In This Episode
- As millions of Californians were trying to stay cool amid a scorching heat wave on Tuesday, overwhelming demand for electricity nearly forced the state to impose rolling blackouts. Katherine Blunt, who covers renewable energy and utilities for the Wall Street Journal, explains why California was so close to the brink.
- And in headlines: Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey secured the Democratic nomination for governor, Steve Bannon is expected to surrender to New York State prosecutors today, and Kim Kardashian is launching a private equity firm.
- LAist: “How To Survive This Week’s Extreme Heat Wave” – https://laist.com/news/climate-environment/how-to-survive-extreme-heat-wave-september-hot-weather
- California Independent System Operator: Current & Forecasted Power Demand – https://www.caiso.com/TodaysOutlook/Pages/default.aspx#section-current
- Vote Save America: Fuck Bans Action Plan – https://votesaveamerica.com/roe/
Crooked Coffee is officially here. Our first blend, What A Morning, is available in medium and dark roasts. Wake up with your own bag at crooked.com/coffee
Follow us on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/whataday/
For a transcript of this episode, please visit crooked.com/whataday
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Thursday, September 8th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson and this is What A Day, the only podcast that comes pre downloaded on the new iPhone 14.
Priyanka Aribindi: In the sense that if you tell us when you’re going to go to the Apple Store to get your new phone, we will meet you outside and subscribe you to WAD on it.
Tre’vell Anderson: And we’ll help you delete that U2 album that you still have eight years later and don’t remember how it got there.
Priyanka Aribindi: We’re the real genius bar. [laughter] [music break] On today’s show, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon will face fraud charges in New York. Plus, Kim Kardashian is starting her own true crime podcast.
Tre’vell Anderson: Interesting development there. But first, much of the West Coast is still in the grip of a scorching heat wave. Temperatures across California soared into record breaking territory and it doesn’t look like things will begin to cool down for at least a few more days.
Priyanka Aribindi: This is all happening in the middle of a year long drought, which is also fueling a handful of destructive and deadly wildfires in the state. But the heat itself is actually what is the biggest threat to Californians, right, Tre’vell?
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. And as millions of people were trying to stay cool on Tuesday, the state was on the verge of implementing rolling electrical blackouts. Fortunately, that did not happen, but it pushed the power grid to its limit. So I wanted to get a deeper understanding of what’s been going on, because as of our record time, Californians have been asked to conserve electricity for the eighth straight day. I spoke to Katherine Blunt. She’s a reporter who covers renewable energy and utilities for The Wall Street Journal. I started by asking her why California was so close to the brink.
Katherine Blunt: It’s uh worth keeping in mind how the power grid works. So levels of electricity, supply and demand have to be in constant balance. If there’s even a bit of a mismatch. Because of the way the system is calibrated you risk system wide failure that could take days to restore even weeks. So if demand threatens to exceed supply by any amount, the grid operator might call on utility companies to rotate outages among different communities to help bring those demand levels down. The reason we’re seeing the strain right now, of course, is because it is hot across the West. People are using their air conditioning units. They’re using more electricity generally. And that has boosted demand at a time when supplies for a number of different reasons are tight, creating this sort of very close call that we saw on Tuesday night.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. Now, you’ve written extensively about the many, many issues, problems with California’s electrical utility companies and the aging infrastructure. We know that PG&E, one of the largest utilities in the U.S., they agreed to a multibillion dollar settlement after its equipment sparked more than 30 massive wildfires since 2017. I’m wondering what, if anything, is being done to keep the grid safe and up to date and hopefully not have some of these issues rise up?
