Wildfires in California emitting more CO2 annually than cars

According to the Cal Fire Current Year Statistics reported on their fire.ca.gov web page, the Combined 2020 Year-to-Date CAL FIRE & U.S. Forest Service (in California) acreage burned, as of 31 August is 1,666,286. 

There have been an extremely high number of lightning strikes this year. 

In 2018, the "Camp Fire Creek" fire in Paradise, California resulted in 85 deaths.  The origin of the fire was placed on a downed electrical transmission line.  Pacific Gas & Electric was deemed culpable since their power lines were 68 years old, and the average lifespan is supposedly 65 years.  Little was said about government policies of allowing the "fuel for these fires" to accumulate rather than maintaining a proper cleared transmission line right-of-way to avoid such fires. 

Total acreage burned in California that year was 1,671,203.  With the current fires raging now and others when the dry Santa Ana winds hit soon, 2018's record will be surpassed easily.


Skies over San Francisco during wildfires, Sept. 9, 2020.

Before the Camp Fire Creek fire struck, Governor Jerry Brown was elated to sign into law the most ambitious "Green New Deal" legislation imaginable.  Renewable power source generation (not including hydropower) must be 50% in 2025, 60% by 2030%, and 100% by 2045.  All of this is the result of the global warming religion high priests and priestesses.  Examples are Leo DiCaprio and George Clooney, who jet around the globe or cruise in their yachts powered by fossil fuel while they preach to us mere mortals to stop eating that Big Mac because upstream, you know, that cow had flatulence.

Here is a map of the current California solar field locations:

Here's an image of the current wind farm locations in the U.S. and their relationship to propensity of wildfires:

I have to share an anecdote here first.  In early May 1980, I drove two friends from the Alaska State Department of Environmental Conservation from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay up the Dalton Highway that parallels the Trans Alaska Pipeline System.  I was working for the large engineering and construction firm that was managing the development of a gas pipeline from Prudhoe Bay through Canada to the Lower 48 states.  Our sole purpose was to check out a couple of gas compressor sites since visual impact assessment was high on the list of no-nos.  The occasional trucker or moose, bear, wolf, caribou, wolverine, etc. was the only creature besides operators who were going to see these stations.  So what raced through my mind when I was having breakfast with my wife on the hotel balcony in Maui a few years ago when I looked across the bay and saw a wind farm dotting the hillside?

The maps' precision may not give much credence to my point, but solar fields and wind farms in California aren't located in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego, or other urban areas.  They are located in lower–population density areas, mostly due to energy source location; land costs; and, I imagine, NIMBY syndrome.  Why is this important?  No, it is not to show the hypocrisy of the regional global warming priests.  The intermittent power from these green energy sites needs to be directed to step-up transformers then to high power transmission lines that drop the voltage down in a couple of steps to get distributed to the end user, especially those virtue-signaling folks who pat themselves on the back for driving "clean" electric cars.  Do you know how much power is lost from generation through transmission and distribution lines to the end user?  According to Schneider Electric Blog (blog.se.com), overall losses are from 8% to 15%.  Schneider Electric is a leading manufacturer of electric power equipment and components.  The longer the distances, the more the losses.

Now more to the point of this article.  Clive M. Countryman of the USDA Forest Service published an article in December 1982 titled, "Physical Characteristics of Some Northern California Brush Fuels."  Clive set up plots to grow typical species of brush to measure their qualities of fuel.  He classified the low-lying brush as litter and taller items as "standing."  The litter averaged between 3.02 and 22.13 dry tons per acre.  The relationship between litter and standing was that litter averaged between 16.4% and 54.1% of standing material.  Not all wildfires are purely brush.  Neither are they all forested.  For the sake of argument, let's use the mean for litter dry tons per acre (12.58) and the mean for the relationship of litter to standing (35.2%).  Again, in order not to get too far into the weeds, I am going to make a very broad assumption that the fuel is cellulose, the primary component of trees.  Once you do the math it basically boils down to that a ton of cellulose emits 1.63 tons of carbon dioxide.

Since California has lost nearly 1.67 million acres to wildfires through August 31 this year and based on the assumptions above, about 131.2 million tons of carbon dioxide have been emitted to the environment in eight months due to wildfires.  California had 15.1 million vehicles registered in 2018.  Assume all are fuel burning for this exercise.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, fossil fueled cars emit 4.6 metric tons per year (22 mpg and 11,500 miles driven per year basis).  That means California cars emit 76.4 million tons (not metric) of carbon dioxide annually.  California is on a track to double the annual emissions of vehicles by wildfires in 2020.  How many of those virtue-signaling electric car drivers have demanded a return to clearing brush from power line rights of way or plowing money into upgrading those power lines versus building new intermittent sources of "green" power.  I am waiting for the big day of reckoning when a million electric vehicle owners have to chuck their highly toxic batteries and replace them.  What's the average life?  Isn't it about seven (7) years?

Currently about 20% of electric power produced in California is by intermittent wind and solar power contrasted by 43% via natural gas (turbine generators) per the California Energy Commission.  When will voters of California wake up to the fact that replacing natural gas turbine generating power plants with wind and solar is a no-win proposition?  In the meantime, you will have governors like Newsom who will stall fracking and let power prices continue to escalate like some former pResident said he was going to do to the coal industry.  California is already preparing us for a region without oil.  Reinforced concrete paving is great for interstate highways.  It is also very expensive.  Get rid of oil and where do you get the bitumen (asphalt) to build and/or repair roads?  California has one of the highest taxes on gasoline.  It certainly isn't going in to road repairs.  Maybe it goes for a stealth salon fund for Auntie Nancy.

Photo montages by Monica Showalter created with use of screen shots from shareable YouTube videos posted by Chave Weather Daily Videos, and Angkel Lee.

Map images from U.S. Geological Survey, public domain.