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Electricity Hell, Part Deux – Econlib


I have been less active in responding to comments since the evening of March 9. The reason is that at 7 p.m. our power went out and wasn’t restored until March 11 at 9 p.m. Then it went out again from March 13 at 9:30 a.m. to who knows when. I’m writing this at 3 p.m. March 17 and it’s supposed to come on again late on the evening of March 18. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Why does this happen? A huge element is nature. Another huge element is government.

First, nature. We have a lot of trees with fairly shallow roots. The ground they are in has been softened by rain that is approximately double the amount we normally get by this point in the season. Then we get wind, with or without rain, that blows the trees down on the electric wires. Then a power outage.

There are two possible solutions. First, put the wires underground as is happening very slowly in California. Second, cut down the trees before this happens.

Now to the second factor, government. Unfortunately, there is a vocal lobby of citizens who believe that as long as trees aren’t diseased, they shouldn’t be cut. They persuade local governments not to allow home owners or Pacific Gas & Electric to cut down healthy trees. It’s because of these citizens’ power that a tree blew over in Pacific Grove (the city I live in) about 10 years ago and killed an elderly woman. Her survivors sued and won approximately $1 million.

Ah, you say, but then wouldn’t that have caused citizens to change their tune and not oppose more cutting of healthy trees when they endanger people or could blow over onto electric wires. But if you ask that, you don’t know Californians, or at least a vocal segment of Californians.

I think it was after the tree fell and killed the elderly woman that the city government of Pacific Grove hired a forester who came here from Wisconsin. Sounds like a good move, right? One of his first actions was to go around the city looking at city owned property and coming up with a list of trees to be cut. If I recall correctly, the goal he was tasked with was to reduce the probability of future trees falling and killing or injuring people. His list was presented at a city council meeting. Many citizens got up to speak to oppose the cutting of this or that tree.

The guy was probably pretty smart and could see where his career as a forester was likely to go in Pacific Grove. The very next morning, the city manager came into his office and found the forester’s letter of resignation. It said words to this effect: “I’m resigning because Pacific Grove has lots of foresters.”

Rayna Prime

Rayna Prime

Rayna Prime Editor