The power company that serves more than 5 million people in one of the world's most technologically developed areas has to make a decision: turn off the electricity or risk starting wildfires.
Pacific Gas & Electric, PG&E, is $30 billion in debt and needs billions more to modernize its aging power system. Many Californians are unsure as to whether the company can safely provide electricity to a large part of the state.
The company's troubles come from years of poor leadership and even worse government oversight. Combine those problems with both climate change and a housing shortage, and a crisis appears.
"There's a ton of blame to go around here," said Christopher Knittel. He directs the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management.
克里斯托弗·尼特尔（Christopher Knittel）说：“这里要负责的人很多。” 他负责麻省理工学院斯隆管理学院的能源与环境政策中心。
The problem and its possible answers are the top concern for California politicians. Most experts agree that the fires and the power outages will continue for years and all energy will cost more.
"It's not just going to be a PG&E cost," notes Matthew Cordaro, a longtime power company official with the Long Island Power Authority. "The consumer's going to have to pay for it," he said.
长岛电力局（Long Island Power Authority）的长期电力公司官员马修·科尔达罗（Matthew Cordaro）指出：“这不仅将是PG＆E的成本，” 他说：“消费者将不得不为此付费。”
In California, a lot of people live near power lines in forests that are very dry. Two years ago, electrical sparks from power lines started several fires that destroyed large parts of Northern California and killed more than 20 people. A year later, PG&E power lines started the Camp Fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise, killing 85 people.
在加利福尼亚州，很多人住在非常干燥的森林的电线附近。 两年前，电力线产生的电火花引发了几场大火，摧毁了北加利福尼亚州的大部分地区，造成20多人丧生。 一年后，PG＆E电力线开始了营地大火，摧毁了天堂镇，炸死85人。
Another issue is housing. A lack of housing in cities has pushed land development into the forests, where there are few barriers to building.
In addition, California's climate is warming. Scientists cannot blame climate change alone for any of the fires, but they say it is partly responsible for higher temperatures and stronger winds. That causes the fires to spread faster and farther.
Repairing the aging power system
The company has failed to perform all the necessary repairs to its systems. It was found criminally responsible for a deadly explosion in its gas system in the community of San Bruno in 2010.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has accused PG&E of caring more about profits than safety. It failed to cut back trees growing near wires. The company has admitted it still has several thousand kilometers of dangerous, old-fashioned wire in high-risk areas. That wire can break and arc, setting off fires.
该公司未能对其系统进行所有必要的维修。 2010年在圣布鲁诺（San Bruno）社区发现其气体系统可能造成致命爆炸，公司应负刑事责任。
加利福尼亚州州长加文·纽瑟姆（Gavin Newsom）指责PG＆E在乎利润而不是安全。 它未能控制生长在电线附近的树木。 该公司承认，在高风险地区仍然有几千公里的老式危险电线。 那些电线会折断并起弧，引起火灾。
Power companies are some of the most regulated businesses in the United States. PG&E's regulator failed to see fire risk and, as a result, failed to force the company to prepare for it.
Nearly 20 years ago, PG&E first declared bankruptcy after California's energy crisis. Regulators and politicians had the chance to force the company to change the way it operated. Instead, they mostly ignored the problem, letting the company make its own plan to return to profitability by charging much higher prices.
Now it is in bankruptcy again.
大约20年前，PG＆E在加利福尼亚的能源危机之后首次宣布破产。 监管者和政治人物有机会让公司改变经营方式。 相反，他们大多忽略了这个问题，让公司制定自己的计划以收取更高的价格来恢复盈利。
Words in This Story：
arc – n. a very long electrical spark
regulate – v.to control or supervise something by using rules
bankruptcy – n.a condition of financial failure caused by not having the money that you need to pay your debts
consumer – n.a person who buys goods and services
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