Utility blaming climate change, not its fallen power lines, for California wildfires

My cable news viewing is frequently interrupted by commercials instructing Northern Californians that climate change is responsible for the state's current ordeal with multiple large wildfires.  This is a contemptible attempt by utilities to evade responsibility for the damages caused by their power lines located near combustible forests (made much more combustible by policies preventing harvesting "old growth" and clearing deadwood).

Mark Chediak of Bloomberg has also spotted the con game (my term, not his):

Authorities don't yet know the cause of some of the fires, but the region's giant utility, PG&E Corp., sees a culprit at work – climate change.  The blazes in recent years, it said, are the latest example of how global warming has produced unusually hot, dry conditions that spawn more frequent and intense fires.  "Climate change is no longer coming, it's here," Geisha Williams, chief executive officer of PG&E, said in an email.  "And we are living with it every day."

Scientists tend to agree with that assessment.  But California's biggest utility has an especially compelling reason to link the fires to the environment.  State investigators have tied PG&E equipment, such as trees hitting power lines, to some of the blazes in October that in total destroyed nearly 9,000 structures and killed 44 people.  It faces damage liabilities totaling as much as $17 billion, and possible financial ruin – its stock is down about 37 percent since the fires – unless Williams can convince California lawmakers that the company's problem is, in fact, a climate change problem.

A 2013 California wildfire (photo credit: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture).

It may be time to update Dr. Johnson's famous adage, "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel."  Since patriotism is in such short supply in California, climate change is now the last refuge of scoundrels.

My cable news viewing is frequently interrupted by commercials instructing Northern Californians that climate change is responsible for the state's current ordeal with multiple large wildfires.  This is a contemptible attempt by utilities to evade responsibility for the damages caused by their power lines located near combustible forests (made much more combustible by policies preventing harvesting "old growth" and clearing deadwood).

Mark Chediak of Bloomberg has also spotted the con game (my term, not his):

Authorities don't yet know the cause of some of the fires, but the region's giant utility, PG&E Corp., sees a culprit at work – climate change.  The blazes in recent years, it said, are the latest example of how global warming has produced unusually hot, dry conditions that spawn more frequent and intense fires.  "Climate change is no longer coming, it's here," Geisha Williams, chief executive officer of PG&E, said in an email.  "And we are living with it every day."

Scientists tend to agree with that assessment.  But California's biggest utility has an especially compelling reason to link the fires to the environment.  State investigators have tied PG&E equipment, such as trees hitting power lines, to some of the blazes in October that in total destroyed nearly 9,000 structures and killed 44 people.  It faces damage liabilities totaling as much as $17 billion, and possible financial ruin – its stock is down about 37 percent since the fires – unless Williams can convince California lawmakers that the company's problem is, in fact, a climate change problem.

A 2013 California wildfire (photo credit: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture).

It may be time to update Dr. Johnson's famous adage, "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel."  Since patriotism is in such short supply in California, climate change is now the last refuge of scoundrels.