Katherine Blunt: Right. Right. So PG&E, as well as the state’s other utilities, but especially PG&E, has been really working hard to try to address wildfire risk in recent years. The risk of its power lines starting fires made some improvements since a series of devastating fires in 2017 and 2018 that killed more than 100 people. It is working on that, working to improve the safety of the grid. But what we’re talking about in terms of the risk of rolling blackouts, we’re really talking about supply challenges. So all of the state’s utilities right now are trying to bring online more clean energy projects in the form of new wind and solar farms, as well as large batteries to store their output for use when production declines. One big challenge in California is that it’s very reliant on solar power and has become more so in recent years. And when that solar power begins to drop off in the afternoon hours, when demand is still high, that’s when you begin to really see the supply crunch. So each of the utilities are working to bring you know new power generation and storage online as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, we’re dealing with a situation in which there are supply chain challenges, there are inflationary pressures. It’s made it difficult to bring these projects online as quickly as is necessary to help avert some of the supply crunches that we’re likely to see for the next few summers.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, and we obviously can’t talk about this issue without mentioning climate change. Right. The reason many of us would say we are having these extreme heats. There’s concern that heat waves like this could be the new normal, and that very likely means even more demand for energy in the future. We know that California, as you already mentioned, has set some very ambitious carbon emission goals in the coming decades. So I’m wondering how can the state kind of thread that needle between this demand for new energy. Right, while also recognizing what people kind of need in the meantime to live?
Katherine Blunt: Yeah. So there’s been acknowledgment in terms of the state energy commission, state regulatory body and the grid operator that these next few summers are going to be really challenging, in part because you are seeing more severe heat waves exacerbated by climate change. California’s in a very severe state of drought, which has meant that hydroelectric power production has been constrained. Also, when it’s really hot across the entire West, it’s more difficult for California to import power on an emergency basis because other states are using it as well. So just recently, there’s been all kinds of debate over what sort of generation needs to be preserved in the near term to carry us through the challenge that’s expected to manifest for the next several summers. One thing is that the state has authorize the use of more gas fired generation to help get through these really acute periods of challenge. So there’s been more emergency measures. That have been taken. There’s been measures that are kind of unpopular in the form of more gas generation in a state that’s trying to reduce its reliance on that. But it seems to be that there’s agreement among decision makers that this is what’s necessary here in the short term.
Tre’vell Anderson: Gotcha. And you already mentioned this, but we know that this isn’t just a California problem. The grid in Texas also struggled during a heat wave there this summer. I believe they also had issues back in the winter. So I’m wondering, how does all of this create continuing problems for the rest of the country? What we are experiencing, what Texas is experiencing. How does this all like come together to be something that we need to address on a larger scale?
Katherine Blunt: Yeah. So there’s a certain body that oversees the reliability of the grid nationally. And earlier this year came out with a report that said that there are a number of different regions that are at risk of having electricity supply shortages, especially during periods of extreme heat, like what we’re seeing, because demand levels threaten to surge beyond available supply during certain hours, especially during hours of the day in which maybe you can’t rely on solar production quite as much, or, you know, you have this issue in which there’s very little wind generation. That’s not saying that like renewable technology is bad or that it doesn’t work. We just need more technology to augment it and make it available at all times of day. Because right now, grid operators are having more of a challenge in making sure that the supplies are always there exactly as they anticipate. So there’s a lot of work underway to try to fix this, but it is emerging as a greater challenge that grid operators across the country are trying to address.
Tre’vell Anderson: Gotcha. So since this is something that many of us will have to live with, what can we do to prepare for outages and stay safe in the heat?
Katherine Blunt: Yeah. So uh one of the reasons that California was able to avert rolling blackouts on Tuesday is there was a lot of voluntary conservation, which goes to show that the communication on the part of the state was pretty effective in telling people to try to limit their use best they can in the hours that were challenging, which is 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.. So I think the question is kind of knowing what’s using most of your electricity, kind of knowing how to reduce reliance for short periods of time. Well, of course, keeping in mind health and safety. Right. Because if you have a medical condition that requires you to have a certain temperature, of course, like respond to the best of your ability. And then as it relates to outages, certain people have adopted solar panels with batteries that can maybe help keep the lights on when there are outages. Some have resorted to backup generators. Those are some options. But I think it’s more about having an emergency plan in place. If you have to go without power for a few hours, you’ll be able to function best you can.
