Robert Wolaver: Enough with short-term thinking on PG&E’s fire prevention | TheUnion.com

Robert Wolaver: Enough with short-term thinking on PG&E’s fire prevention

Other Voices
Robert Wolaver

John Hiscox’s letter to the editor pointed out one of mankind’s most serious faults, short-term thinking.

PG&E, rather than provide electricity in our forests to its customers through safe underground transmission lines, chose to go the cheaper and damage prone above ground route. Short-term thinking. Several of the commenters responded with short-term thinking, suggesting that the cost to do so is too great and they are more interested in paying less for their electricity than the safety of those that they love. Short-term thinking.

Underground utilities are expensive. However, what was the cost of the Camp Fire? $16,500,000,000, (that’s billions, not millions), 85 human lives, loss of property, countless animals, the forest, and all of the suffering that has and will occur for many years, loss of insurance or exorbitant rate increases for many.

Trimming the trees and shutting off power for days during “high wind” days, real or imaginary, only add to the expense, create a major inconvenience at the least and has possible serious consequences, while not truly eliminating the threat. I’ve witnessed the 100-foot wide clearings that PG&E has created to prevent tree branches from falling onto the above ground transmission lines. Looks great, but the trees on either side are at least 100 feet tall and could easily fall onto the lines during a high wind event. Suppose PG&E had spent the money to put the transmission lines that criss cross our forests underground. Certainly more expensive than above ground, but a lot less than the figures on PG&E’s website which are for complex urban areas and meant to persuade its customers away from safer underground and a whole lot less than the costs of the Camp Fire.

So, I ask of those that say that underground is too costly, what are you willing to lose in order to have a “cheaper” electric bill? What is your property worth, how do you value your pets, how much is the life of your loved ones worth?

Put it down on paper and get back to me. I’m curious as to what is more important to you.

Also, in 1992, Hurricane Iniki passed directly over the island of Kauai. My wife, her elder father and two aunts hunkered down in our utility room waiting for the storm to pass. Practically every power pole on the island came down, in many cases, falling across the only highway preventing rescue efforts. Crews had to be brought in from many parts of the mainland to help reset new poles. Why? Because it was too expensive to go underground. We lost our power on Sept. 11, 1992, and it was not returned until the day before Thanksgiving, seven weeks.

So the next time a major hurricane hits Kauai, short-term thinking!

Robert Wolaver lives in Grass Valley.


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