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web_PG&E fires

Who was responsible for the most recent wildfires in California, which killed over 100 people and resulted in a huge financial disaster? A fair portion of the blame is being put on Pacific Gas and Electric, which owns a power line that was hit by a tree. PG&E may have only been partly responsible but is now facing damages exceeding $30bn.

In his latest column, John Gapper examines what this means for corporate liability, given that the firm has now filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The blame for damage to the environment goes beyond one company, though PG&E’s principal failure lay in the old practice of stringing power lines from poles instead of burying them underground. This sorry tale suggests that US utilities are no longer a safe investment bet, John argues.

Gillian Tett writes that climate change will dominate Davos this year, suggesting that economic and financial issues have diminished in importance for the global elite.

Tony Barber says that the success of the Vox party shows that Spain is not immune from the rise of far-right politics across Europe.

Chris Giles welcomes a damning report that exposes a British statistics scandal that has cost the economy billions.

Henry Mance imagines Theresa May’s visit to a Harley Street therapist after a rather difficult week in Westminster.

What you’ve been saying

A parable to navigate May’s stormy leadership, letter from Nicholas Coulson, Carlisle, Cumbria, UK

Theresa May’s behaviour reminds me of Captain MacWhirr in Joseph Conrad’s Typhoon ( January 16). Due to a stupendous lack of imagination, he insisted on sailing his ship through the middle of a typhoon, with predictable consequences. Perhaps surprisingly, the ship did not founder. I feel like one of the crew, trapped while the captain pursues a course from which he is incapable of deviating. I do not think Capt MacWhirr was entrusted with another command.

In response to “ Theresa May has one last throw of the Brexit dice”, Archer says:

No deal Brexit suits many Tories. The EU could have offered roses and chocolates only to have it thrown back at them. Business, jobs, universities, travel, supply chains — all thrown under a bus — to suit the ideological purity and delusion of Tory MPs. We are heading to no deal Brexit and it’s by design not default.

The pangs of patriotism, letter from KM Choy, Singapore

Benedict Rogers makes much of Hong Kong’s proposed national anthem law ( January 16), and highlights his objection to the line in China’s national anthem “build a new Great Wall”. Being British, does he similarly oppose the mention of “dark satanic mills” and “Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand” in “Jerusalem”, or the nationalistic emotions in Cecil Spring Rice’s “I vow to Thee, My Country?” Patriotism is not a new invention by China.

Today’s opinion

Davos climate obsessions contain clues for policymaking
The environment has replaced the economy and finance on the global elite’s worry list

Theresa May seeks a talking cure for her Brexit woes
But it threatens to be a dialogue falling on deaf ears

Global Insight: The unpalatable truth about Trump’s embrace of the Russian bear
Is he the victim of a vast leftwing conspiracy or is he working for a foreign adversary?

Hitachi’s Wylfa nuclear decision is bad news for UK government
Foreign companies are increasingly leery of British infrastructure projects

Inside Business: Gillette’s ‘#MeToo’ moment: the best an ad can get?
Commercial has set social media alight but shows how brands are becoming less passive

An ideological struggle will shape Islamism in the Middle East
The region is riven by a clash between a top-down and bottom-up vision for states

End in sight to a statistics scandal that cost the UK billions
A damning report from the House of Lords addresses long-held concerns about the RPI

Vox deal shows Spain is not immune to the far-right
Rise of party is not through nostalgia for Franco but is a reflection of Europe’s malaise

Wildfires are too hot for one utility to handle
PG&E is not the only culprit for an environmental disaster in drought-stricken California

Instant Insight: Conservative party may now be heading for a major split
Brexit is about to become softer and this could be the final straw for many Tory MPs

FT View

The FT View: The UK needs a more realistic energy strategy
New nuclear plants may not be worth the cost to government purse

The FT View: Vestager should stand against Siemens-Alstom merger
Competition from China is no excuse for weakening antitrust rules

The Big Read

The Big Read: US real estate: the brawl over the way New York is built
Hudson Yards developer Stephen Ross is picking a fight with organised labour that could transform city development

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