Tre’vell Anderson: That was my conversation with Katherine Blunt, reporter for The Wall Street Journal.
Priyanka Aribindi: We’ll be keeping an eye on this in the coming days. And if you are out there, please stay cool and stay safe. We’ll be back after some ads.
Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Tre’vell Anderson: Canadian authorities said yesterday that Myles Sanderson, the second suspect in the mass stabbings that left ten people dead and 18 others injured in Saskatchewan has died. Officials said he died of self-inflicted wounds after a confrontation with police. This comes after his brother and fellow suspect Damien Sanderson was found dead on Monday. A motive has not yet been determined, but Myles Sanderson was on parole for assault and robbery and had 59 prior convictions.
Priyanka Aribindi: A federal judge in Texas ruled on Wednesday that employers do not have to cover HIV prevention drugs in their health care plans. The lawsuit was filed by, you guessed it, a group of conservative Christian business owners who argued that the Affordable Care Act’s requirements to cover drugs like PREP conflicts with their faith and forces them to subsidize, quote unquote, “homosexual behavior”.
Tre’vell Anderson: Hmm.
Priyanka Aribindi: The judge in the case agreed with them and even said that it’s unconstitutional for the federal government to decide what kind of preventative care is protected by the Affordable Care Act. Wednesday’s ruling hands a huge win to conservatives who have fought to use religious freedom to block or roll back protections for the LGBTQ+ community. But legal experts worry that the decision could also bolster more right wing attacks on sexual and reproductive health care nation wide. Health care that millions of Americans depend on their employers to provide. Because we lived in this fucked up system where we not only rely on our jobs for our paychecks to be able to live, but also for our health care to be able to survive. But the federal government will likely appeal this ruling. We hope that they do. And we hope that they’re successful.
Tre’vell Anderson: They’re always so concerned with the wrong homosexual behavior. Like they’re worried about what we doing when they need to be worried about what’s going on in their own church houses. But I’m a mind my business Priyanka.
Priyanka Aribindi: Way too much to say there.
Tre’vell Anderson: In some good gay news, though. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey secured the Democratic nomination for governor on Tuesday. She will now go head to head with her Trump endorsed Republican opponent Geoff Diehl for the title in November. And if Healey wins the race, she will become the first woman to be elected governor in Massachusetts state history and the first openly lesbian governor in the United States.
Priyanka Aribindi: Her opponent, Trump, endorsed Republican. We don’t need to say more, but also spells his name Geoff like Geoff which sorry don’t trust you. Never trusted one, never will. That’s all I needed to know. Couy Griffin, a New Mexico County commissioner and proud founder of something called Cowboys for Trump, just became the first elected official to lose his job over his involvement in the January 6th insurrection. Okay. It feels like I could have drawn that conclusion after seeing Cowboys for Trump. [laughter] I knew exactly where this was going. Earlier this year, Griffin was sentenced to two weeks in jail for trespassing on capitol grounds during the riots. And on Wednesday, a district judge ruled that Griffin must be immediately removed from office and banned from holding office ever again. Fun fact this is the first time that a court has removed someone from office for participating in an insurrection since 1869.
Tre’vell Anderson: Mmm.
Priyanka Aribindi: And the 14th Amendment clearly states that insurrectionists cannot hold elected office. Just going to put that one in my back pocket. Feels like it might be useful at some point in time, if not already.
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. Moving on to some other right wing lunatics in positions of power. A report released yesterday by the Anti-Defamation League analyzed leaked membership lists of the Oath Keepers militia and found hundreds of elected officials, military members and law enforcement officials among their ranks. Surprise, surprise. Members of the Oath Keepers have been accused of helping to plan the January 6th riots, but before that, they were just a run of the mill paramilitary group that said the U.S. was preparing to take everyone’s guns away and then put us in concentration camps. So you know, super logical individuals there.
Priyanka Aribindi: Super run of the mill. But I mean, [laugh] you know, as we learned in the last headline, insurrectionists cannot hold elected office. So feels like we can do some cross-referencing.
Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm.
Priyanka Aribindi: Maybe like run that with the January 6th footage.
Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm.
Priyanka Aribindi: And you know, you know what we got to do. Our work is cut out for us. Steve Bannon, a man who uses the teachings of Jimmy Buffett for evil, is expected to turn himself in today to state prosecutors in New York. He is facing a new criminal indictment in the state and the details of it aren’t known for sure. But The Washington Post says that it likely pertains to Bannon’s participation in the con that bilked loyal MAGA Republicans out of $25 million dollars for the private construction of a border wall. If anyone remembers that time, Trump pardoned Bannon back in 2020 for his role in the scheme. But that pardon only applies to federal charges, not state ones. So really, we never thought we’d get to this day. Some of us were out here being like, it will never happen, [laughter] but it appears that we’re getting closer and closer to that day.
Tre’vell Anderson: I always find it interesting how these folks have me rooting for law enforcement, rooting for prosecutors. Who would have thunk it?
Priyanka Aribindi: We’ve been backed into a corner. There’s no other option. [laughter]
Tre’vell Anderson: Some news about a long awaited debate that will touch on politics as well as party trays of vegetables. Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman told POLITICO yesterday that he will debate his Republican opponent and Oprah’s only mistake, Dr. Mehmet Oz. Fetterman suggested the debate will take place in mid to late October. His participation in debates against Oz had been in question after Fetterman suffered a stroke in May that affected his auditory processing.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, apparently Oprah not available to comment on uh Dr. Oz and his candidacy.
Tre’vell Anderson: Listen you can’t expect her to get everything right. She is still human.
Priyanka Aribindi: This does feel like a big fuck up. [laughter] [?] Oprah. Oprah, we do love you so. Uh I don’t know if we’ll let it slide, but maybe we just won’t ever bring it up again. [laugh] And lastly, some money moves from the Wolf of Calabasas herself, Kim Kardashian. She told The Wall Street Journal yesterday that she was teaming up with a prominent investor to launch Skky Partners, two K’s, Kim Kardashian. We all get it. A private equity firm that will focus on consumer products, luxury and digital commerce. Skky will make its first investment before the end of the year. So start thinking of ideas. And it can’t be a mobile game where Kim teaches you how to be famous because she has already done that. [laugh] Kim’s second big announcement of the day was about her first podcast for Spotify, who she signed a deal with back in 2020 when they were just handing out deals left, right and center. Apparently mine got lost in the mail. It is called The System and it is a true crime podcast that fits with her fascination with the justice system. Kim is also set to host. I don’t know if the world needed another true crime podcast, but–
Tre’vell Anderson: We didn’t.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’ll listen to least the first one. I’m intrigued. I want to know what will be happening here.
Tre’vell Anderson: So then you can listen and you can report back to us.
Priyanka Aribindi: I got to be scouting out our competition for a Webby here. Listen, [laughter] I want one. This is my campaign. I’m launching it right here, right now. And I just got to know what we’re up against.
Tre’vell Anderson: You know what? I support you in that effort.
Priyanka Aribindi: Thank you. And those are the headlines.
Tre’vell Anderson: One more thing before we go. With the devastating floods in Pakistan and Jackson, Mississippi, and the recent anniversaries of Hurricanes Katrina and Ida as their backdrop. The ladies of Hot Take discuss how colonialism impacts marginalized communities and forces them to bear the brunt of the climate crisis. Listen to new episodes of Hot Take every Friday wherever you get your podcasts. [music break]
Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review, pitch your business to Kim and tell your friends to listen.
Tre’vell Anderson: And if you are into reading and not just the teachings of Jimmy Buffett like me. Oh yeah, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
[spoken together] And take cold showers California.
Priyanka Aribindi: Listen, half of you do that anyways for like biohacking purposes. [laughter] Shit like that. So you’re used to it. The other half of you do it to work out. So listen if you do it for productivity or for your fitness journey. Either way, you guys can handle it. [music break] What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producer is Lita Martínez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.