PG&E disrupted power to millions of customers in northern California earlier in the week, with started a conflagration of controversy over whether the powerful, nearly ubiquitous, California utility company overreacted to the perceived threat of high and dry winds that buffet the state during October, or whether they were simply being prudent by shutting off the electricity to millions of utility customers, mostly in the northern part of the state around the Bay area.

The utility company is currently under bankruptcy protection as it files for loan forgiveness and struggles with enormous fines levied by several court decisions that place the blame squarely on PG&E for the tremendous wild fires of last year in the state — caused, decided the courts, mainly by sparks from malfunctioning transformers in wilderness areas where the undergrowth was nothing more than tinder waiting to be ignited. So this year the utility, under a heavy cloud of consumer mistrust and enormous financial obligations, decided to play it safe and turn power completely off in areas of highest fire danger. 

It’s estimated that this blackout cost businesses in the Bay area alone nearly a billion dollars in lost sales and reduced manufacturing — not to mention the inconvenience for the hundreds of thousands who wound up spending the long Columbus Day weekend reading by candlelight or unable to swim in their backyard pools.