Tens of thousands of acres scorched by unstoppable wildfires.
Thousands of people evacuated from their homes near San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Electricity shut off to millions to prevent hurricane-strength Santa Ana winds from downing transmission wires and starting new fires.
Wildfire season in California makes headlines every year, but it’s nothing unnatural and nothing new.
It’s been a cruel fact of nature up and down the once Golden State since before I was born.
When I was growing up my father had a ranch near Malibu. We had some wildfires out there, but what got burned were barns, stables and lots of grass and bushes.
But around the 1970s the building boom came and tens of thousands of people moved into places like West Lake Village and the Simi Valley, where a grassfire threatened the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library earlier this week.
So today, what gets burned down in wildfire season isn’t just a barn or two – it’s peoples’ expensive homes.
It’s a recurring tragedy. I feel terrible for the people who lose their homes in wildfires.
Everyone likes to blame the recent wildfires on Pacific Gas & Electric, the private gas-and-electric utility that has the monopoly to provide power to the central and northern parts of the state.
PG&E is plenty guilty.
Its downed power lines and exploding transformers have started several major fires, including the destructive and deadly Camp Fire last year north of San Francisco, which is why the company has declared bankruptcy.
PG&E’s got billions in legal claims to pay off, which is why the state gave it permission to raise its electricity rates, though they are already some of the highest in the U.S.
Like most regulated monopolies that are protected for decades by government from competition, PG&E is a poorly run, inefficient and antiquated company that charges customers higher and higher prices and provides lousier and lousier service.
What’s worse, the company has been forced by the Democrats who run this one-party state to do a lot of really dumb things for environmental or politically correct reasons.
Instead of, say, spending the money to put powerlines underground decades ago or upgrading its transmission equipment, the company has had to blow billions on solar panels and other forms of green energy.
Other green policies mandated by the state have prevented PG&E from clearing enough trees and brush away from their powerlines to prevent fires.
Meanwhile, poor forestry management by governments has left gigantic amounts of wood and undergrowth that make wildfires bigger, more destructive and impossible to control.
Because the state has given PG&E and smaller power companies monopolies over their regions, energy consumers like me get screwed again and again.
Unlike lucky citizens living in more sensible states like Pennsylvania, we have no energy choices. We pay whatever the monopolies and their political friends in Sacramento tell us we have to pay.
Keeping the electricity, gas and water on in my 4,300-square-foot house in the San Fernando Valley, for example, costs me about $1,500 a month – the same as my mortgage.
About $400 of my bill goes to underwrite the cost of water and power for those who can’t afford to pay for their own.
California, which has been putting the Green New Deal into practice long before AOC thought of it, is becoming like a Third World country.
Thanks to our idiotic politicians, we have tens of thousands of homeless people and drug users living in tents on the streets of our beautiful cities.
We can’t manage or market our water supply fairly or sensibly. We can’t produce energy that’s affordable, reliable or safe.
And after all these years we still can’t prevent wildfires from burning down our homes.
Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a political consultant and an author.