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California Gets Shockwave Rider-Style Avoidance Zones

You're no doubt aware that California's famous PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric) has repeatedly cut off power to up to one million customers to cut down on wildfires. Now we learn that this will continue for decades.

In the past three years, hugely destructive forest fires in California have caused billions of dollars worth of damage to homes and businesses, even wiping out the entire town of Paradise last year. Years of prolonged drought have turned much of the vegetation in the state into tinder which ignites easily when it comes in contact with downed power lines.

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), which serves most to the area around San Francisco, has admitted that its transmission lines have been responsible for many of those fires, especially when high winds buffet the electrical grid. That admission is the reason why the company declared bankruptcy earlier this year, acknowledging that paying for the damage it caused could exceed the entire value of the company.

PG&E is supposed to maintain the corridors its transmission lines pass through, trimming tree limbs that hang over the wires and clearing the brush from beneath them, but in recent years it has failed to do so diligently. The company says there are 27,000 miles of wires that need such attention, but as of the first of October, it had completed the necessary maintenance along only 7,000 of those miles.

When windy conditions were forecast earlier this month, the company attempted to limit the danger of more forest fires by shutting off the electricity to up to 1 million residential and business customers, in some cases for as long as a week. The blackouts caused another kind of firestorm — a flood of complaints from angry customers.

It sounds like yet another of science fiction writer John Brunner's speculations in his prophetic work The Shockwave Rider has come true. He even nails the exact location, if not the actual cause. He describes "paid avoidance zones" in which the government didn't bother to provide services like power and communications because it was just too expensive following a natural disaster.

The paid-avoidance areas were created as a way of economizing on public expenditure after the Great Bay Quake. It was cheaper to pay the refugees to go without up-to-the-minute equipment. Which they couldn't have afforded anyhow.

...settlements created by refugees from Northern California after the Great Bay Quake. Literally millions of traumatized fugitives had straggled southward. For years they survived in tents and shanties, dependent on federal handouts ..
(Read more about Brunner's Bay area Paid Avoidance Zones)

Brunner's Shockwave Rider has an amazing number of prophetic ideas. See articles on the Autoporter - personal baggage handler, Computer Worm (Tapeworm) - first use of the concept, the Data-Net , the Delphi Pool , Electronic Voting , Hearing Aid - someone to listen, National Network Surveillance and Tiered Internet service .

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