TodayOctober 15, 2021

Safety or money – which would you take?

Big energy versus local energy

I was coming home from Miami via Washington DC the other day. Next to me was a lawyer working on creating organized electric communities. Most of her work was on the East Coast, but she worked on PG&E as well.

I am a resident of Northern California. This summer, for six days, we had our electricity turned off. It was a decision made by PG&E, but I agreed with them.
Our electricity lines are above ground. I have twenty trees in my yard that are over 150 years old. I am the steward of those trees.

I listened to this lawyer as she explained to me that what they were looking at are organized communities of electricity. I told her that I already had solar panels. “Wouldn’t you like to earn lots of money through them,” she asked. No, I answered. I want safety. I want the money spent on putting electricity lines underground. I don’t need the money; I told her I need safety. Boy, was that a mistake.

Ok, first, yes, I want money. I’m not made of money, but my first priority is safety.

This is clearly someone that has lived their life in the ivory castle away from the reality of the fires of Northern California. She doesn’t know my girlfriend and her husband that lost every single item they owned in the Paradise, California fire. They were one of the lucky ones; they had insurance, a job to go to after the fire, and family in the area. Even with a payout from the insurance company, those two will never feel the peace and safety they previously knew.

As much as some Californians are angry at PG&E for their lack of upgrading their lines, I am happy that they turned the power off. I watched the 80 mph whip my 200-year-old trees through the air like they were twigs.

If you give people money, there is the illusion that they are safe. They are not. The lines are still above ground; the winds will be here next year; they are getting worse. There needs to be a constructive strategic plan to put these lines underground.

They also need critical strategies for fighting fires. PG&E controlled the flow of water, diverting it to treated water instead of continuing to send it to the agricultural land. Ag land lives on untreated water flowing through a canal, and wells.

When the water association was called, I was told if I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to have the water service. This was later changed to say that PCWA didn’t have a generator. Thankfully, the Mayor of our little town called both companies, and the water started flowing so that if there were a fire, the fire trucks would have water in the canal to fight the fires.

Safety in cars or money?

A car has over 3,600 safety bits required by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Why are they required? Because given the choice of a consumer having money or safety, they pick money. It has been told to me that they would pick a better sound system than safety.

The latest NHTSA required safety equipment is the rear back-up camera that saves 150 children’s lives a year.

I couldn’t help but feel that this lawyer was selling snake oil. That or she really didn’t understand the human psyche when promised big money instead of having a requirement such as the electric lines put underground before anyone gets a penny.

This reminds me of when Ray LaHood was Director of NHTSA, and I asked him about safety, and he started talking about jobs. LaHood’s job wasn’t to create jobs, it was to create safety, but the politics of the time were to create jobs to keep the current President a viable candidate.

Money cannot be more important than safety, and it shouldn’t be decided by people that aren’t living through the terror of the times. The one item the lawyer and I agreed on is that I, and the citizens of my area, should be involved in these discussions.

Lou Ann Hammond

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a founding member of the Women's World Car of the Year #WWCOTY, and board member of the Women in Automotive.

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