I am extremely saddened by the explosion and fire that occurred two days ago here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Four lives were lost, scores of homes were damaged, and 37 homes were burned to the ground when a high pressure natural gas transmission line ruptured and ignited in the suburban town of San Bruno. I work all but two miles away from the site of this horrific tragedy and a couple of my co-workers lost their homes. The cause of the event (note I do not call it an accident) was the rupture of an old and probably severely corroded underground steel transmission line that conveys natural gas under high pressure to users in San Francisco.
The line was a 30 inch pipeline that was buried underground in 1956. The operating pressure of gas transmission lines exceeds 200 psig and this line may have been operating under even greater pressure. The gas distribution lines to you home operate at reduced pressure and the gas lines within you home operate at even lower pressure as the utility installs a pressure regulator with your meter. The following link from the American Gas Association explains how gas is conveyed from the gas well to your home.
PG&E our local electric and gas monopoly is embarking on a program to install smart electric and gas meters for its residential customers. These meters are expensive and pretty worthless to the consumer. PG&E is hyping the program on the basis that the consumer will be able to view and analyze their energy usage. Yeah we can view and analyze our energy usage but who is going to turn off their refrigerator simply because we now know the refrigerator is using electricity. The whole program that will be paid for by the consumers is a way of PG&E getting rid of meter readers and making more profit, it does not save one kilowatt hour of usage. PG&E now joins BP as having a second name given to it by the Green Machine. Its new name is Pathetic Grotesque and Evil. This utility should have been spending money to replace 54 year old transmission lines that run directly under heavily populated towns, not wasting our money on some hair brain schemes of smart meters and other junk science they are promoting. These idiots are buying several modified trucks from Raser the wealth eraser that made the claim of the 100 mpg Hummer. Raser has hoodwinked PG&E into claiming they will have service trucks that get 100 mpg. Come on PG&E forget the hype and stick to the basics of why you were granted monopoly rights for gas and electric service. Yes you are supposed to provide safe and efficient gas and electric service.
The fools in Washington DC who have spent over ten trillion pennies on the junk science of fool cells, hyped batteries, and not so smart meters also should share the blame in this tragic event. Just as the guys who were overseeing BP’s operation in the gulf the morons who pretend to work for our government should be telling utilities to replace any buried gas transmission line that is over forty years old. President Obama if you want to have a stimulus package that actually provides jobs and has a legacy that does some good lets spend ten trillion pennies on rebuilding our dilapidated and very dangerous system of underground gas, water and sewer lines. When the ruptured line that was first installed in 1956 I have to believe the engineers of record assigned no greater than forty years of useful life to the system. They also specified steel pipes that were US made in mills owned by US Steel or Bethlehem Steel. The replacement pipe will likely be sourced from China as our steel industry has collapsed just like everything else about us. The moronic Jolly Green Giant Governator was on a trip to Asia so he was not at home to deal with the crisis. Hey Arnie bring some steel pipe home so we can repair the pipeline! Arnie the idiot made a joke while his plane was flying over Alaska en route to the Orient that he could not see Russia as a way of chiding Sarah Palin. Of course Sarah tweeted in response that Alaska has a surplus and does not have a failed economy. We all remember the high point of Sarah’s VP campaign two years ago that she was proposing a high pressure natural gas transmission line to deliver stranded gas in Alaska to the markets of the lower 48. I just hope that when that line gets built neither BP nor PG&E have anything to do with its design or operation and that someone remembers to rebuild the line in 2050. Of course the natural gas may have run out by then and the line could just be used for sewage that will still pour from politicians and CEOs mouths.