David R. Baker, Houston Chronicle

David R. Baker

Houston Chronicle

San Francisco, CA, United States

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Past articles by David:

Louisiana grapples with fuel shortage after Ida

As utility crews strive to restore power to New Orleans, one of hurricane-ravaged... → Read More

When Silicon Valley goes dark this time, there will be no refuge

Blackouts that hit millions of Californians in 2019 could be doubly calamitous this year with tech giants Google, Twitter and Facebook among the many companies keeping offices closed until the fall or later in response to the global covid-19 pandemic. If utilities cut power again, home offices set up during the pandemic could go dark and stay dark for days, and they'll have no corporate offices… → Read More

Second U.S. Virus Wave Emerges as Cases Top 2 Million

(Bloomberg) -- A second wave of coronavirus cases is emerging in the U.S., raising alarms as new infections push the overall count past 2 million Americans. Texas on Wednesday reported 2,504 new coronavirus cases, the highest one-day total since the pandemic emerged. A month into its reopening, Florida this week reported 8,553 new cases -- the most of any seven-day period. California's… → Read More

California's PG&E Roiled as Regulator Raises Breakup Threat

(Bloomberg) -- After years of wildfires linked to power lines, a deadly explosion and accusations of falsified safety records, California utility owner PG&E Corp. is facing a deterioration of trust among state leaders. The California Public Utilities Commission on Friday began a formal process to evaluate whether PG&E's Pacific Gas and Electric utility should be split into separate electric and… → Read More

PG&E Chose Not to Cut Power as Winds Raged Before Fatal Fire

(Bloomberg) -- In the days before California's deadliest wildfire erupted near a PG&E Corp. power line during a windstorm, the company kept a close eye on the weather, warned customers it might shut off electricity in the area, and finally decided conditions weren't bad enough to warrant it, according to a report filed Tuesday with state regulators. The report from PG&E also shows that the giant… → Read More

Regulator of California's largest utility eases bankruptcy concern amid fires

The head of California's Public Utilities Commission said he can't imagine allowing PG&E Corp., the state's largest utility, to go into bankruptcy as it faces billions of dollars in potential liability from deadly wildfires. The comments sent the shares soaring. PG&E was up 38 percent before regular trading in New York, after a roller-coaster ride Thursday in which the utility fell the most… → Read More

California wants to go carbon-negative. No one knows the cost

By the middle of this century, Gov. Jerry Brown wants California to pull more greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere every year than it puts in. That vision will almost certainly cost Californians. No one can say how much, however, because no one quite knows how we’ll achieve it. California has years of experience ramping up its use of renewable power, plugging ever more solar plants and wind… → Read More

UC system to get 100% renewable power in less than 10 years

The University of California system on Tuesday set a goal of powering all its campuses and medical centers with 100 percent renewable energy by 2025, as part of its efforts to fight global warming. The system has already committed to making its daily operations carbon-neutral by the same year, meaning they won’t add greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. Two years ago, it opened a solar… → Read More

California bill requiring 100 percent renewable power clears Assembly

California would get 100 percent of its electricity from the sun, the wind and other carbon-free sources by the end of 2045, under a bill passed by the state Assembly on Tuesday. The bill would cap years of efforts by California to increase its use of renewable power and wean itself off fossil fuels. The Senate, which passed an earlier version of the bill, is expected to approve the measure… → Read More

Tesla, public or private, will still release Autopilot safety data

Even as CEO Elon Musk pursues the idea of taking Tesla private, the electric automaker has confirmed that it still plans to release safety data on its Autopilot semi-autonomous driving feature. The safety of Autopilot, which can steer and adjust a car’s speed on the freeway, came under sharp scrutiny this spring after a Tesla Model X SUV running on Autopilot slammed into a freeway divider in… → Read More

After Uber accident, fewer people want self-driving cars

Public support for self-driving cars has plunged in the wake of a deadly accident this spring, according to a new survey. And young, tech-savvy consumers now express more doubts about robot vehicles. Cox Automotive, an auto-industry services and information company, surveyed 1,250 people, following up on a similar study conducted in 2016. In those two years, public awareness of self-driving cars… → Read More

California drivers pay growing cost for climate program

A California program to fight climate change may now add more to the cost of gasoline than the state gas-tax increase that many voters want to repeal. The Low Carbon Fuel Standard, designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions from fuel, now adds 12 to 14 cents per gallon to the cost of gasoline sold in the state, according to an estimate from the Oil Price Information Service. The fiercely debated… → Read More

Brown vows to “fight this stupidity” as EPA unveils fuel-economy freeze

The Trump administration on Thursday took direct aim at California’s long-standing ability to set its own air-pollution standards for cars — as well as the state’s main program to boost electric vehicles sales — prompting a furious reaction from Sacramento. The administration’s move, while expected for months, will likely lead to another long courtroom struggle between California and the federal… → Read More

Tesla’s still losing money, but expects ‘sustainable’ profit this year

Automaker Tesla on Wednesday reported losing $742.7 million in its most recent quarter, even as it insisted that “sustainable” profit lies ahead, as production of its Model 3 electric sedan finally revs up. While the Palo Alto company’s quarterly loss jumped 85 percent from the same period last year, it represented an improvement from Tesla’s record $784.6 million loss in the first quarter of… → Read More

Pro-PG&E wildfire bill written by lawmaker whose son works at PG&E

The East Bay assemblyman who wrote a bill that would make Pacific Gas and Electric Co. customers cover the costs of settling lawsuits from last year’s wildfires has a son who works at the utility, The Chronicle has learned. Both PG&E and the office of the assemblyman — Democrat Bill Quirk of Hayward — confirmed Tuesday that his son Ian works for the company, whose equipment state investigators… → Read More

California slashes emissions, hits major greenhouse gas goal years early

In a major win for California’s fight against global warming, the state appears to have hit its first target for cutting greenhouse gases — and it reached the goal four years early. Data released by the California Air Resource Board on Wednesday show that the state’s greenhouse gas emissions dropped 2.7 percent in 2016 — the latest year available — to 429.4 million metric tonnes. That’s slightly… → Read More

California and New York City: We’ll buy more electric cars. How about you?

A coalition of states, cities and businesses determined to fight climate change announced a campaign Tuesday to buy more zero-emission vehicles for their own fleets and convince others to do the same. Coalition members, which include the state of California and the city of New York, also called upon automakers to develop an “endgame” for cars burning fossil fuels and commit to ensuring that a… → Read More

500-acre fire shuts down I-580 at Altamont Pass

A 500-acre grass fire burning on both sides of Interstate 580 in the Altamont Pass shut down the freeway in both directions for several hours Sunday evening and prompted some motorists to flee by driving in the wrong direction along the shoulders of the gridlocked road. The California Highway Patrol reopened the westbound lanes around 9:30 p.m. and was working to open some on the eastbound side.… → Read More

Fire erupts east of San Ramon

A grass fire ignited Sunday afternoon near San Ramon and quickly scorched 20 to 30 acres, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The Bruce Fire was first reported around 4:45 p.m. in the vicinity of Bruce Drive and Joseph Lane in the Tassajara area, according to the department, known as Cal Fire. It was spreading at a dangerous rate and could threaten nearby… → Read More

Tesla factory production jumps, and Model 3 hits elusive goal

It took a tent to do it, but production of Tesla’s new Model 3 sedan has finally hit a level the electric automaker has been promising it would reach since last year. CEO Elon Musk sent staff a congratulatory email Sunday, saying the company had produced 5,000 Model 3s in the past seven days — a milestone he initially predicted Tesla would reach in December. And on Monday, the company reported… → Read More