Summer has begun and millions of tourists will soon be swarming San Francisco, Napa, Big Sur, and other California scenic wonders. I welcome these guests (providing they don’t decide to move here), but I’m honor bound to share a secret California’s tourism bureau wants to keep quiet. For some tourists, the most memorable part of their Golden State visits will be experiencing life in the Middle Ages.

As certain as death and taxes, there’s going to be significant power outages throughout a good part of the state that’s “served” by a company known as Pacific Gas and Electric. No, Starkman Approved has not yet gone full California and become an astrologer. I know about the outages because PG&E disclosed them in a recent envelope stuffer it sent to its customers.

The bankrupt utility this summer is sponsoring “The Public Safety Power Shutoff,” a sweepstakes where some unlucky PG&E customers will experience sudden power outages, some lasting “longer than 48 hours.” Even customers who do not live in areas with high winds or other extreme weather conditions will get to participate because PG&E’s power lines are like a fine-tuned orchestra “working together to provide electricity.”

Some of these power lines were installed in the 1920s and PG&E mistakenly assumed that electric transmission wires are like a fine wine that gets better with age. The company didn’t inspect them regularly or think to upgrade, and possibly bury, power lines that transverse areas that are highly susceptible to wildfires. Pretty surprising given that PG&E is based in San Francisco where some of the world’s greatest technology minds are congregated. Unfortunately, none of those minds seem to find their way to PG&E.

As you can imagine, when electrical and gas distribution are entrusted to a dim wattage management, bad things can happen, like death and destruction. PG&E admits it’s “probable” the company’s equipment was responsible for the Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in California history which killed at least 86 people and destroyed thousands of homes and structures.  The company was convicted of six felonies for negligence that contributed to a 2010 gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people in suburban San Francisco. Listing PG&E’s entire litany of wrongdoings would consume too much of your device’s memory.

Former PG&E CEO Geisha Williams

The felony conviction was as much as a deterrent as would be convicting a mafia family for wrongdoing without sentencing any of its members to prison.  The mob analogy is apt because PG&E’s modus operandi is akin to how organized crime functions.

If you own a restaurant in New Jersey and two guys named Tony and Vito show up unannounced and express concern about something happening to your establishment, it’s good business to sign up for their security and garbage collection services and not question the costs.  

PG&E’s rates must be approved by California’s Public Utilities Commission, which like a New Jersey restaurant owner isn’t going to take on a goon-like company that supplies electricity and gas to 16 million voters, many of whom voted for the Governor responsible for appointing PUC commissioners to their cushy positions. It’s a relationship right out of the Sopranos. The former head of the PUC is known to have shared “two good bottles of Pinot” at his Sonoma vacation home with former PG&E officials.

You see, what PG&E lacks in technical smarts it more than makes up for in PR savvy. The company last year spent $10 million on lobbying, roughly double what comparably sized Southern California Edison spent.

Governor Gavin Newsom

Governor Newsom’s campaign received $208,400 of PG&E largess. PG&E contributed $150,000 to a special San Francisco fund for a centennial City Hall birthday celebration. Former Mayor Ed Lee declared PG&E, “a great local company who gets it.” According to a recent report by San Francisco’s Public Utilities Commission, PG&E has been ripping off the city for decades.

California, whose emission standards are higher than the EPA’s, wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels within 11 years. Yet this summer, many state hospitals, hotels, restaurants, and countless residents will be relying on diesel backup generators for their power, whose emission rates rival or exceed those from the highest emitting natural gas-fired generators. Restaurants and residents without generators will suffer considerable food spoilage and San Francisco’s millionaires won’t be able to charge their Teslas. How comical that managing climate change is the cornerstone of the Democrat’s 2020 campaign message.

PG&E is the product of an entrenched one-party state with a moribund media and a beaten-up populace that has come to regard PG&E’s incompetence and wrongdoing as the natural order of things, just like earthquakes. PG&E customers have no standing during the company’s bankruptcy proceedings, and with their elected officials beholden to PG&E, they’ve effectively been disenfranchised.

Therein lies the silver lining for countless tourists visiting California this summer. They literally will get to experience how Democracy Dies in Darkness.