Progressives and America's New Dark Ages in California

Progressives and America's New Dark Ages in California
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536 AD is often pointed to as the worst year in human history. A volcanic eruption in Iceland darkened the skies over Europe, triggered massive food shortages and the Black Death, and brought on the Dark Ages, an agonizing period for humanity.

But today’s hyperactive progressives in American politics will not let that record stand. They’re not going to give ground to some obscure volcano and people in thatched huts. Their policies aim to create an even better “New Dark Ages,” with full accompaniment of darkness, disease, food shortage and disaster. 

Witness today’s California. Pacific Gas and Electric has adopted the habit of preemptively turning off power to large swaths of northern California because predictable and not-uncommon wind and weather might bring down their old poles and infrastructure and trigger wildfires. Seen from space, California might be confused with Venezuela at night. (I would, parenthetically, note that a cursory look at the “power outage map” suggests a certain gerrymandering where the home neighborhoods of most of the powerful Democratic national, county and city political leadership of San Francisco and the Peninsula are unaffected by the outage.)

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Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin Christopher NewsomThe Hill's Morning Report - Wild Wednesday: Sondland testimony, Dem debate take center stage California to stop buying from automakers that backed Trump in emissions battle California governor sets special election to replace Katie Hill MORE is, predictably, pointing his finger-of-blame at PG&E management for favoring “profits over people,” in not properly maintaining its infrastructure to deal with predictable weather events. To some degree, he has a point. The only job of the utility’s management is to provide continuous power to homes, businesses and local governments. That means building and maintaining distribution systems that work well in highly predictable situations without creating blackouts or burning down half the state. Yet Californians — who pay high utility rates, not to mention high taxes to subsidize “alternative” energy — are left sitting in the dark.

But there is a more malicious villain in the story and it is Sacramento and Washington, D.C. For the past couple of decades, California state and local governments have mandated targets for “renewable” energy. Utilities have responded with solar and wind energy systems that now scar deserts, valleys and hillsides across the state. At the current state of technology, these produce energy several times as expensive as fossil fuels: e.g., cleaner-burning natural gas, which California has in abundance. 

Faced with a higher cost of energy, and rate commissions and consumers resistant to huge price increases, utility management faces a challenge to develop and maintain expensive new power distribution systems, which consumers won’t pay for; or risk igniting wildfires from poor infrastructure; or shut off power and ignore the squawking. The answer from all guilty bureaucrats, suddenly faced with the Law of Unintended Consequences: consumers can live in the dark. Food markets closed, no fuel for cars (including Teslas), health care compromised, no schools, reduced phone service, reduced emergency services, no internet, cold homes. Regression to primitive times — how cool is that?

And all guilty progressive politicians, faced with the Law of Unintended Consequences: blame “greedy companies.”

Now, some will quickly add that drought conditions also are responsible for the wildfires and loss of lives and property. But there are holes in that argument. Wildfires are not new to California and there are strategies for anticipating and mitigating them. Forest and land management to reduce the degree of dead trees and other fuel is important — the California legislature undercut these programs under the banner of “nature preservation.” 

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Zoning can help, but California has allowed major development and housing density in wildfire zones and near forested areas, a situation that can both cause fires and dramatically increase the property damage during fires. 

Finally, bizarre California water policies. During the height of the recent drought, Sacramento dumped over 1 trillion gallons of fresh water into the Sacramento Delta — water that could have gone to homes, farms and businesses, irrigated land and mitigated fires. The water was wasted to avoid disturbing the habitat of one small fish that may not even exist. Gov. Newsom should be pointing his finger squarely at himself and the radical progressives around him.

Which brings us to the Green New Deal. No reputable scientist, anywhere, has predicted that “the world will end in 10 years.” Only the most ignorant or cynical politician would say that and then demand a full upheaval of the U.S. economy. In fact, no serious scientist has predicted the world will end in the next 200 or even 2,000 years. And many have pointed out that the Green New Deal is unaffordable, would destroy our standard of living, make food more scarce and expensive, and put us in the dark. 

Radical progressives now populate Congress, state legislatures and local governments, and the Democratic primary race for president. They do not understand, or don’t care about, the Law of Unintended Consequences; have no idea how economic and business systems work to create prosperity and a good life for all Americans; and, therefore, they casually advance policies that could lead in only one direction: societal collapse and the New Dark Ages. 

Need a preview? Come to northern California, and bring a flashlight.

Grady Means is a writer and former corporate strategy consultant. He served in the White House as a policy assistant to Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. Follow him on Twitter @GradyMeans.