the strong winds was falling on us. Connie turned to me and said, “Mordor.”

Many of California’s natural ecosystems evolved with fire. Indeed, some native plants’ seeds won’t germinate until exposed to the heat of a brush fire. Wrongheaded resource management practices have led to too much brush accumulating at once, and the resulting fires are larger and more disastrous than occurred when the land was unmanaged.

It may be hard to evacuate if your only vehicle is a Tesla and PGE has turned off the power.

I’m So Old …


… I remember when people (including my wife and me) moved to California because it was a place full of opportunities for growth. I also remember watching those opportunities slip away as the state became more tightly regulated. Eventually, Mrs. Hoge and I slipped away as well.

Of course, there’s nothing particularly special about California’s politicians and bureaucrats other than the size of the bureaucracy. They function with a typical level of incompetence. It’s no surprise to me that a state with significant energy resources is facing power blackouts because it has mismanaged its forests and energy production and distribution systems.

If you live in a well-managed state and you’d like a preview of a tightly regulated economy looks like, look at California. If you’re a one-percenter or the right kind of bureaucratic professional, you may like it. Otherwise, …

Afterthought— I used the term one-percenter in the paragraph above. That can refer to either an outlaw motorcycle gang member or a member of the wealthy elite. Either meaning works in that sentence.

As Green Fades to Black


Pacific Gas & Electric is seriously looking at power blackouts this summer. Bloomberg reports that

A plan by California’s biggest utility to cut power on high-wind days during the onrushing wildfire season could plunge millions of residents into darkness. And most people aren’t ready.

The plan by PG&E Corp. comes after the bankrupt utility said a transmission line that snapped in windy weather probably started last year’s Camp Fire, the deadliest in state history. While the plan may end one problem, it creates another as Californians seek ways to deal with what some fear could be days and days of blackouts.

Some residents are turning to other power sources, a boon for home battery systems marketed by Sunrun Inc., Tesla Inc. and Vivint Solar Inc. But the numbers of those systems in use are relatively small when compared with PG&E’s 5.4 million customers.

Read the whole thing. And if you’re in California, buy candles and a generator.

That’s Not a Bug, It’s a Feature


Joel Kotkin has a piece over at City Journal about the failure of the California high-speed rail project. Reality has finally set in, and the new governor is pulling the plug on the wasteful endeavor which has been emblematic of the state’s elite class’s mismanagement of their fellow citizens’ subjects’ lives.

Some greens and train enthusiasts, such as the deep-blue Los Angeles Times editorial board, have criticized Newsom’s move, and others remain adamant in their support of the plane-to-train trope. But California, which has embarked on its own Green New Deal of sorts, has seen these results:  high energy and housing costs, and the nation’s highest cost-adjusted poverty rate, and a society that increasingly resembles a feudal social order. Attempts to refashion global climate in one state reflects either a peculiarly Californian hubris or a surfeit of revolutionary zeal.

It was the early warning signs of the attempt by rich Progressives who were certain that they knew better to take over California and make it in their own image that led Mrs. Hoge and me to move out of the state in 1990. Being in the upper 5-% of the income spectrum was clearly going to be insufficient to allow for protection from the coming changes. Indeed, it made us prime targets of upper-middle-class “wealth” to be taxed. We joined the first cohort of economic refugees.

California is now becoming a feudal society with rich Progressives and Democrat politicians at the top, a growing class of serfs at the bottom, and a disappearing middle-class. That’s fine for the folks at the top. For now. But it can’t and won’t be stable, and that instability isn’t a bug. It’s a Real World feature resulting from the Laws of Thermodynamics. What can’t go on forever, won’t go on forever.