Matt Niswonger
Latest posts by Matt Niswonger (see all)

Why PG&E is the best argument for solar power


In lieu of a normal editor’s note, I’ve decided to write a diatribe against PG&E. Yes, I acknowledge that ranting
and raving about a multi-billion dollar corporation is not necessarily pertinent to the subject matter at hand – namely outdoor winter activities – but as the editor I can occasionally take certain liberties.

Every time I look at my utility bill I want to kick something. Why is the cost of basic electricity and gas rapidly increasing year after year? What percentage of these rate increases are attributable to mismanagement and corruption over at PG&E? Why aren’t those solar panels that I have been dreaming about installed on my roof yet? PG&E could be writing me a check every month instead of the other way around!

Now PG&E is looking at a possible four billion dollar fine for its liability in the San Bruno explosion and fire. The company admits that mistakes were made and does accept blame, but asserts that the repair work and fines paid to date should be more than adequate to offset their negligence.

This sort of arrogance is only possible from a multi-billion dollar corporation with a guaranteed profit margin. In other words, since PG&E has no competition, they are accustomed to just sort of making up rules as they go. Like a spoiled child being sent to its room, the company is making a huge fuss and threatening to declare bankruptcy. Being held accountable stinks! Waaaaah!

You can rest assured that ratepayers like you and me will eventually get stuck with an even higher bill to pay for all this. This won’t happen right away – all fines are supposed to be paid by the shareholders – but we’d be naïve to think otherwise. Eventually an extra few bucks will be added to our bill in the guise of a “surcharge” or some other form of accounting magic. People much smarter than me will assure you that the game is rigged. Check out for more information…

If this situation puts knots in your stomach, you are not alone. In my opinion PG&E is the best argument for solar power. As an environmentalist who cares about the planet I am already attracted to the idea of creating my own electricity from the sun.
But when I consider the fact that every time I pay my PG&E bill it supports a monopoly run by a bunch of corrupt rednecks there’s really no debate. Go solar!

I will keep you posted. Expect to read more about our conversion on solar energy in future issues of ASJ. If you have any advice for us, feel free to send me a note to

On the positive side, there is plenty to be excited about in ASJ #76. On the heels of the release of the major documentary McConkey, writer Trish Medalen pens an inspiring tribute to Shane McConkey, a skier who transcended his sport to become a mythic figure in the action sports community. Four years after his death, the significance of Shane’s life continues to grow. A different kind of hero, he broke down barriers and put the humor back into skiing. Generations from now he will be remembered as an important pioneer in human powered flight.

Also in this issue, backcountry editor Leonie Sherman takes us ice-skating in the High Sierra. An ephemeral and risky activity to say the least, skating high altitude lakes is an underground, cult-like sort of pastime and we thank Leonie and photographers John Dittli and Steve White for sharing the fruits of their labor.

Running editor Derrick Peterman highlights some of this year’s best seasonal craft brews, surf editor Neil Pearlberg tells how big wave surfers are rescued, Charles Graham takes us kayaking around the Salton Sea, and the Angry Singlespeeder applies his usual acerbic wit to winter cycling.

Thanks for reading!

— Matt Niswonger